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.
- 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
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.
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.