Mr G's Spellcraft & Swordplay Campaign

Traitor
In which it turns out that one of the party was not all that he seemed.


Guest Blog by Max Bryans

Our Cast of Players:

  • Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
  • Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 10.
  • Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 10.
  • Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/8/9.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 217,145

What Happened:

After healing, the party are not in physical danger, but their mental health is clearly in danger.

Artan realises that they have left Rashid’s body and it is likely to be defiled by the surviving Goat Ogre.  This sacrilege would be horrible enough, but Rashid still had items on his person which could proof useful !!

This creates a stunned silence as indecision between two paths racks the party.  North to the chamber with pentagram and altar?  Or south to finish the remaining Goat Ogre and preserve the dead Rashid’s dignity.

It is Kaji who breaks the silence.

“North.  Let’s clear the summoning (or whatever it is) room first, then we’ll probably have to retrace our steps anyway.”

“Thank God for that,”, growls Elfire, “a decision.  Let’s do it.  Pioden … lead the way.”

So with Edward guarding the southern door to the room with the wave of blood, Pioden advances cautiously into the northern chamber with it’s vast pentangle and altar.  As he is expecting the unexpected, he prepares to not be surprised by it.  He casts an invisibility spell on himself and moves with the silence natural to his elven kind.  Once he is in the room itself, he realises that the pentagram is drawn with fresh blood.  The thought of how many poor mortals had to perish to provide it sends a shiver down his spine.

But despite his disquiet, he is still a professional thief.  It takes him just a matter of minutes to establish that there are no traps in the vicinity.  He whispers for the remainder of the party to advance.

One by one, they do so.

“Pioden, I hope you can get us back again,” growls Elfire, which Pioden considers a most strange statement.  For he sees Elfire standing not 20 feet away from the exit.

“Damn right”, I’m not sure of the look of this", curses Atan, “back to back, fellas.  This is going to be a big one !”

It is clear that something is amiss.

Whereas the majority of the party are standing in the expected chamber.  With foul pentagram and altar.  The trio of fighters Artan, Patroclus and Elfire are experiencing a completely different reality.

This three are standing in the middle of a fetid swamp, the only growth being clumps of bog grass and moss.  It is marshy underfoot, and the partially overcast sky is lit by a faint green-yellow sun.  Which seems to cast more of a chill than any real heat.

They can see their comrades (except Pioden, of course) around them.  But those other than the three warriors seem oblivious to the strangeness of their new environment.  With shouts of warning, the trio form up back to back in a defensive posture as they scan the horizon.

There we shall leave them for the minute.  But suffice to say, events in each reality are happening simultaneously.

Edward notices the strange behaviour of his warrior friends, but quickly determines that they are more than capable of looking out for themselves.  The real evil in this room, and possibly this entire complex, is manifestly the 10 foot high altar, which sitting smugly in the centre of the pentagram.

Shouting a howl of defiance, he charges headlong towards it.  Kaji winces as he see the Paladin break the pentagram boundary, but breathes a sigh of relief as he seems to cross it with no ill effects.  With a prayer to his gods to dispel all evil, he smites the altar with the Sword of Conviction!  The sword is glowing in his hands, it’s empathic connection with Edward reinforces his belief that this is a Good and Worthy course of action.

But the altar still stands smug.  The sword, for all of it and it’s wielder’s strength, has no effect.  Sparks fly and the ground shakes, but the altar itself is untouched.

Frogman.png

Back in the swamp, Artan, Patroclus and Elfire see a completely different story unfold.  They see Edward running, shouting and beating at fresh air.  But he seems oblivious to the real threat !  For all around them, for as far as they can see, the swamp is starting to bubble and boils.  From these mini-geysers of mud, filth and methane grow a veritable army of first weapon points, then spears, then the tops of green slimy heads.  There must be thousands of them !!

“Missiles ready !!”, barks Artan as he thrust his handful of javelins in the mud in front of him.  Elfire in turn prepares the balista sized Orge Cross bow.  Scanning it across the horizon.  This in turn makes Kaji dodge out of the crosshairs as the bow points towards him. 

“Most odd”, he thinks when he considers himself out of danger.  "It’s as if they are reacting towards ghosts or phantoms.  HANG ON …… ".  The truth of the two simultaneous realities starts to dawn on the genius wizard.

Meanwhile, Edward decides to change tack.  He vaults atop the altar, calls for the Sword of Conviction to bless the venture, and with his stomach over the pommel drives the sword with all his strength down into the middle of the stone altar.  A man of lesser faith would have believed it impossible.  But the Paladin never has any doubts.  Slowly, inch by painful inch, the Sword of Conviction impales the Altar.  The ever present voices in the chamber raise volume until they are veritably shouting in Edward’s head.  He is oblivious to everything, except the voices and the tortured screeching of stone being sundered by sentient steel.

In the boiling Swamp, the three warriors finally see their foe.  They are presented with an army of frog like humanoids.  Primitives by all reckoning, but their sheer numbers make it seem like a vain fight.  To make the desperate situation worse, there is a further massive seething they can see about 400 yards away.  From which slowly, and malevolently, rises a colossal frog like figure.

Elfire recognises the desperate situation and barks towards Kaji.

KAJI … stop dicking about!  We need to FLYNOW !”

Kaji, never one to follow orders blindly, realises that whatever is going on in the three warriors minds warrants his action.  He calls the words of power to himself and bestows flight on Elfire (who darts upwards immediately) and then turns to do the same to Artan and Patroclus.

Edward meanwhile finally manages to sink the Sword of Conviction pommel deep into the Altar.  With a dull CRACK, the stone splinters and fissures appear throughout it.  Pioden tries to lever parts of it away, but despite his strength and the power of Rod of Lordly Might, he cannot effect any damage.

Frogroth.jpg

Kaji completes his fly spells.  Artan and then in turn  Patroclus, rise to a safe height above the swamp.  They are watched by the baleful stares of thousands of Frogmen, who are clearly frustrated by the escape of theri prey.  They watch as Elfire scuds towards the now fully manifest 100 foot tall figure of Frogroth.  For surely it is him.  Artan says a silent prayer.  He knows that Elfire, with his prowess and armed with the Obsidian Elemental Greatsword is their only true hope against this despoiler of worlds.

As the airborne warriors seemingly staring into the distance (and as far as he can tell at a blank wall), Kaji turns his attentions to Edward and the Altar.  He uses a magic Rod on Edward.  Providing the noble Paladin with even more strength.  And it works, the altar heaves and further cracks appear.  It can no longer be described as smug, but it is still on one piece.  As he considers his next move, he turns to watch the receding figure of Elfire.  To his amazement, when the giant man encounters the wall, there is not a fatal collision.  Elfire, with crackling great sword in hand, flies straight through the wall and disappears !

The view is very different for Artan and Patroclus.  They see the retreating Elfire charging towards the fight which could well decide the future of the universe.  They cross their fingers and hold their breath as they see Elfire close with Frogroth.

Then DISASTER !!  As he approaches, Elfire slows and his attack posture softens.  He lands square in front of Frogroth and kneels in supplication.  The Obsidian Great Sword on which all their hopes resided offered, blade flat, above his head.  With horror, the keen eyes of Artan see Frogroth slowly reach down and accept the offering.  With a twist of his fingers he snaps the blade in two, and despite the distance both of them can clearly hear his deep bubbling response.

YOU HAVE DONE WELL, MY SON

As they reel in shock from this turn of event, Artan and Patroclus turn to stare at each other.  Slack jawed in stunned silence.  Then the swamp around them dissolves and they find themselves in the vast chamber with the others.  They see Edward atop the cracking altar, and the rest aiding how they can.  

Of Elfire, there is no sign.

Unaware of Elfire’s betrayal, Kaji still has his mind on the Altar.  He unhooks the Decanter of Endless Water, and barks a set of instructions to the rest.  Aaron complies and blesses the water as it is poured into the fissures that permeate the altar.  Edward receives the power of flight and at the appointed time releases the Sword of Conviction and flies 20 foot upwards.  As he does Kaji freezes the water.

And this idea from the wizard works too!  With a final tremor and grumble the altar splinters into a thousand pieces and collapses into a cairn of rubble on the floor.

Edward has now thoughts for only one thing.  He hears the Sword of Conviction crying emphatically for help and he darts down to retrieve it.  But the sword is splintered and mangled.  He manages to collect the pieces, and off to one side he re-assembles them into order.  But restoring the sword is beyond the ken of clerical types.  Pioden realises and tells him that a repair will take great Magic from a Wizard.  And a number of other items of power.

Artan then manages to collect himself to blurt out, “Eh …. important as this maybe, we do have bigger fish to fry.  Have you seen Elfire lately?”

He then recounts, with the aid of Patroclus, the tale of Elfire’s defection.  The rest listen in disbelief.  Artan, despite the evidence of his eyes still cannot believe his comrade in arms would so knowingly doom them all.  Patroclus is less forgiving and swears he will kill Elfire  on sight.

But he is not there, so the veteran party resort to what they do best.  They loot.

The shelves on the far wall of the chamber turn out to be a cabinet.  In it they find 
4 vials, which Kaji with a shudder realises are the desiccated remains of people.  Which enables them to be summoned for purposes of interrogation or torment.  A Spell Book, which contains many spells, but not the ever elusive Fireball spell.  A chest with 4 potions, which are identified as flying and longevity.  And a plain gold ring.

Unable to identify it by means of lore, Kaji attempts to identify it the old fashioned way.  
He puts the ring on, and almost swoons.

“My God.  Its a Ring of Wishes !!  I think it has two.  Last time we had one of these, we defeated that dragon.”.  He hastily removes the ring and puts it in a deep pouch for safe keeping (and to prevent inadvertent use). “Let me think on this one”.

With the looting complete, thoughts return to Elfire.

“Ok,” asks Kaji as he fingers the Amulet of Locate Object, “what does Elfire have that no-one else does?”

“The Ice Trident”, ventures a still uncomfortable Artan.

“Right, lets find the treacherous bastard!”, cackles Kaji with a determined look in his eye.

To be continued…

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A Frosty Surprise
In which our heroes come across successively more bizarre mutations.


Guest Blog by Max Bryans

Our Cast of Players:

  • Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
  • Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 10.
  • Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 10.
  • Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/8/9.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 168,960

What Happened:

At the end of the corridor, away from the hellish altar room on top, Elfire glances at the door he has just shut and estimates that the wave of blood will have passed the door by now.  And if it has passed, that it is possible for there to be a void behind it.

As he muses as to what might be in that void, the door starts to open.  Despite being aware that this was a likely sequence of events, the best the flat footed giant can do is shout a quick warning as he unstraps one of this medley of weapons.

This warning is enough for Aaron to realise discretion is the better part of valour and he darts up the corridor.  The always nimble Patroclus is more than quick enough to compensate for the fingers and thumbs Elfire.  With a good turn of speed, he darts forward and engages the shape which appears at the door.

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And what an enemy it is !  The door is ogre sized and the monstrosity which appears has to duck to pass through it. It once might have been an ogre, but as is the way with this complex, it has been warped almost beyond recognition.  It has feet like a huge bird, and a 6 foot long sinuous neck, atop of which is a deformed dragon’s head.  The whole ensemble is coated in a patchwork of different sized white, pearlescent scales. 

Patroclus is too much of a professional to let this disquiet him.  He know he has to despatch this creature to save them all.  He sets about with a flurry of halbard blows, but he is hindered by the beast’s scales and only manages a few good blows before it opens it’s jaws wide and retaliates.

With a deafening roar the Dragon Ogre breathes a cone of freezing cold down the corridor.  Some are lucky and manage to dodge or otherwise shield themselves from the worst.  But Albrecht and Elfire are not so lucky.  They are chilled to the bone and the penetrating cold nearly makes them take leave of their senses.

But Elfire, despite being slow, is like a tsunami when he starts moving.  Patroclus has bought him enough time and, as he shakes his head to clear the worst effects of the cold, he charges and engages the Dragon-Ogre with the Obsidian Great Sword.  In a volley of unstoppable blows, each of which produces a thunder clap from its discharge of elemental lightening, he tears through the beast and leaves it dismembered on the floor.

As it falls, it becomes possible for them all to see the contents of the chamber behind.  And for those contents to see them !  Behind the horror revealed 4 more Goat-Ogres, akin to the ones which the party fought in the hall of teleporting pillars.  Three of them are charging towards the door and one is lining up his ballista sized crossbow down the corridor.

Kaji is first to act.  As Albrecht heals him, Kaji changes the target for the spell he was preparing and with the Rod of Enlargement doubles it’s size and efficacity.  With a crackle of ozone and a ZOT which makes everyone duck a vast bolt of lightening leaves Kaji’s wand, scuds over the heads of the group in the door and strikes a charging Goat Ogre square in the chest.

The effect reflects the preparation.  The target literally explodes as the contents of it’s chest cavity boil and expand in a ball of hot gas.

The remaining two charging ogres are too committed to be deterred, they engage Elfire and with a barrage of massive club blows force him first onto the defensive and finally to his knees.

But Elfire is not alone.  Artan throws his hammer and crushes the skull of one, the second is engaged by Patroclus.  As he sees the combat, Edward curses the distance between himself and the fray.  He draws the strength bow of the Barbarian King.  As he (like Elfire) shares the memories of the Barbarian King, it feels like an old friend in his hands.  But his memories no not provide the muscle memory required, and his first (and only shot) flies wide of the mark and hits Patroclus square in the back of the head.  Had Patroclus not been wearing a helm, it would surely have killed him outright !

Although perturbed, Patroclus is not too distracted.  He butchers the last ogre pummelling Elfire  then turns and gives his Paladin comrade a withering look.

This is too much for the final Ogre.  With a snarl, he darts into the wall of blood and disappears.

With a nod of gratitude towards Artan and Patroclus, Elfire gathers himself and retreats down the corridor towards the ministrations of Aaron.

The ever alert Kaji then has a master stroke of genius.  He remembers the Horn of the Tritons retrieved from one of the Elemental Planes.  With a knowing look in his eye, he pulls it out, brings it to his lips and blows with all his strength.  As Kaji (but no one else) anticipated, a hole opens in the wall of blood which reveals the final ogre.  But this ogre is no longer retreating, he was already sizing up Edward through his crossbow sights and lets rip with a massive bolt.

But thankfully his aim is off.  The bolt smashes into the wall behind Edward and crumples into splinters.  The hole in the blood wall is already shrinking, so Edward (no longer having faith in missile weapons) attempts to call upon his Gods to dispel the evil in the chamber.  But he cannot determine any effect.  He is in a distant plane, far from his Gods, and the evil in the complex is so powerful. It is possible he had an effect, just not one which actually helped.  Edward curses.

Hearing Edward’s uncharacteristic curse is enough for Artan.  He puts his shoulder to the door and guards it as it slowly swings shut once more.

What follows is a flurry of healing.  As Albrecht guides Aaron through a master class of prayers.  In a matter of 15 minutes the party are hale and hearty once more.  Although Kaji does point out that he and the other spell casters are going to need some proper rest if they are to re-learn spells.

But unlike the healing, the idea of resting in this infernal place is untenable.  They will have to press on with what they have.

To be continued…

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Bloodtide
In which our heroes penetrate deeper into the vaults of madness


Guest Blog by Max Bryans

Our Cast of Players:

  • Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
  • Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 10.
  • Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 10.
  • Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/8/8.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 186,562

What Happened:

When Pioden awakens he takes the necessary 10 minutes to check his inventory in fine detail.  The missing Boots of Teleportation he spots straight away, and eventually he catalogues that a spare Ring of Protection and the Ring of Sustenance have also gone “missing”.

“Ok, arseholes.  Where are they, and what the FUCK do you think your doing?”, he cries.  Its clear the pressure of the fight and the disconcerting nature of this chamber (with it’s whispering half voices) have removed what little civility he ever had.

It takes a further half an hour to calm him down, and eventually he sees (and agrees with) the reasoning for Albrecht to wear the Boots of Teleportation, and for Artan to have the Ring of Protection.  Elfire shrugs as he admits he has no immediate use for the Ring of Sustenance, and returns it to the indignant elf.  Pioden snatches the ring from mid air as it is tossed towards him, and then puts on the Boots of Elvenkind.  They fit so well, he wonders why he ever took them off.

All, except Edward, then don one of the platinum dragon clawed necklaces and after a short while learn the knack of willing themselves to a particular pillar as they approach another.  Edward will have nothing to do with such witchcraft and instead tries approaching them in ever desperate turn.  No matter which combination he tries, he can’t get himself to the door which sits tantalisingly on the far wall of the chamber.

As Edward bounces aimlessly around the room, the rest do a more thorough search of the Goat like Ogres which so nearly were the death of them.  All this reveals is a further surplus of Platinum amulets, giant sized X-bow bolts (of which Elfire snaffles a few) and a medium sized key around the neck of one.  This key is presented to Pioden, who due to the demise of the heroic Rashid, is the party’s only non-armoured thief.

With the search complete, and Edward still bouncing around the room, Pioden approaches and inspects the far door.  Unlike the previous stone doors, this seems like a normal door.  Albeit, Ogre sized.  It is wooden, stands 20 foot tall and 10 foot wide and is at last 6 inches thick.  Despite his best efforts, Pioden cannot find any sign of traps, a key hole, or any way of opening the door.  Not a good start to his new role as party thief !

With a sigh of resignation, he calls to Kaji.

“Kaji, can you do the honours, please ?”

“Of course … I just need to touch it with my rod.”, this gets a wry chuckle from Elfire, which in turn earns him the fearsome Kaji Care-Bear Stare (tm pat pending) and raised eyebrow.

With any attempts at levity suitably broken asunder, Kaji goes towards the door and after clearing his mind recalls the words to his “Knock” spell.  With a “snik” and a groan, the door trembles and swings slightly ajar.

Just after the spell resolves, Edward tries another jump care of the teleporting pillars.  To his relief he finds himself exactly where he was.  With the teleport effect seemingly switched off when the door is open, he hastens across the chamber and joins the rest who are huddled by the door.

Pioden levers the door open enough to squeeze himself through, and scouts the passage revealed behind it.

The 30 foot corridor is lined by the now typical trans-dimensional granite.  The end of it opens into a 100 foot octagonal chamber, on the north wall (remembering that “north” is really a meaningless direction in this realm) is another of the solid stone doors.  But as he ventures a look at this door from the end of the corridor his elven senses scream at him and his attention is drawn to the wall directly infront of him.  

With an ominous sense of forboding and menace, the floor rises into a wave which fills the chamber from floor to ceiling.  It looks like a dark crimson treacle, and it is with horror Pioden realises it is a wave of blood.  Similar to that he and Albrecht encountered when last in this fell place.

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With no further ado, Pioden retreats back to the pillared chamber and rejoins the party.  With haste he puts his shoulder to the door and pushes it shut.  With a “snik”, it relocks itself.

“That bad, eh?”, asks Albrecht as he inspects the elf for wounds.

“Yes …. that bad.”, replies Pioden and then explains the situation.  After a bit of to’ing and fro’ing a plan is developed.

After a few more “knocks” from Kaji (after each one of which he reminds them is playing odds with the fickle mistress that is magic) Pioden establishes the wave, although terrifying, is actually only moving at about 10 feet a minute.  And once it reaches their side of the chamber, it disappears, only to rematerialise at the far end of the chamber and begin it’s horrible progress again.

He estimates this gives them 5 minutes to enter the chamber, get to and then through the door on the north side.  It should be plenty of time, but to assist, Kaji offers a helping hand.  He manages to bestow the power of flight to Pioden, Albrecht, Patroclus and himself.  As he tries to cast it on Edward, the fickleness of magic manifests and drives the spell, unfulfilled, from his mind.  He curse his luck and the rest of the party have to make do with a levitate spell cast by Pioden instead.

But beggars cannot be choosers, and after a signal from Pioden, a motley crew of fliers towing nervous looking levitators follow him and scud across the chamber towards the door.  Pioden is the first to arrive at the door, but before he can do anything (let alone congratulate himself) he is forced to take evasive action as from through the wave of blood a flurry of ballista bolts comes his way !

With lithe elven reflexes he twists first one way and then the other as the bolts whistle past him.  It seems impossible, but he manages to avoid them all and they smash into so much matchwood on the wall behind him.

With one eye towards the bloody wall, the plucky elf pushes the stone door and wills it to open.  And it does !  With the usual ponderous slowness of these doors, it slots itself further into the wall, and then pivots open.  Nothing Pioden can do will make the monster 10 ton door open any faster, and as he vainly tries, he keeps a ready eye out to the wall of blood.

After what seems like and age (but is really only a minute) the door is open enough for hms to squeeze through and into the awaiting corridor, he is followed by the rest of the party, the last of which is Patroclus dragging Elfire behind him.  As soon as he is through the door, Elfire cancels the levitation effect of his boots and puts a shoulder to the door to push it closed.

And just in time, as he does there is a second flurry of ballista bolts.  But Elfire’s warrior reflexes are easily on par with Pioden’s.  With instinct guiding him he manages to dodge the attacks.

The party wait, draw breath, and quietly consider their next move.

Pioden, with the silence of flight and stealth of his race decides to scout ahead.

The long corridor eventually turns left, and presents another stone door.  After a quick check behind his shoulder, he presses it in the centre to open it.  As it goes through it’s ponderous opening sequence, Pioden melds to the wall.

The chamber that is revealed takes his breath away.

It is absolutely massive.  At least 150 foot across, and in the middle of it is a pentagram, seemingly painted in blood, which is easily 80 foot in diameter.  In the middle of the pentagram is an alter the top of which Pioden cannot see, and on far wall is a series of shelves, which his keen sight can make out as vials of some sort.

He shudders as he considers what vile substances they might contain.

To be continued…

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Rashid's Last Dance
In which our heroes lose an old comrade again

Our Cast of Players:

  • Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
  • Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 10.
  • Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 10.
  • Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/8/8.
  • RIP Rashid (Max Bryans): Human Thief, level 11.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 218,677

What Happened:

Carried over from last time: Pioden and Elfire are unconscious. Rashid is dead.

Kaji uses the Wand of Enervation on one of the ogres, draining it of a couple of hit dice. The weird properties of the room do not seem to affect the ray from the wand.

Artan tries to retrieve his axe from where it ended up after his last throw, but is himself teleported even further away from it to the far side of the room.

Patroclus attempts to attack the ogre nearest to him but is teleported away from it before the first blow can land.

Aaron attacks an adjacent ogre with the Mace of Subjugation and batters it into paralysis.

One ogre teleports from the door at the opposite side of the room to next to Artan and drops the dwarf in a flurry of club blows.

Albrecht uses the Shield of Bashing to good effect and takes down an ogre.

Kaji uses the Rod of Enlargement to enhance the range of a lightning bolt that he casts on the ogre that just dropped Artan. The ogre goes down.

Patroclus finally manages to go hand to hand with an ogre without being teleported away from it, but he fumbles and drops his halberd, spending the rest of the round trying to retrieve it while the ogre lays some serious smack down on him.

Edward, seeing that Pioden is seriously hurt and isn’t going to last out the fight without intervention (assuming any of you do!), prays to the gods and lays his holy hands upon the elf, stabilising him but leaving him still unconscious.

In similar fashion, Albrecht tries to get to the downed Artan, but he is teleported well away from the action before he can get even halfway there, leaving the dwarf bleeding onto the stone floor.

Patroclus manages to retrieve his halberd and then casually runs the assaulting ogre through with it as if that was what he had planned all along. This is the last of the ogres despatched, but several of the party are critically injured, you seem to have no way of getting to them, and cannot fathom any pattern behind the teleporting room.

Looking thoughtfully at a nearby (dead) ogre, Kaji ponders and then plucks the claw shaped amulet from around its shaggy goat hair covered neck.

Seeing this, Patroclus does the same with the ogre he has just killed and steps purposefully forward, clutching the amulet and wishing to appear next to Artan. He is almost as surprised as everybody else when it works! Recovering quickly, he retrieve a potion of cure light wounds and pours it down Artan’s throat, saving him from certain death.

In likewise fashion, Aaron retrieves a claw amulet and, following the same pattern, teleports and ends up next to Albrecht.

There then commences an orgy of healing, but Rashid remains beyond the help of all magic short of a raise dead spell, and neither Aaron nor Albrecht has memorised that particular miracle today.

Taking advantage of the enforced pause of some thirty minutes while the priests do their thing, the opportunity is taken to redistribute some of Pioden’s collection of magic items to more suitable owners.

Ready then to move on, Patroclus hoists Rashid’s lifeless body over his shoulder and looks around for some “what next?” guidance from the others.

To be continued…

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Dance of Death
In which our heroes engage in a deadly minuet


Guest Blog by Max Bryans

Our Cast of Players:

  • Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
  • Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 10.
  • Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 9.
  • Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/8/8.
  • Rashid (Max Bryans): Human Thief, level 10.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 255,880

What Happened:

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The watching Ogres pause, then clearly decide that enough is enough. Six of them (half their number) step forward toward their nearest pillar and with a plucking sound disappear and re-materialise next to Artan and Edward.

They swamp the pair and manage to connect with a flurry of massive blows from their huge, knobbly clubs. They tower over the pair of fighters and any uneducated onlooker would swear there was only one possible outcome. Elfire tries to move to assist Artan, but knows he does not have the time or legs to directly intervene, so he takes the opportunity to snatch a shot with the ogre sized crossbow he pillaged from the ogre priestess in the ‘living room’.

The unwieldy weapon spits out its massive bolt and sends it down the centre of the room towards one of the waiting ogres but midway the bolt disappears and vanishes from sight. There is then a loud ‘crump’ as it materialises further down the room and slams into a side wall. It seems the teleport effect in this room affects missiles too.

Whilst Elfire does this, Artan and Edward rally themselves and press a counter attack. They are hindered by the massive shields of the goat-ogres, but also assisted by their respective sizes and the blessings of the gods, after all, it’s easier to hit creatures this size! And they use these advantages to good effect. Artan cuts two of his three assailants down to size, and Edward beheads one of the three on him, but this offers only a little respite.

In the corridor things have not been static. Some of the rest of the party move to assist their colleagues. Rashid moves to the entrance of the room (doing his best to remain unseen), Patroclus moves in to support Artan, and Pioden does something very, very brave. Realising his missile weapon will be rendered useless by this chamber, he draws Elfire’s old and trusty Zweihander and, with a battle cry, charges in to try and support the beset Edward. But the pillars have a different idea for Pioden. With a ‘boing’, he is plucked from existence and re-deposited on the other side of the room by the third rank of pillars. As he re-materialises, he becomes distinctly aware that he is very much on his own.

Killing three of the half dozen ogres around them offers Artan and Edward a little respite, but only a little. Their opponents seem to be incredibly intelligent and, unlike their normally brutish brethren, adapt tactics to match the evolving battle scape. With a concerted push they press their size advantage over the pair. Despite their best efforts the two warriors are sorely beset. It is only though sacrificing their shields and desperate dodges do they survive, but enough blows land to make it clear their position is untenable. Edward especially is left barely conscious.

But respite comes from a surprising direction. The remaining ogres on the back wall have a choice. They could move to finish the two plate clad warriors in the corner, or turn upon Pioden who has (as if like manna from heaven) appeared not 20 feet from them. With grim resolve, and the well known hatred between ogres and elves, they decide upon the latter. Three of them step forward and teleport to surround the unlucky elf. With a battery of savage blows they smash and bash him repeatedly. Within seconds he is transformed from a nimble, lithe cyclone of destruction to a bloodied punch drunk boxer on his last legs.

Elfire sees this travesty unfolding and realises he is needed. Dropping his crossbow he changes direction and veers away from Artan and towards the besieged Pioden. There may be no love lost between the pair, but the battlefield is no time to play favourites. He makes it past the first run of pillars, but as he passes the second and it looks like he will make it, he is teleported back towards the first pillar by the entrance to the chamber.

There are now only four ogres who are not fighting and, having carefully weighted up their options, they decide it is time to act. They step forward and teleport to engage. A pair join the three assaulting Pioden and deliver some crushing blows, including one which he only just dodges that would surely have taken his head clean off. The last pair land next to Elfire and catch him off balance after his own jump. They press this advantage and it’s only his reflexes and armour which save him, but he is forced onto the defensive.

“Enough of this,” thinks Kaji as he leafs through the Book of (almost) All Spells. “Ah… CONFUSION… that might help. Or not,” he muses as he rips a page from the book. With a gesture and some concentration the magic flows from the page, through Kaji and into the chamber.

To recap for the reader, the occupants (characters and ogres alike) in the room already have much to worry about, such as mortal danger, the incessant outer dimensional whispers of despair in their heads and the small matter of the impending end of the world. But as Kaji casts the spell, all such matters briefly leave their minds and suddenly, just for a second, the chamber falls silent as they stop everything and forget where and who they are. For that second, you could hear a pin drop. Then, for most, reality comes crashing back suddenly. But for two of the ogres next to Pioden, Pioden himself and Patroclus, reality does not return.  With glazed expressions they stop what they are doing, and either stand stock still in confusion or decide they have something else better to do. Patroclus is SURE he has misplaced a fishing hook and seems desperate to find it in his pockets, an ogre seems to decide now is the time to eat a mouse he has been saving, and the battered Pioden, ignoring everything, bends over and starts to polish his boots!

As the spell resolves, Rashid and Aaron enter the fray. The former tries to remain unseen, but is given away by the ‘pop’ of him being teleported to the far corner of the room, just behind one of the ogres besetting Pioden. Of all the places he would like to be, this is certainly not on Rashid’s list! Aaron is similarly stymied by the teleporting actions of the room. As he reaches out to try and heal Artan, he is transported to atop an ogre’s body next to Edward. The interference delays his casting.

There are now three distinct melees happening simultaneously in this forsaken chamber. Any semblance of strategy and tactics from the party is a distant memory. The ogres, however, seem to be operating like a well oiled, fighting machine.

The two ogres on Elfire press their advantage as the giant man tries to regain some form of initiative, but he is flat footed and by the time he has readied the Obsidian Greatsword his amour is battered from numerous blows and he is close to death. But Elfire is a wily opponent. He feigns a stumble to the floor to draw his opponents in then, with the last of his strength, rises and, jumping forward, commences an unstoppable sequence of swings with the Greatsword. Elfire’s mastery of the weapon is apparent and, with each blow delivering a vicious bolt of lightning, he soon cleaves through shields, armour and bone. In seconds, he has turned the fight around and stands, battered and barely alive, over his fallen foes.

The tide of battle is likewise turning in Artan and Edward’s favour. One of the ogres on them fumbles his shield and impedes both himself and his neighbour, a most fortuitous turn of events which is just in time, as it allows Artan and Edward to press home further desperate attacks and kill all but one of the remaining ogres around them. The odds are now two to one in their favour, just as well since the two warriors are now shield-less, dented and battered close to unconsciousness.

This leaves the third melee, which is most certainly not going in favour of our heroes. Of the five ogres surrounding Pioden, two are confused and useless, one is distracted by the appearance of Rashid and sets to him, and the remaining pair fall upon the hapless elf (who is trying to clean his boots!) and strike him unconscious and bleeding to the ground. It is clearly desperate, but the promise of reprieve comes from a most unlikely quarter. Completely by chance, and with a ‘pop’, the two clerics, Albrecht the Chosen and Aaron the Holy, materialise over Pioden’s body and next to Rashid respectively  They had been trying to assist and, for once, the seemingly random nature of this chamber’s teleporting pillars works to their advantage. With quick prayers of thanks the two set to work and, as Albrecht stabilises Pioden’s broken form, Aaron heals some of Rashid’s wounds. The scared but brave little thief is not finished yet, he knows he has to buy Albrecht and Pioden more time. Ignoring the ogres whose attention he has, he jumps onto the back of the one looming with bloodied club over Pioden’s body. As he jumps he activates his flaming dagger and strikes straight into the kidneys of the unsuspecting ogre. He delivers a grievous wound, but this is no back-alley brawl and ogres are made of sterner stuff than city guards. With contemptuous ease, the ogre turns from Pioden, reaches behind himself and grabs Rashid by the head. With a flick he throws the thief onto the floor. The impact shatters Rashid’s legs, but he does not feel it, for the swing has broken his neck and killed him outright. His body comes to rest like a broken rag doll on the floor.

Kaji sees Rashid’s fall and curses to himself, but he does not have time to mourn. Gathering his concentration he dispels the confusion effect on Patroclus. As the spell dissipates, Patroclus in turn removes his hand from his pocket (the search for the fishing hook can resume later) and jumps to a defensive posture as he surveys the scene.

He sees Artan throwing his hammer at the last ogre next to the at-death’s-door Edward, but the teleporting pillars snatch the hammer from mid-air and it materialises behind the thrower. With the instinctive unconsciousness of the master, Artan’s hand snatches up and seizes it mid-flight. Without a second thought he throws again. Once more the hammer is snatched from reality, this time to reappear and drop to the floor on the other side of the chamber. With it now being too far from its owner, it lies there inert.

On the other side of the chamber, Elfire does not have time to congratulate himself. He finishes his opponents at the same time as the other ogres are knocking Pioden to the floor. One of them decides to confront the more pressing threat and leaves Pioden, Albrecht, Aaron and Rashid to the not so tender ministrations of his comrades. He starts a swing and steps towards the closest pillar. As he ‘pops’ up to Elfire with an explosion of displaced air he finishes his swing and catches the warrior square on the back of the head. With a crash the big man falls to the ground.

The battle field has changed beyond all recognition in the space of a few short minutes. In one corner is a battered and bloodied Artan and Edward, flanked by a recently awakened Patroclus. In the door way is a concerned looking Kaji. In another corner is an ogre standing astride Elfire’s fallen form, his club raised to deliver a coup de grace. And most desperate sight of all is the scrum in the far corner. Albrecht is standing defensively over Pioden’s barely breathing body. Aaron is likewise standing over Rashid’s twisted corpse. Around them are four ogres. Two are confused (and clearly not going to be much of a threat), but the last two are very much aware.

And with their fiendishly intelligent cunning, they choose their next targets and step forward.

To be continued…

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He Slimed Me
In which our heroes penetrate further into the vault of madness.


Guest Blog by Max Bryans

Our Cast of Players:

  • Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
  • Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 10.
  • Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 9.
  • Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/8/8.
  • Rashid (Max Bryans): Human Thief, level 10.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 255,880

What Happened:

Elfire does not delay, he strides into the foetid cell and uses the Ice Trident to smash the skull of the face down ogre corpse. After all, you can’t trust the dead to stay dead otherwise. As he does so, the emaciated Ogre rattles his chains and paws at the air. Now he is closer, Elfire notices that the chains are not attached to the wall at all, this monstrosity is actually free.

With a shout of warning to the rest, Elfire pitches forward and strikes the fell creature down. Normally that would herald the end to such a one sided fight but this creature, curiously frog like, has a final surprise. As Elfire’s killing blow lands, the Ogre’s head and chest explode in a torrent of high pressure green, sticky slime. This slime coats the erstwhile Elfire from head to foot and with horror he feels it start to envelope and subsume him  His armour and items offer a little protection, but just delay the inevitable. Where the slime makes contact with his skin he feels it burn, spread and denature his flesh. It is going to change Elfire into a slime monster!

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As the large man starts to scream, he thrashes around the room. It is the quick witted Kaji who is fastest off the mark. He unclips the Decanter of Endless Water and throws it to the fleet footed Pioden.

“Pioden”, he shouts, “Try this as I think up Plan B.”

The dexterous elf snatches the decanter in mid-air and dives into the cell. He braces himself with his back and the decanter square against the wall and flips the lid open.

The resultant torrent of water is indeed both endless and torrential. With Pioden guiding it the cascade blasts Elfire’s flailing form but it quickly becomes clear that the slime is not affected by mere water. It is sticky enough and burning ever deeper into Elfire’s armour and flesh to remain in place, plus its surface seems to repel and disperse the water jet.

As the two clerics prepare for the worst with a Bless, Rashid jumps into action. As he darts forward he activates the Flaming Dagger and, once by Elfire’s side, he dodges the warrior’s flailing arms and applies the flat of the flaming blade to a section of the Ooze. But although the blade looks to be flaming, and would certainly hurt if someone where stabbed by it, the weapon by itself does not offer any potentially cauterising heat. Besides, Elfire is covered head to foot in the stuff, is thrashing around violently in agony, and is likely to be beyond help by the time a dagger has been applied to every part of his body. Seeing his efforts are in vain, the Asian thief retreats to the corridor once more.

“Plan B it is then,” announces Kaji, as he flicks through the Book of All Spells. “I really didn’t want to have to do this.”

As he turns his attention to the book, he begins an incantation. The magic script from the page he has selected dissolves, routes though Kaji and out from his fingertips. With a colossal “Whump”, the cell (with the increasingly desperate Elfire in the centre) bursts into a massive ball of flame! Everything in the room is subject to a vicious blast of heat. This blast melts a few of Elfire’s items (his ring of missile protection, rod of command and other more minor bits and pieces) but in his current state that is the least of his worries! The scorching heat replaces the acidic stench of the slime and, as the pain of that recedes, he realises the slime has gone – Kaji’s desperate plan has worked! It has been blasted and cooked off him and he is free of it, although knowing this does not improve his mood! The smouldering giant staggers out of the chamber and into the waiting care of the clerics.

As Aaron restores Elfire to some semblance of fighting fitness (including ensuring he has not been diseased by contact with the ooze), Rashid proceeds down the corridor to the next door on the southern wall. With his usual diligence he checks carefully whether it is trapped.

“All clear,” he announces.

“Well open it then,” answers Edward.

“No. You can have that pleasure,” retorts the thief.

“Are you for real, Rashid?“, barks an increasingly testy Edward. “What the hell is the point of you if you don’t open doors?”

“I make sure the door does not kill you. You make sure what is behind it does not kill me,” replies the equally peevish thief. “Besides,” he opens his cloak to reveal his arsenal of small but immaculately maintained blades, “I am best as a knife from the night.”

“Is that a threat?” scoffs a reddening Edward. “You little pipsqueak!”

At this point Albrecht feels he has to intervene. It is clear this complex with its multitude of buzzing whispers is getting to even the best of them.

“Calm down, the pair of you,” he yells, then in a more measure tone continues, “Of course it wasn’t a threat. Was it Rashid?”

But he gets no answer as the small thief returns to Kaji’s side. His body language indicates he is seething and only just holding it together.

“Bloody thieves. Hang the lot of them, I say,” mutters Edward as he goes to the declared trap free door, gives it an elbow, and prepares to murder whatever is on the other side. But he is disappointed. It is hard to murder a barren 50 foot corridor with yet another door at the end.

“Oi, Rashid! Get your rat face down here and earn your keep!”, he shouts as he moves further down the previous corridor.

Rashid knows better than to argue. He quietly advances to the side corridor and turns down it. With meticulous care he ensures the corridor floor itself and finally the end door is clear from traps. The mysterious black granite which makes up this complex makes it a particularly difficult task. On first (and, indeed, final) inspection, the surfaces are perfectly true and any imperfection should show up readily, but the way light refracts through the stone constantly tricks the eye. All the while the whispers in his head make full concentration almost impossible.

Eventually his sweep is over. With a shout of “Door is yours” to the cursing Edward he retreats back to Kaji.

“Getting bloody sick of him,” mutters the Paladin, and he marches down the corridor and taps open the door. As the door slides slowly open he recoils as the voices in his head intensify in strength and number! But he relaxes a little when he realises the attack is ‘only’ psychic. With no physical threat apparent, he inspects the revealed room from the doorway.

“Just a store room, barrels and boxes and the like,” he announces as he returns to the main corridor.

“Oh, I like barrels and boxes, don’t we, Rashid?” declares Kaji excitedly, with a look to the still angry thief.

With undignified haste, Kaji (with Rashid in tow) goes to further inspect the store room. And indeed it is exactly that. About 20 by 40 feet, it is packed to the ceiling in places with barrels and boxes of all sizes. But, unlike a normal store, the containers are not marked or labelled in any way.

Rashid does a quick search for any traps, but none are found. After receiving the ‘all-clear’ nod, Kaji then taps the top of the closest barrel with his staff. As he does, he commands it to open.

With a ‘POP’ the lid flies off and lands, spinning like a top, on the floor. With a cautious look over the rim, Kaji inspects the contents. Inside he finds a foul, red, organic smelling broth. It is mainly blood red, but with white fatty lumps, and the occasional piece of gristle. It looks like the liquefied remains of something or, as he realises in horror, someone.

“Out NOW!”, he shouts to Rashid, “GET OUT OF HERE!”, and he turns and bolts out of the room. The thief does not need to be told twice and follows quickly on his heels.

With this store clearly not going to provide any egress from their situation, Edward (followed by first the warriors then the casters) leads the party further into the unknown.

The corridor continues east, then opens into a T-junction heading north-south. Edward takes the southern spur, which after a short way turns east again. Once around the corner, he sees the corridor ends about 50 feet ahead and open into a large chamber. This chamber is 60 feet wide by 90 feet long, with 2 rows of 4 pillars down it’s centre. Unlike the rest of the room, these pillars do not seem to belong here. Each is made of what seems like a traditional (or better described as ‘normal’) stone and seem weathered as if by the ages. And the room is far from unoccupied! On the far wall, screening an exit door, are a dozen or so Ogres. Like all denizens to this infernal place, they are far from normal. They each have a skin of white scales, punctuated by tufts of wispy white hair. Each of their faces has been stretched into a goat like shape and from their temples protrudes a set of goat like horns. They are dressed in light mail and armed with an array of large crossbows and heavy flails.

But they do not attack, they are clearly aware of Edward at the entrance to the chamber, but just keep a watchful eye on him and don’t move from their positions on the back wall.

“It’s a trap,” announces Edward to the party behind him, “and a damned obvious one.”

There follows a brief frenzy of preparation. Kaji catches a whiff of ozone, and decides to prepare the Crown of Counter Spells with a counter-lightning bolt. The remainder check weapons and cast various Protection from Evil spells.

This is too much for the peasant who once hosted Kaji’s consciousness (and to whose family and himself you made many guarantees of absolute safety). Since re-awakening in the treasure vault with Frogroth’s malevolent skull, he has been privy to a waking nightmare of horror and violence. He has no mental defences against the voices in his head, and the promise of further violence sends him over the edge.

“I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!” he cries, as he grabs and clutches a surprised Rashid in a bear hug. “MAKE IT STOPPLEASE!!!”

With the strength of the insane he squeezes the thief still tighter.

Rashid knows time is of the essence and, after a speedy consideration of his options, he decides a direct approach is best. With a swift action he lashes out and head butts the peasant square in the face. The intention had been to shock him into releasing his grip, but the thief inadvertently releases all his pent up frustration with Edward into the strike. His forehead viciously connects with the peasant’s face and drives his nose into his brain, killing him instantly. The peasant’s body immediately falls limp and Rashid instinctively takes its weight. With a worried glance around him, he wonders if anyone has seen and lowers the body softly to the ground. Much to Rashid’s relief, him and the peasant (whose name he does not even know) were bringing up the rear of the party and it looks like the incident has gone unnoticed to the rest, so caught up are they in their preparations. Leaving the dead body slumped in the corridor, he rushes to catch up with the others, whistling nonchantly as if nothing had happened.

However, as the tragic peasant was being so brutally culled, the rest have been busy indeed.
Kaji has moved down the corridor, in sight of some pillars, and is preparing to Dispel the magic he thinks is inevitable.

Pioden has moved to the end of the corridor and has his trusty bow, loaded with One-Arm Tariq’s lucky arrow, to hand.

Edward and Artan have both moved into the room but, as they do, they “BOoooooooING” out of existence and then back again, just further and into separate areas of the room.

All the while the dozen goat like Ogres watch balefully and prepare to strike.

To be continued…

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It's in the Trees!
In which our heroes get a big, arboreal themed surprise.


Guest Blog by Max Bryans

Our Cast of Players:

  • Aaron (Dave Marasco): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Albrecht (Alan Bates): Human Priest, level 10.
  • Artan (Dave Marasco): Dwarf Warrior/Thief, level 6/9.
  • Edward Nevar (Ricky Paginton): Human Paladin, level 10.
  • Elfire (Max Bryans): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Kaji (Ian Andrews): Human Wizard, level 9.
  • Patroclus (Jason Paginton): Human Warrior, level 10.
  • Pioden (Craig Baynham-Evans): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 4/8/8.
  • Rashid (Max Bryans): Human Thief, level 10.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 258,440

What Happened:

Edward slowly turns his back on the abomination which is the “living room”.  With a sigh, he softly pushes the door, which slowly swings to shut the horrible sight from view.  As it does, the cries of torment and despair rise to a crescendo of desperation which is then snuffed out as the door slides shut.  But it is not silent, the voices continue in everyone’s heads, just reduced to an infernal whisper.

“Put it on the ‘must come back to’ list”, announces a determined Edward, “North Door now.”
The Paladin marches with purpose down the corridor.  Ignoring the turning to the right, then the left hand door they entered from at the bottom of the seemingly infinite staircase and finally arrives at the door at the far ‘northern’ end of the corridor.  (Although it is worth reminding ourselves that ‘north’ seems to be a meaningless concept in this other dimensional place.  So it is used as a purely relative direction, for the sake of everyone’s sanity.)
 
After briefly turning to see the rest of the warriors forming up behind him, Edward touches the door and crouches into a defence posture as it slowly and ominously swings open.  Those behind follow suit and only relax when they see Edward do the same.

“I’ve not seen one of these before.”, says Edward in a slightly awed voice as he steps back to let everyone else get a view of this new room.
 
The term Room does not do this vast chamber justice.  This is no meagre dungeon cell, it is a colossal chamber which stretches as far as the eye can see.  Although that view is hampered by a dense forest of gently swaying trees.  The breeze and plethora of different smells it brings amplifies the sense that this as a huge place.
 
The trees are akin to tropical palms, each with large fronds of golden green leaves.  Each of these 20 to 40 foot tall trees seem to just strike their way through the floor of the now ubiquitous black extra-dimensional granite.  There is no sign of leaf litter on the floor.  Although the trees themselves do seem individual enough, with some of different heights, girth and bark patterns.  The one thing they do all have in common is what seems like a large seed pod.  After a double take, it is clear this is no ordinary seed pod.  Each is about 5 foot long and large enough to fit a humanoid figure.

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 Edward gestures for Pioden to come forward.  Just as dungeons are the realm of Dwarves, trees should be that of elves.

“Never seen any of these before.”, declares Pioden, “Certainly ‘not normal’ and I’ve a feeling we REALLY don’t want to get those pods hatching.”

“Cloudkill?”, offers Kaji?

“If you would be so kind, Sir.”, replies Pioden in the exaggerated flouncy elven way.
 
Kaji sets to recalling the spell to mind, but stumbles and mis-casts.

“Dammit, lost it for today.”

“You have the Book of All Spells.  Might as well use it.”, offers Elfire.

“I like your thinking, Elfire.  We can’t take it with us, can we?”, answers Kaji and promptly digs out the Books of All Spells.  After a few minutes searching in it, and then preparing himself, he recites the Cloudkill spell from the book.  As the magic manifests it flows from the book, through Kaji and into reality.  Leaving just a blank page behind.
 
As Kaji concentrates a horrid miasma of green sickly foulness materialises at the base of one of the trees.  Kaji then with a slow sweeping gesture guides it from one tree to the next.  After half an hour the spell runs its course, but in that time Kaji has tracked the cloud through most of the trees within sight.
 
“Did it work?”, asks Pioden.

“Depends on what you intended it to do.  The spell worked perfectly.  But trees take a long time to show it they’re dead or not, so I’d be lying if I said I knew if I’d hurt them.”
“Time to be more direct, then”, answers Pioden and he recalls a spell to mind.
 
With a “Zot”, he calls a lightning bolt into being and strikes the nearest pod.  With a not so minor explosion the pod ruptutes with a spray of thick milk-like ichor and a humanoid sized mass of black matter slops out and crashes with a squelch to the floor.  It’s not moving, but Pioden follows it up with a Magic Missile (just to be sure).  The inert mass remains inert.
 
He then tries to repeat the process, but fails to remember the words for his lightning bolt.  With a curse, he just pummels another pod with multiple Magic Missiles.  This has the same effect, another indecipherable glob of mass falls to the floor.
 
By now the remainder of the Warriors have grouped inside the chamber, but remain stubbornly around the door.  Patroclus spots movement and points to one of the pods which escaped the Cloudkill.  He can see the pod twitching and convulsing, as if the contents are trying to escape.  This is all Pioden needs as a target and he casts yet more volleys of Magic Missiles into the moving pod.  With a ‘splot’ the contents fall to the floor.  But this mass is still moving, so Patroclus advances and thrusts his Halberd straight into the middle of it.
 
From a halberd’s distance away the mass gains some recognisable features.  In the middle of what looks like an embryonic sac is a 5 foot insectoid creature.  It has multiple legs and chitin armour with an array of vicious looking barbs.  With a final chitter of its leg casings it dies.
 
“I’m really getting uncomfortable now.”, thinks Pioden as he sneaks some 30 feet down one wall.
 
Having seen that no action or decision has been made, Elfire decides to do some scouting himself.  With a mental command he activates his Boots of Levitation and feels himself lift off the floor.  As he slowly rises he becomes acutely aware that the whispers in his head are intensifying.  For each foot he rises they seem to double in volume and number.  By the time he is 20 feet above the ground (about half way to the ceiling) the clamour is intolerable.  He involuntarily clutches his ears in a vain attempt to block the now screaming intelligible voices, but to no avail.  With a curse he reverses his direction and drifts back down to the floor.
 
But his and Pioden’s scouting does return some information.  After waiting for the echoes in his head to recede to mere whispers; Elfire reports.
 
The chamber is huge, for all he knows it could be endless.  The ceiling and walls are the mystery granite, and the plants seem to be fuelled by a multitude of light sources which radiate through the walls are regular intervals.  But as is the nature of this stone the light (although brighter in certain areas) is constantly refracting through the walls and exiting in multiple locations.
 
This information renders the already indecisive party completely paralysed.
A low level whispered argument ensues.  Eventually leading to the usually mono-syllabic Elfire having to summarise.

“For the Gods sake.  It’s simple.  We either ONE”, he says and proceeds to count off his fingers, “proceed into that Insect forest, kill whatever we meet and see if there is a way out.  TWO, go back down and see what’s off the corridor down there,”, he points back to where they came from, “or THREE we go back up the stairs and get the hell out of this infernal place.”

This still does not get any firm response.  So he tries a different tack. ….

“OK, anyone for ONE?  We go through that forest.”, he points to the trees and is met by silence.

“TWO, back down the corridor?”, to this less risky proposition there is the vaguest of murmurs of assent from some of the party.  This is all Elfire requires.

“Good, thank fuck for that.  Follow me then.”, and the brutish man turns his back on the forest and stomps back down the corridor.  He doesn’t stop to see if anyone is following him, but turns left down the turning and only stops when he finds a door on the wall 40 foot down the emergent corridor.
 
Having cooled down a bit (but only a bit, this place really is getting on the everyone’s nerves) he turns to see the reminder of the party have actually followed him.  Once the lead fighters are close enough he pushes the door, so as to open it and adopts an attack stance.  But the door does not shift.  Another push indicates the door is not going anywhere.
 
“Rashid!”, commands Elfire, “Get your scrawny ass up here!”.  To which the thief musters his dignity and moves to inspect the door.  Traps there are none, and there is no lock to be locked.  But an inspection with his hand mirror under the tiniest of cracks at the bottom of the door shows the tell-tale sliver of a shadow which indicates the door has been spiked from the other side.
 
“Spiked, brute strength for this one.”, reports Rashid with a pointed look to Elfire as he retreats to return to Kaji’s side.

With a growl, Elfire puts his shoulder the door, but it is clear it is not going anywhere.  He tries again, and again ……
 
Eventually he gives up and turns his sweating brow round to look to the rest.  They are a down-beaten, introspective and seemingly haunted looking lot.  But that does not stop them looking like they are stifling titters.
 
“You just had to ask for help, you big ox.”, says Edward.  Then he, Artan and Aaron move forward and between the 4 of them manage to get enough strength to apply to the smooth door that it breaks the spike on the other side.  With the restraining spike overcome, the door slides smoothly open.  As seems the norm, the opening of the door releases yet another stench into the corridor.  This time the reek of blood, shit, vomit and putrid death.
 
This filth comes from a small (by Ogre standards) cell about 20 feet square.  Lying on rotten, shit covered straw is the face down corpse of an ogre, his shoulder seems to have a chunk out of it.  On the far wall there is chained another ogre.  This one emaciated, but very much alive.  And now the reason for the missing shoulder is clear, it is exactly at arm-and-chain’s length from the corpse.  This creature seems to have clawed off what flesh he could to eat and survive and thus continue his wretched existence.  Just the most cursory of glances at the chained Ogre shows he is completely and utterly bat-shit insane.  A gibbering and sobbing is the only sound he makes as he paws the air.
 
To be continued…

View
Crucible of Flesh
In which our heroes discover that there are some things that man was not meant to see.


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 4/8/8.
  • Rashid (Max Bryans): Human Thief, level 10.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 258,440

What Happened:

With the Library gleaned for all it can offer, it is time to move out.  The party exit and turn south until they get to the door at the end of the long chamber of statues.  All the while growing increasingly disconcerted as the buzzing of indistinct voices fills their minds and the inert statues seem to be watching them.
 
The black door, like others in the complex, is featureless and imposingly massive.  But Rashid still take his time to check it from traps.  As usual this entails a few minutes of visual searching for wires, irregularities in the hinges, lock, frame and a look for cracks or holes which might indicate panels or buttons.  Once compete, a similar search is made with the lightest of touches from a fine lock-pick.  All the while ready to stop the sweep if an obstacle is found.  After a few minutes of this intense concentration, it is clear the door is not trapped and more so is curiously devoid of any imperfections.  With an outstretched finger he gives the door the gentlest of pushes in the centre.  As he steps to one side, the door slowly and majestically sweeps open.  In a smooth and silent action which seems impossible for its size.  Rashid’s sidestep is hastened as he recoils from the stench which seems to roll out from behind the door.
 
The smell of burnt and rotting vegetation wafts in and catches everyone at the back of the throat.  After steeling themselves, the warrior quartet of Edward, Patroclus, Artan and Elfire surge through the door and into the next chamber.  And what a chamber it is!  It is impossible to catch the scale of the room, due to the numerous obstacles, but it is easily over 100 feet square, with a 40 foot ceiling.  It is clear this chamber has seen 3 distinct phases of use.  Initially it was a great underground pleasure and medicinal garden.  But it is hard to imagine how beautiful it once was.  For over the now twisted trellises the second stage was clearly of neglect.  Vast vines and brambles seem to have choked the once manicured beds.  They in turn seem to have died, before the third and final phase.
 
Albrecht remembers and explains to the others.
“Ah …. This is where William and Tether (May Valarion bless their travels) set a fire.  We had been beset by avian type kobolds with bows, and it seemed like the best way to clear them out.  We never did go back though.  I think they would have been proud.”
 
For indeed the fire did catch and the entire wilderness has been burnt.  But with the limited air in the sealed room, it was not an open blaze, the vegetation has been converted to fragile black charcoal and a layer of ash.  These charcoal arches of bramble span across the room like a burnt, shrivelled mockery of the vitality they once held.  They crack and collapse to dust with the faintest of touches.
 
This time round it is much, much easier to progress into the chamber.  The thick ash on the floor is undisturbed (indicating they should not be troubled) and any obstacle crumbles in front of them.  In the centre of the chamber they find a square block house made of the now ubiquitous black mystery stone.  This 30 by 30 cube rises 15 feet off the floor and has a door in the South section of its Eastern wall.
 
With the warriors forming a protective circle around him, Rashid sets to work again.  After a few minutes he nods to the rest to indicate it is clear of traps, pushes the door gently and nimbly steps to one side as it slowly swings open.
 
As light enters the door it refracts randomly though the stone in its other-worldly manner and illuminates the contents.  There is a 10 foot wide stairwell leading to a landing (where the corner of the blockhouse is) from which the stairs to turn 90 degrees and continue downwards.  But they are not alone.  Standing sentinel on the landing is a horrific guard!  Unlike anything they have come across before is a creature which seems to be a hybrid of a dragon, snake and an ogre.  Now more comfortable on 4 legs than 2 an ogre’s head bobs atop a lithe, slender neck.  Entwined around this neck is an equally lithe but more muscular tail.
 
Patroclus is first into the breach, he tears down the stairs and lands some good halberd blows to the monstrosity.  In its’ defence the DrOgre (for we shall call it that) opens its fell mouth and issues a cascade of flame which engulfs Patroclus and sweeps up the stairs and out of the door.  Patroclus laughs at this petty attempt to use fire against him.  But Elfire (never the fastest of men) is not so lucky.  He is caught in the edge end of the flame blast and although not badly injured has to pad himself down to prevent his belongings catching alight.  As he does so Edward storms past Patroclus and contemptuously puts the creature down with a cleave from the Sword of Conviction. 
 
“Bah”, announces Patrolcus with a grin, “I wish every creature was so easy.”  To which the singed Elfire can only answer with a glare.
 
The buoyed up Patroclus then leads the way down the stairwell.  Which soon reveals itself to be no ordinary stairwell.  It takes what seems like hours to wind down stair upon stair, only interspersed with landings which allow it to turn left or right, seemingly at random.  Finally the stairs stop and a 50 foot corridor, with a door at the end appears.  With some relief at being on level ground, Patroclus moves to the door and once there stops.
 
“Rashid,”, he calls, “could you check it, please?”
“Trust me, it will be fine.”, answers Rashid from around the corner as he remembers the gout of flame they found waiting behind the last door.
 
Nonplussed, Patroclus thinks this likely too and presents the centre of the door with a mighty kick.  He instantly regrets it.  The finest of touches would have sufficed, and the door does indeed slowly swing open.  But its passage is not hastened by Patroclus’s boot, so his foot comes to a jarring halt which sends shooting pains through his ankle.  With a quick look as if trying to say ‘I meant to do that’, he composes himself and bolts through the door.
 
He enters another corridor of the same type running left and right from him.  Both spurs ends 50 away in another closed door, the only difference being the right hand passage has a left hand junction coming off half way down.  Patroclus turns right and leads the party to the door at the end.
 
Once gathered, Patrolcus again opens the door with his inimitable “feet on” approach.  Although this time he contents himself with a much less concussive impact. 

The door opens into a truly hellish scene.

Imagine a serene, friendly church.  The sort you would like to take your children to.  In the centre of a 70 foot square is an 10 foot altar awaiting ministration.  Flanking it are 2 candlesticks, each 8 feet tall and topped with candles, and off to one side is a comfy chair.  Now imagine this idyll being corrupted in the most horrific manner.  For all the trappings of this room are made from the some-how still living corruption of Ogre body parts.  The candle sticks are each made from an Ogre which has been cracked and warped out of shape, so stretched and twisted it only just possible to see which limb is which.  That is not all, the altar and the chair are made of similar stuff, with leg bones as legs, and the walls and floor are coated in a matt of pulsating organs, skin and bloody carrying veins.

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Every mouth found scattered in amongst this mix is crying, in the same illegible tongue as the voices in everybody’s heads.  Although the meaning is not clear, the sentiment is.  It is the madness inducing howling of the deepest torment and despair.

Patroclus moves far enough into the room to allow Edward and Elfire to enter and quickly spread into a combat ready triangle.  They do not want to consider what they are standing on, and they have to take care not to slip on the fetid ichor and gore.  As they enter, the altar and candle sticks lurch and tremble.  With a sickening, juddering series of shakes, the furniture is moving to attack them !  But that is not all, Elfire spots a cloaked Ogre sized figure in the corner and shouts a warning to the rest.
 
It is now action stations.  Artan commences the battle by crushing the altar with 3 mighty hammer throws from the doorway.  With a cry of relief, its frenzied animations stop and it slumps back to rest.  The nimble Patroclus sweeps past Elfire and moves to attack the Ogre.  As he closes he gets a better opportunity to size up his foe.  She (for indeed she is that rarest of things, a ogress) is only slightly less massive than her male counterparts.  But like all the creatures encountered in this complex she has been corrupted and twisted.  She is wearing chainmail, wields a heavy mace which is almost the same size as Artan and has a mighty crossbow slung across her back.  Her prominent eyes protrude from her dragon-scaled face and glow an unearthly white.  As this face shouts defiance, Patroclus starts as he sees she has a second face on the back of her head which is chanting sinisterly.  But Patroclus’s approach telegraphs his intentions and he is met with a hail of mighty blows from her formidable mace.  Despite his best efforts to evade, he is hindered by the slipperiness of the floor.  A particularly nasty blow catches him on the temple and he is knocked senseless and bloodied to the ground.  But his attack was not futile.  It buys the other warriors valuable time.  Edward and Artan use this to advance within the chamber and proceed to smash the 2 candle sticks into so much broken bone and flesh.  With the intervening candlestick destroyed, Elfire now has a clear path to the Ogress Cleric.  With a cry he takes it, and with three swings from the Obsidian Great Sword he tears into his prey.  As each blow also delivers a mighty blast of lightening the Ogress is soon in convulsing pieces on the floor.  As she falls, her head splits open on a large chest resting in the corner.
 
With no pause for breath, Edward dashes over and ministers to the fallen Patroclus.  When he is on his feet he withdraws to be further tended to by Aaron, who despite failing to cast his long awaited Heal spell, soon manages to have him fighting fit once more.  As Patroclus recuperates, Elfire signals Rashid in to tend to the chest.  Despite the disconcerting surrounding the professional thief takes little time in ensuring the chest is clear of traps.  As he does, Elfire searches the body of the Ogress and grabs what he thinks useful.  When he’s ready, Rashid opens the chest with a heave.  Inside he finds some robes and vestments, about 100 black candles (like the ones on the ogre-form candle sticks), a fire starting flint and 3 small skin bound books.  He and Elfire then retreat out of the hellish chamber to the join the rest in the comparative peace and quiet of the corridor.
 
The loot is divided as follows.
Aaron decides he can use the giant sized heavy mace.  Likewise Elfire with the huge ‘light’ crossbow.  Rashid pockets a scroll of Hold Person, and Aaron two of Commune and Finger of Death.  The 3 books are handed to Elfire to investigate.
 
The books are indeed bound in human flesh.  The very touch of them sends shivers down the big man’s spine.  There are no characters on the outside, so he reluctantly opens one.  And he is staggered.  Even the Helm of Perception which can read all earthly languages and magic is unable to decipher the contents.  The letters seem to be only partially formed, and seem to shift and change, as if he can only catch a glimpse of a part of each as it moves through from one dimension to the next.  The only thing he can determine for certain is that the knowledge within is not for mortal consumption.  The contents seem to tug at the edge of his sanity and after just a few seconds he snaps the book shut.
 
“They have to be destroyed.”, he declares.
 
Edward (always keen on a bit of book burning) obliges.  He returns the books to the chest, and with the candles, vestments and some gruesome fat from a greasy liver on the wall sets the chest and its contents alight.
Once he retreats from the room again, he asserts, “Now.  This …”, he waves to the living room,” … abomination must be destroyed.  Suggestions anyone?”.
 
To which Elfire steps once more to the doorway and proceeds to impale a throbbing heart on the floor with his Ice Trident.  With a final twitch, it stops beating, and the flesh next to it pales as it’s blood supply dries and the cold of the trident chills it.

“Works.”, asserts Elfire.

“Thanks, Elfire.  But that would take is days.  And days are not what we have many of.”

To be continued.

View
Whispers of Madness
In which our heroes come face to face with their past.


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 4/8/8.
  • Rashid (Max Bryans): Human Thief, level 10.

Hired Help:

  • 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: 258,440

What Happened:

As Albrecht composes himself, he find he stifles a most inappropriate titter. Clearly the pressure of this place (wherever it is) is getting to him.

“What’s the matter, Albrecht?” asks Kaji.

“It’s this place, it’s them,” he says, gesturing to the statues. “You recognise them too, don’t you?”

“Let’s have a look,” Kaji says, as he commences a more detailed examination of the statues.

“This one,” he points at the one eared Elf, “I seem to have something of. He certainly wasn’t that lucky,” and he indicates the Lucky-Elf-Ear around his neck.

“That one, yup. I killed him in the Inn which took us plane travelling.” He indicates the Mohican toting halfling.

“That’s a priest of Justinian.”

“The female elf in chain? Nope, I got nothing on her. Listen, Albrecht, just keep it together will you? This is just the latest piece of other-worldly weirdness to add to our existing mountain of other-worldly weirdness. Don’t let it get to you.”

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Edward, looking for answers, calls upon his gods to indicate whether there is evil in the
vicinity. As well as there being small but noticeable difficulty communicating with them, the answer is clear. This entire chamber is steeped in evil. Absolutely everything is blanketed with it. The only “good” news is that nothing in particular stands out as being more evil than anything else. He decides it isn’t wise to explain the sheer magnitude of this evil to the rest of the already fraught party.

“It’s evil. Enough said. Artan?” He points to the door midway down the long west wall. “Could you do the honours, please?”

As Artan inspect the door for traps, Kaji decides to further explore on a more esoteric plane. He mouths a spell and enables himself to communicate telepathically.

Almost at once, like Edward with his detection of evil, he is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of noise in his head. All around him are vague whisperings, some louder than others, but there are so many, coming from every direction, that he can’t discern and focus on any particular one. He can’t even decipher the language and, after a minute or two, he ends the spell with a sigh of relief. He realises the disconcerting voices the others are hearing are just a small echo of the vast telepathic conversation going on all around them. Also, like Edward, he keeps this information to himself. The fighters are already a bit too twitchy for his liking, and he thinks it best not to worry them further.

“Door clear,” announces Artan, and he opens it with a slight push on a panel.

As the door swings open to reveal the contents, Artan gasps. There is an Ogre Mage mid-cast pointing straight at him!

But the gasp is soon replaced by a sigh of relief. The Ogre Mage is really only another statue. In this room are “only” three ogres, but not like any ogres they have met before. They are wearing flowing scholastic robes and each is studying a book from one of the three large bookcases in this library. The bookcases themselves rise up from the floor and are made from the same impossible material. Artan has the distinct impression they were not carved or put there. They just ARE there.

But library work can wait, there is killing to do! As Aaron casts a Protection from Evil on himself, the main line fighters of Edward, Elfire, Patroclus and Artan pour into the library. It does not take long. Patroclus dodges a hail of massive club blows with ease, Edward out-manoeuvres a crude attempt to flank him and Artan hammers like the master he is. The honour of last blow falls to Kaji. With a contemptuous flick of the wrist he provides the final coup-de-grace with a wand bestowed Magic Missile.

With the area clear, the party mass in the library. Albrecht starts when he sees the Ogre Mage statue, but recovers quickly.

“That’s Chundag,” he explains to those who were not there. “We killed him some months back. I think we still have his spell book, haven’t we, Kaji?” To which Kaji nods assent as Albrecht continues. “We found him down a crystal mine, along with plans and failed efforts to make copies of the Eyes of the Night. Right nasty piece of work. I’m also pretty sure of a couple of other things. Firstly, this library was not so tidy when we sheltered here last year. And that,” he indicates Chundag’s statue, “is very much a new addition.”

“Let’s see what this place is about,” ventures Kaji, and he moves to the bookcases. Before he does he is interrupted by Artan.

“Whoooooo up, check this fellow out,” he indicates the Ogre which tried to outflank Edward. Around his neck is a platinum pendant in the shape of a Dragon’s claw. Albrecht and Pioden recognise it immediately. In their previous visit to this place they had seem similar, admittedly in baser materials, around the necks of the Kobold Dragon Cultists. “And that’s not all,” continues Artan, as he slides the Ogre’s hood from his face. Underneath the Ogre is disfigured. In the centre of his forehead is a lizard’s slot pupiled eye, and his original eyes are seemingly in the process of being covered by a growth of dragon like scales.

“Yes, yes. He’s a Dragon Cultist. Not really a surprise is it, Artan?” scoffs Kaji, and he returns his attention to the bookshelf. The increasingly peevish dwarf seethes from the discourtesy, but manages to keep his temper in check.

When last here, the band of adventurers had struggled to make sense of the contents of these bookshelves. But now, as Albrecht observed, they have been tidied. It does not take long to establish a search pattern. This time around they have Kaji and Pioden’s arcane knowledge, Aaron and Albrecht’s clerical ability, Edward and Rashid’s history knowledge, Rashid’s in depth understanding of language structure and grammar and, to top it all, Elfire’s Helm of Perception enables him to read any language without conscious thought. It just takes an hour of collaborative study for the following facts to be made clear.

This library is a relic. The books, although they might have been transcribed yesterday, contain the knowledge of the ancients. The contents, language, and even concepts are centuries (if not millennia) out of date, and lean towards histories and references on geology, flora and fauna.

One book to strike a chord is “101 Species of New Plants”. An initially harmless tome which only draws further attention since it is accredited to “Nockmort”. Artan recognises this to be the name of the mad Ent they had to kill in an underground forest. In the book are Nockmort’s detailing of the new plants he has bred and engineered, in his quest to rid the world of all animals. The realisation that one day the plants could rise up and kill them all makes Kaji shudder, but he gets over it by brutally biting down on an apple.

The most revealing tome however is “The Shine of the Dragon’s Scales”. The author is someone called Tsathzar Rho, and further reading recounts snippets of his story. Tsathzar was one of the mightiest clerics of his day and, in communing with different planes, had fallen under the thrall of Pyraxus, the greatest of Red Dragons. Becoming more and more obsessed, he started a cult with the aim of channelling and finally resurrecting Pyraxus back to this plane of existence. To this end the Dragon Cult was borne. The book places the cult as starting many centuries before. It would seem they have been operating in the shadows for almost ever and, it is only now, at the height of their ambitions, that they have risked revealing themselves.

Further reading also describes the very nature of the place they are standing in. These chambers of impossible stone are a nexus within the realm of the Outer Gods. It was here that Tsathzar was able to commune with other dimensions, and also here where he presumably became corrupted and utterly insane.

“What does that bit there say, Rashid?” asks Kaji of a particularly troublesome passage.

“Literally… ‘This pocket flows from one place (I think they mean ‘plane’) to the next.’ Not sure what it means though.”

“It means Artan was right, Rashid,” enthuses Kaji, “this is not our plane, but another.”

“But it’s not always joined to ours?” ventures Rashid, “So we might already be trapped here?”

The eye of the Helm of Perception gives a sympathetic blink to Elfire’s gulp, as the realisation that they may be cornered sinks in.

To be continued…

View
Grumpy
In which our heroes hear a familiar tale.


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.

Hired Help:

  • 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

What Happened:

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.

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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 priest.

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…

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