The Eternal Empire

Session Twenty-One
The Siege of Jainesville

As night fell, the keep was surrounded by hundreds-upon-hundreds of zombies, skeletons and more mobile ghouls. The horde of undead had flooded into the village, destroying all in their path, and laid siege to the keep.

Iral and Wynstan the Hermit stepped back from the summoning circle they had just finished inscribing atop the gatehouse. As Alvis, Gideon, Trustyson, Armis and Tomlison moved along the walls, checking that the supply of arrows was in easy reach of the few archers and doing their best to bolster the flagging morale of the villagers, the two spell-casters began to summon some magical entity; hoping that they could control it long enough to devastate the undead.

Wynstan completed the spell, and a pulsating blob of blood materialised in the centre of the circle; but Wynstan’s concentration slipped, his aged mind losing its grip on the subtleties of his art, and the entity broke free of his control and lashed out at the nearest living creature: Iral!

At the same time, the river of walking dead surged against the walls, and from the shadows beyond their torches, several ghouls were hurled through the air by some unseen giants, and nimbly landed on the battlements.

Along the walls the order to fire rang out, and arrows pelted the zombies below. More ghouls rushed forward, intent on clambering up the walls, and were met by a flurry of arrows. Most missed, others found their mark, but the undead kept coming. On the walls, Iral backed away from the Blood, letting loose with a magical missile that scorched one of the newly arrived ghouls; allowing Gideon to push Wynstan out of the way and swing at the blob, which undulated out of reach. Ignatious, merchant and former wizard, followed the elf’s example and sent a tiny bolt of energy unto its hide.

Meanwhile, Alvis stepped up to the ghouls and held forth his holy symbol and, in the name of the Eternal Prophet, demanded the dead to turn aside. Two of the ghouls hissed and spat and leapt from the walls, while the others of the cleric’s party ganged up on another ghoul and started hacking away at it.

Gideon stepped up to the Blood and with a mighty swing of his magical sword, Ghostcutter, sent the entity back to where it came from. Behind him, Alvis continued to repel the dead. On the other side of the gatehouse, Iral levitated a previously placed rock, lifting it into the air, intending to release it moments later. Around the harassed ghoul, Trustyson managed to move behind it, and with a powerful thrust slew the unholy creature. All around them more arrows fired, several zombies fell, and then the ghouls started to clamber up the walls; and from the night several more flew onto the walls, rolling to their feet with a savage hiss.

Father Riggby found himself face-to-face with a ghoul, and tried his best to send it to its final death; but his age and dulled reflexes were his undoing, and the ghoul ripped into his flesh, paralysing him with its unholy touch. The constable, Calhoun, who considered himself a friend to the adventurers who were trying to save the village, fought against another ghoul, but was ripped to pieces. One of the clergy, Auld, screamed as a ghoul tore into him, killing him.

Along the east wall, Tomlinson suddenly found himself fighting for his life; but after all he had been through, he knew how to handle himself and deflected blow-after-blow, pushing the ghoul back to the edge of the battlements. With a hefty kick he sent it stumbling over the wall, where it plummeted to the ground, breaking its rotted skull. Another three ghouls tried to climb the wall, eager to get the lucky henchman, but were knocked back as Iral let his rock fall, smashing the ghouls to the ground.

Atop the gatehouse, Gideon found himself almost surrounded by ghouls. His closest allies, Morris and Morrison Alderberry let loose with their bows, while the fighter quaffed a potion and suddenly doubled in size. He stepped over the dead and landed a heavy blow on a ghoul. Behind him, Alvis’ concentration faltered and the dead were not turned; he backed away, as Armis and Trusyson fired over his head, pelting the dead with more arrows. Another two, wounded, ghouls suddenly fell as Iral blasted them with more magical missiles.

More ghouls hurled onto the battlements, while others swarmed over the walls. One unit of Imperial Soldiers fell to their claws, and poor Ignatious had his throat ripped out. Tomlinson found another ghoul in his way, but swiftly slew it, while all around the keep more arrows flew.

The walls, towers and gatehouse roof were now swarming with ghouls. Horace, farmer and husband, fell screaming; both Iral and Tomlinson managed to fend off their attackers, whilst Alvis turned a couple more ghouls; but then Gideon mistimed his parry, and a ghoul clawed his face and a deep cold flowed over the unfortunate human, paralysing him. Beside him, Morrison died, face bitten off.

Below, where a wagon of burning wood and oil had been set alight to ward off the undead, a ghoulish ogre moved up and upturned the wagon, throwing it against the gates; the fire caught and the gates were ablaze in seconds.

More ghouls swarmed over the walls; others were flung onto the battlements. The zombies and skeletons were now rammed up against the walls of the keep, clawing and beating their rotten fists against the stone.

Alvis uttered a prayer to the Prophet and sent another couple of ghouls fleeing; but it wasn’t enough. A third reared up behind him, clawing his back and paralysing the cleric.

Iral found himself surrounded by three vicious ghouls, was swiftly paralysed, then slowly torn apart.

Trustyson, a recent member wondering why the hell he had joined them, fell to another and knew no more.

And all around them the ghouls tore into the valiant defenders; the gates fell open and the dead poured in…

…and the siege ended with the death of everyone.

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Session Twenty
The Journey Home: Part Two

[Day 64] After a restful night in the shrine of St Katherine, the party (consisting of Iral the Elf [L3], Gideon the fighter [L3], Alvis the cleric [L3], Armis the specialist [L1], Tomlinson the henchman [L1] and newcomer Trustyson [specialist, L1]) continue on toward Jainesville and home. They travel on through the night, and arrive just after midnight, unmolested and safe. They head straight to the keep, where Morris (one of their guards) hails them and lets them know that all is quiet.

[Day 65] In the morning they send for the constable and over breakfast tell him about the hordes of undead they have seen heading this way; whilst avoiding telling him that it was their actions that released the evil. He believes them, since they have proven themselves trustworthy, but informs them that the Sargent in charge of the soldiers needs to be told, as this sort of thing technically falls under his jurisdiction. Sargent Norris is told, and doesn’t really believe them but grumpily agrees to send out some scouts; constable Calhoun sends his men out too, knowing that the soldiers are the dregs of the Empire, sent out here to rot. He also sets in motion plans for the evacuation of the village, for all the villagers and ample supplies to be shipped over to the keep at the first sign of trouble.

Meanwhile, Gideon goes out to collect lots of firewood with the three guards (Morris, Dingle and Bart), while Trustyson, Armis and Tomlinson [now played by my Uncle Neil] go into town to buy as many supplies of oil and arrows as they can gather.

By evening the scouts return, but have seen nothing.

[Day 66] In the morning, while Gideon goes off to collect more wood, the rest of the party head down into the temple below the keep, to cleanse it of its evil, using the relic they recovered from Death Mountain. It’s a six-hour ritual, involving lots of chanting and incense, and as it reaches its climax the shadows and evil of the place coalesce into a giant (horse-sized) white fly that immediately attacks Alvis. It is quickly slain, with Tomlinson having the killing blow. The temple is now cleansed.

As evening falls, Alvis takes some barrels of water into the temple, with plans on starting to create lots of Holy Water to use against the coming waves of undead.The scouts return, but still see nothing. The soldiers decide it’s a waste of time and refuse to go out again, but the constable is still willing to believe the party and Iral agrees to go with his men in the morning.

[Day 67] Iral and the constables men go scouting, but return after five hours, having not seen anything. Alvis buys the only warhorse in the village, while everyone else finished what preparations they can and rest.

[Day 68] In the afternoon the constable’s men run up to the keep, clearly terrified. There are literally hundreds of undead coming towards the village, only four or so hours away. The constable starts the evacuation, and over the next couple of hours all the village with as much supplies as they have, gather in the keep. Those non-combatants are sent down into the temple, for safety, while everyone who can fight takes a weapon and stands guard on the battlements and towers. They give the innkeeper, Barney, Alvis’ new horse and give him orders to ride as fast as he can to Appleby, the nearest town, to both warn them and bring back help.

And then they wait.

End of Session

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 6 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube, 1 ape-creature, 5 ogres, 1 plant, 1 hideous undead thing, 1 vampire; 1 giant white fly;
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 3 (Bran, Oswald and Geoff)
Shields Splintered: 11;
Total XP: 31,624.

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Session Nineteen
The Journey Home: Part One

Day 63

After defeating the vampire and picking up some rations (and a spear for Iral), and with new companion in tow (Trustyson, played by my dad), Gideon, Iral, Alvis, Armis and Tomlinson head off on the journey back to Jainesville; fully expecting to bump into undead on the several day trip.

Four hours in, as they are just about to leave the dead forest, this is exactly what happens; but despite being ambushed by a couple of ghouls and their entourage of zombies and skeletons (four of each), they were sent scampering away by the might of Alvis’ turn undead spell he had memorised that morning before setting out.

They travel for another six hours, over hills and skirting the mountains, avoiding the trail left by the hordes of undead. In the distance, on poking over the horizon they spot the ruined gatehouse they saw on their way to Death Mountain. Thinking that it might be a good place to find shelter, as it is getting dark and overcast and they need to rest, they head towards it. Stopping nearby, they send newcomer Trustyson to scout the place out: this he does, finding nothing more than a ruined gatehouse with a loose flagstone inside, leading to something below.

He heads back and informs the others and they all hike over and start to explore, finding a tunnel beneath the flagstone. Leaving Armis and Tomlinson on guard, Gideon and Iral take the lead and head into the tunnel, closely followed by Trustyson and Alvis. They emerge into an old and debris-ridden wine cellar with animal bones scattered about and large piles of dung (some fresh) in the corners. Three stone doors, all half-hanging from rusted hinges and standing ajar lead out. There are no noises they can hear, and the place is damp, musty and a bit smelly.

Through one door they discover a room littered with bones and offal. As Gideon sneaks in to have a look, a large insect with bulbous eyes on stalks jumps out and take a swipe at him with its claws. He swings back, and the others all pile in, mostly missing, but slowly chipping away at it while it scratches a few lines on Gideon’s arm. As they fight, Alvis spots something moving in the room beyond and turns to see a nine-foot long furry snake slithering up: he yells out a warning to Iral, who spins round and lets loose a powerful magic missile [d30 rule] that blows it to pieces! Good shot that elf.

The insect dies soon after, with no one particularly injured. Alvis does a curative spell, and they continue searching. They get Armis and Tomlinson down to stand guard in the wine cellar, in case anything else pops out. Further exploration reveals an old shrine dedicated to St Harriet, patron of soldiers, and a lair full of bones. A stuck stone door leads out of the room, which takes a bit of effort to open. Foul, stale air gusts out and sends everyone but the elf coughing. Inside, hanging from a rusty chain in an otherwise empty room, is a golden bell the size of a head. Trustyson gets on Gideon’s shoulders and uses his turban to muffle the clanger, then unhooks the bell. They stuff it into a sack and carry it back to the shrine; where they make camp, and bed down for the night.

End of Session

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 6 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube, 1 ape-creature, 5 ogres, 1 plant, 1 hideous undead thing, 1 vampire, 1 insect monster, 1 furry snake, turned undead (2 ghouls, 4 skeletons, 4 zombies);
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 3 (Bran, Oswald and Geoff)
Shields Splintered: 11;
Total XP: 33,049.

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Session Eighteen
Death Frost Doom: Part Four

With no way out, they decide to head back and deal with the vampire; one way or another…

…but they divert and check out one of the tombs, while Cyris watched them with a smug smile. He even manages to charm Tomlinson, who stands by his new master as Armis [played by my Dad, who is joining us now] checks out the tomb and declares it is safe. Gideon goes in first, seeing just a plain old sarcophagus. As he steps in, some hideous undead thing lands on his back!

As Gideon shrugs it off, slashing into its desiccated corpse with his magic sword– Ghostcutter, which both harms and attracts undead– Armis and Alvis enter the fray, leaving Iral to get his bow out, aiming for a clear shot. Quickly turns out that only Gideon’s magic sword can harm it, so the other keep is distracted as he cuts into it again and again. It falls dead (again), and Gideon’s minor wounds are healed by some divine magic.

Cyris is getting weary of their constant delays, and starts to threaten them. They initially ignore him, opening another tomb only to be attacked by a ghoul, which is quickly dispatched. They find some loot, then Cyris grabs Tomlinson and gets ready to kill him (oddly, the charm still holds). They reluctantly agree to help him get out, seeing no other option. The vampire takes them to another tomb, wherein another undead monster lurks, but is commanded by Cyris to keep an eye on the party. On the lid of the coffin inside is an oath, and the vampire explains that speaking that oath makes any deal binding. He threatens them again, and all but Tomlinson (charmed anyhow) and Alvis (who made himself invisible to undead and is keeping out of the way) make their oaths. Cyris mentally commands the swarming undead pounding on the doors to back off, and gets in his coffin. Gideon and Iral pick it up, and everyone heads out into the main dungeon.

There are hundreds of the walking dead. Child zombies, skeletons of priests and commoners; more than they imagined. The hordes part for them, then follow them as everyone makes their way out to the entrance shaft. Using rope and magic, they haul the coffin out into the night. Alvis goes first, and sees that not only are there lots of undead about (some fighting others), but that their camp with their horses, supplies and their loyal henchmen (Oswald and Geoff) are all dead.

They head north, carrying the coffin carefully and slowly, the undead going south under the vampire’s command. Alvis takes off ahead of them, to warn the nearest town and doesn’t stop until he reaches it just before dawn. The others make camp just after midnight, feeling somewhat disheartened.

At the nearest town (a small market town called Fallows Tor) Alvis wakes the local clergy and tells him everything. Being a cleric of the Prophet has some advantage, and soon the entire town is woken and preparing to evacuate. He then gets some holy water together, and grabs forty-winks while he waits for the others to catch up.

Next day, the rest of the party carry the coffin to the town, but despite Cyris telling them it is far enough and that they can stop, they carry on. As soon as they reach the town, they feel the binding oath come to an end.

So they put the coffin in front of the local church, in broad daylight, and armed with holy water, spells and Gideon’s magic sword, they open the lid and expose Cyris to the sun.

They gain initiative and unleash everything they have: Iral fires off a magic missile, Armis pours holy water on the vampire, while Gideon swings his sword. Tomlinson, still charmed, defends his master and attacks Gideon. The vampire, smouldering under the sunlight, tries to fight his way clear, but it is no good. A powerful magic missile hits him hard [d30 rule for damage], followed by a final and finishing blow from Armis [another d30 roll].

The vampire dies, turning to dust.

Now all they have to do is get home before 13,034 undead reach it.

End of Session

And a horde of undead have been released (see, Paths of the Dead).

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 6 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube, 1 ape-creature, 5 ogres, 1 plant, 1 hideous undead thing, 1 vampire;
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 3 (Bran, Oswald and Geoff)
Shields Splintered: 11;
Total XP: 31,549.

Now day 63 of the campaign.
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Session Seventeen
Death Frost Doom: Part Three

Before they investigate the strange plant and the room behind it, the party decide to investigate the other doors first. One has coins engraved on the door, and dirty water fonts hold old copper coins. Alvis puts some coins in them, the Gideon opens the door to reveal yet more crypts. Iral leads them in to explore, leaving Armis and Tomlinson to watch their backs. They find nothing of interest, and try the other door. This has another basin next to it, with more coins in. Iral drops a coin in, and suddenly feels somewhat healthier than he had before [+1 CON]; but when Gideon tries the same, he feels fragile [-1 CON, and a loss of 6 hit points as a result. Ouch!]

They explore another set of crypts, then regroup before the plant. Gideon tries to hack through it, but the plant fights back and whips him. As Alvis heals him, Iral lobs torch and oil, and the others follow suit and in a matter of mere minutes the plant is little more than ash. The strange, loud musical-wind stops. Suddenly, it is all silent in the dungeon. Eerily so.

They enter the room, finding a giant skeleton statue over an altar, and a pit in the floor, where the wind breathes in and out. Atop the altar are a pair of gold goblets, an ancient tome, and the relic they went sent here to find. Before they take them, everyone takes a wall and starts searching for hidden doors, compartments and traps. Both Armis and Alvis find one, but only Armis can open his. At about the same time, Gideon hears a noise from down the corridor (the that leads to the way out). He grabs a torch and investigates: out of the shadows shamble corpses; some barely walking on rotten stumps; others legless and crawling; some are children, others men and women, all long dead; and there are not just a couple, or a dozen, but many, many more, filling the corridor and everyone can hear more coming.

The party leg it through the secret door, Alvis grabbing the items from the altar. Once through they slam the door shut and spike it closed. Corridors lead away, and as the rest secure the door, the cleric starts to explore by himself and discovers more tombs, each sealed behind barred doors; many of which have the sound of something clawing and pounding on the doors. He tells the others, and they slowly explore, hoping that there is a way out. They come across a blood-stained room, an inscription on the wall that Iral reads, to himself, using the eye-glass he found. There is also one door with no bar, and peering in they see a plain old stone sarcophagus. They (again) convince Armis to go in and check for traps, while the rest search for secret doors and find nothing. As soon as Armis gives the all-clear, he and Alvis open the sarcophagus to reveal an old, simple wooden coffin inside, in which is old dirt.

And then a voice speaks: “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t disturb my coffin.”

A man, dressed in old clothes, regal-looking with a shock of white hair and piercing blue eyes, is standing next to them,having appeared out of thin air. He introduces himself as Cyris, and they quickly deduce that he is a vampire; and he offers them a deal: in exchange for their help carrying him and his coffin out of the tomb and to the nearest town, he will ensure that they can leave safely. He tells them that at this very moment there are thousands of undead now awakened in the tomb, because of the plant they have burned. He is their only hope of escape.

Naturally enough, they are not sure. Alvis, in particular, wants nothing to do with the vampire. The others aren’t so far; maybe a deal is the best idea, given their circumstances? They ask for time to consider it, and Cyris (believing they have no other option), allows them to think it through.

They head off the other way, down another corridor to a dead-end. At the end is a pit, with luminous spirals that are quite hypnotic to look at; Iral takes a loo down, shrugs off the effect, and spots a giant spider making its way up. They back off, weapons ready, and as soon as it appears they attack: Iral is bit, but avoids the venom; the others shoot it, try to hack it, but a magic missile from Iral sends it scurrying away to its pit, and the fight is over.

With no way out, they decide to head back and deal with the vampire; one way or another…

End of Session

NB: 3 1/2 hours until the swarms of zombies and other undead break down the secret doors.

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 5 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube, 1 ape-creature, 5 ogres, 1 plant;
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 1 (Bran)
Shields Splintered: 11;
Total XP: 29,049.

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Session Sixteen
Death Frost Doom: Part Two

That night* everyone but Gideon has nightmares, waking fitfully during the night, and in the morning feeling the worse for wear. Only Gideon and TomlinsonTomlinson are rested well enough to feel no ill effects, the rest feel weary; but that isn’t going to stop them from getting on with the job: to descend the shaft, entering the evil shrine (or temple, or whatever it is) and finding the relic they have come to retrieve. Leaving Oswald and Geoff with the horses and camp, with orders to come looking of the rest of the party have not returned by sunset, the others head to the cabin.

Securing ropes to the trapdoor, using a couple of iron spikes for extra support, they descend into the pit shaft, Gideon leading, followed by Alvis, Armis, Tomlinson and Iral bringing up the rear. The constant whistling-hum, like some twisted music, is louder as they climb down, and the temperature drops to freezing. Wrapped up in their furs, Alvis carrying a lantern and torches ready to be lit at a moment’s notice, they assemble at the bottom of a 50’ shaft, with a corridor leading off. In the light, they see the corridor is carved with hundreds of faces screaming in pain and horror; they cover the floor, walls and ceiling, and end at a pair of bronze doors shaped like a many-toothed maw. Gideon takes lead, and while walking and examining the faces (which seem to writhe and shift in the flickering light), screams issue forth from their fixed stone faces! But these adventurers have faced worse, and with stout hearts (and helmets that block their ears) they carry on down the corridor, and get Armis to study the doors. Alvis blesses him, giving him some divine guidance; he finds no traps, finds a key in the lock, and opens the door. The room beyond has pedestals with skeletal hands on each, and another set of bronze doors lead out, marked with a symbol that makes them all feel uneasy and nauseous just by looking at it.

The doors lead into an immense chapel, obviously demonic and evil: jawless skulls hang from chains dangling from the ceiling; wall murals show people being impaled, decapitated, hung. An organ made of bones stands in one corner, an altar shaped into a giant mouth sits at the back, a stained bowl with a ruby-studded dagger and necklace next to the bowl. Doors lead off, and one pair have a couple of fonts of dirty water. With Tomlinson standing guard, lighting a torch so he can see, the others spread out and start looking for possible traps, secret doors and anything unusual, or valuable. Finding nothing, they head through one set of doors, finding and exploring a set of what appear to be common rooms, dormitories and private chambers of whatever priests once lived there. They find a ruined library too, and a search reveals a plain gold ring that Iral detects magic on and then uses a scroll to identify it as a ring of invisibility, which he pockets. Finding nothing else and no way out, they return to the chapel and the other bronze doors; these do not have obvious means to open, and Armis can’t find anything either. Iral stirs the water in the fonts, discovering teeth inside. Knowing how such evil cults sometimes operate, Alvis and Iral decide that a fresh tooth is needed to trigger the open door: the elf almost suggests giving up one of his own teeth, but Alvis has a better idea and heads back out into the mountain cold with Gideon, to where they found the dead body; he knocks out the man’s teeth, and returns. Keeping a couple of teeth each, they use another to open the doors, by placing it in one of the fonts. Just before they continue on, Iral convinces Armis to grab the ruby dagger and necklace.

Through the door they find a long corridor, down which the whistling-humming-music comes loud and clear. Doors of bronze, with turning wheels to open them, lead off: exploring behind them the adventurers find crypts, hundreds of bodies interred behind thin plaster walls. Another door leads into a room with ancient tomes on pedestals, each with its pages eaten away; Iral finds an eye-piece, which allows him to translate the text of the temple writings they have found; one room has a large tome about the creation of flesh golems, which they leave for now, intending on collecting it on their way back out. Further along the corridor they find a room with ink and quills, an inscription that no one reads out loud, and also the source of the whistling, which is now as loud as a troupe of bards: a plant, spiky and with hollow reed-like tendrils, blocking the corridor; beyond it lies a room…

End of Session

NB: Iral gains enough XP to reach Level 3, finally catching up with the others.

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 5 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube, 1 ape-creature, 5 ogres;
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 1 (Bran)
Shields Splintered: 11;
Total XP: 26,999.
*day 61 of the campaign (game-time that is).

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Session Fifthteen
Death Frost Doom: Part One

After enlisting a new henchman (to deal with any traps or locks they come across), the party pack up their gear on their horses and ride West towards the mountains; their goal: Death Mountain!

They follow the old road into the valley, cross the river by a ford, and then head off-country. The plains become rougher, then turn into low hills that gradually grew taller and steeper as they draw toward the mountain range. The trees are starting to change colour with the onset of autumn, and there is a chill in the air. For the first few days the journey is peaceful, even pleasant; but then they enter the lowest ridges of the mountains and start to cross a dead forest of skeletal trees dusted with frost. They spot a ruined watchtower in the distance and make a note of it, in case they want to check it out on their return.

As dusk falls, they ride out of the trees into a large clearing; at the same time, a band of five hefty looking ogres walk out of the trees opposite and stop. For a moment no one moves, then an ogre, in crude common, yells out:

“Oi! We hungry! Give us horses to eat… give us gold too. We like pretty coins!”

The adventurers and their henchman ready themselves for combat, but first they try to warn them off, but the ogres seem too mean or too stupid to pay much attention and start walking towards them. Iral and Alvis prepare to cast some magic, while the rest draw their weapons and crossbows, intent on dealing with the ogres before they can get any closer. The lead ogre once more demands meat, but gets no answer.

Iral casts sleep and three of the mighty ogres fall to the floor, snoring loudly; almost the same time as Alvis says a prayer and blesses Gideon, infusing him with divine fortune. Oswald and Armis let loose with their crossbows, but scoring hits on the lead ogre, while the rest get off their horses and start to advance. All this just makes the remaining two ogres really angry, and they heft their rather large clubs and start to lope towards the oncoming fighters.

One ogre immediately succumbs to another spell, as Alvis Commands it to sleep; the lead one suffers more injuries as Iral burns it with a Magic Missile, and as Gideon tries to hit it, he stumbles and almost drops his sword. Oswald goes to join Gideon, and gets whacked by the annoyed ogre for his troubles; leaving Tomlinson and Geoff to hack away at the sleeping ogre, trying to kill it before it wakes… but its hide is thick and despite their grievous strikes, it still breaths and stumbles to its feet as it wakes up; only to fall down dead as Armis sneaks up behind and stabs it in the back. The others pile into the lead ogre and before it can rise its club again, it joins its companion in death. They slit the throats of the sleeping ogres, find a sack of looted silver, and carry on; few qualms about killing ogres, menaces that they are.

The next day they ride up into the mountain, the temperature steadily dropping. Just below the tree-line of Death Mountain they find a cabin of crude skins and stakes; with a grey bearded, smelly old man chipping away at what look like wooden headstones. Animals skins hang drying from lines made from gut, and blood and waste litters the floor. The trail they’ve been following carries on past, heading up to the mountain. As soon as he sees them, the old man waves and shouts hello and welcomes them; he introduces himself as Zeke, asks them if they want some time and badger bites, and is not too put out when only Iral and Alvis join him; the rest stay with the horses, ready to leave. They talk to the wild man, whose stench is odd and breath stinks. They learn that he makes graves for the dead, those left unburied on the slope of the mountain, where the evil shrine stands. Intrigued they try to learn more, but he doesn’t know a lot and he also warns them off, telling them that the place is evil, cursed and they’d be doomed if they go there; but go they must, and as they try to continue on their way, he tries to stop them, barring their way and shouting at them to leave before they are all doomed. It takes all of the to wrestle him out of the way, and Armis ends up tying him up to keep him ‘safe’. He makes sure the ropes can be loosened after some time, and trying to ignore his shouting “You’re all doomed!” they carry on up the trail.

A couple of hours before dark, following the trail through howling and freezing wind, snow and difficult trail, they cross a ridge and see a cabin in the near distance, a mass of graves between them with an ugly huge oak tree just off the trail. Thick snow blankets the ground, the trail little more than a groove. Behind the cabin the mountain slopes sheer up, lost in mist. The wind dies down, and there is no sight or sound of animals, or any life at all; but they do hear a faint whistling hum, from all around by the sound of it; perhaps the wind? They make camp in a sheltered alcove, just before the ridge, and leave Geoff and Oswald with the horses. The rest head up to the cabin and start to look around, first outside; inside are a bedroom, living room (with three chairs facing the window that Alvis looks through) and a kitchen, that they can see. They also find a well outside, and some footprints that lead them to a frozen body, a man with an horrified expression, dressed in a nightgown. With an hour or so daylight left, they decide to enter the cabin, by front and back entrance.

Iral and Alvis enter by the backdoor. Gideon, Armis and Tomlinson enter by the front door, with has no hinges and falls with a loud thump as Gideon pushes it. Inside they have a good search; they heard a harpsichord, matching the tune of the faint whistling hum outside; but when Alvis finds the instrument, it is not playing at all, and he can no longer hear it, despite the others still able to. Not put off by such spookiness, they continue to explore: they find a huge tome with thousands of names in it, that Zeke had been using to mark out the graves; a mirror that (after last time) they all refused to look into; a clock telling the wrong time; and a trapdoor that was chained and padlocked and they believed led to the shrine. Iral found the belongings of the dead man, and takes anything that might be useful. They also find a painting, which shows an altar with themselves standing behind it, Gideon drinking from a goblet, and a golden bowl on the altar; very similar to that which they are looking for, the Relic of St Katherine! Even this doesn’t worry them much.

Before heading to the camp to rest, they decide to check out the trapdoor. Armis checks it for traps and finds nothing, but he has trouble picking the lock. Gideon has a go instead, after Alvis blesses him. Much to Armis’ annoyance, he succeeds. “I weakened it for you,” said the disgruntled henchman.

Opening it, they find a dark shaft heading down; handholds on the side wall, but no idea how deep it is, as their light doesn’t reach the bottom. They lock it back up, and head back to camp. They position themselves to keep an eye on the cabin, and settle down to sleep…

End of Session

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 5 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube, 1 ape-creature, 5 ogres;
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 1 (Bran)
Shields Splintered: 11;
Total XP: 22,199.

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Session Fourteen
Return to the Temple

Feeling more confident and better equipped, taking Tomlinson and Oswald with them (leaving Geoff upstairs to have a drink), Iral, Gideon and Alvis light some torches and lead the way back down into the temple below their keep. They first check all the rooms they’d already explored, ensuring that nothing had changed; nothing had. Then they passed through the cavern full of stone sarcophagi, once more leaving them alone, and enter the lair that they had only just started searching before they’d got scared and headed home.

Cautiously, 10’ pole in hand, they check floors and walls, and doors for traps. They find an abandoned laboratory, with old equipment and spare parts that Iral can make use of; including stuff he can use to brew up some potions. They also find a strange mechanical man, with a furnace built into its chest and glass cards that seem to slot into its head. Iral takes the cards, while Alvis and Gideon search for secret doors and find nothing.

Next they find a ruined library, with torn books and paper ripped and strewn across the room. But no sooner have they entered the room, a howl erupts from above the door and some twisted ape-like monster pounces on them. They very sight of it makes their brains ache [losing Intelligence, temporarily] and its howl makes the paper whirl like a tornado, painfully slicing through those caught inside. Everyone takes damage, and the force of it is so powerful that Iral’s shield is torn apart. Thankfully, a combination of sword wings, bolts and a magic missile take it out; as it dies, it melts into the floor, leaving an oily stain behind. Alvis heals his allies, both his own magic and the staff they found.

A search of the library finds the remains of a spell book and some scrolls, which are taken.

Further exploration finds another laboratory, but this one is ruined. Some explosion has torn it apart and scorched the walls, and the charred skeleton of a man lies broken on the floor. A few bits and pieces are salvageable, and Iral find a magical wand (of shield, 3 charges) and they find a secret door that leads into a narrow tunnel that comes out into the private quarters of a wizard’s room; a good search finds a spell book, some lore books, some more scrolls, and a locked chest that is trapped. Alvis manages to disarm it, and they find coins of silver and gold. Gideon finds another secret door, leading out into the woods.

They return to the keep and discuss their options. After looking through the books they found, they discover that the wizard who owned the labs was researching the whereabouts of a holy relic that might be able to cleanse the temple of its evil. This relic was taken by a cleric to deal with an evil shrine on Death Mountain. That seems to be the place the party need to go next, so they make plans and spend a week preparing. As they do, Iral and Alvis also brew up some healing potions to take with them.

End of Session
h4. Next Session: DEATH FROST DOOM!

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 5 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube, 1 ape-creature;
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 1 (Bran)
Shields Splintered: *11;
*Total XP:
21,697.

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Session Thirteen
Tower of the Stargazer: Part Two

The party head back to the ghost that guards the door into what looks to be another library. Gideon agrees to play a game, placing his very soul at risk. He easily wins a simple game of noughts-and-crosses, and the party head into the now open library and immediately start an extensive search. Alvis finds nothing, but Iral finds not only a spell book but also several scrolls. They take them all, their first loot since entering the tower.

After a quick discussion they decide to head down to the lowest level, where the force fields and chests are. Oswald stays in the lift, guarding, while the others get out and start playing about with the levers. Iral activates them first, quickly finding how to shut down one field. Then Alvis takes over, and Gideon and Iral start slowly making their way towards the chests. Alvis gets electrocuted three times, but manages to survive and figure out he keeps getting zapped. A few more tries, and they manage to reach the chests and loot them (after searching for traps). Iral conjures up a floating disc and piles the best treasure on it (lots of gold and silver); then they step back through the force fields, shut off by Alvis, and everyone gets the hell out of the tower.

They spend some time discussing what to do next, feeling slightly guilty at looting (!?), and also worried in case the wizard somehow gets free and seeks them out for revenge. In the end, they decide to head back to their keep, spend their loot, and go somewhere else.

Next Session: back under the keep, into the partially explored temple.

End of Session

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 5 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube;
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 1 (Bran)
Shields Splintered: 10;
Total XP: 19,797.

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Session Twelve
Tower of the Stargazer: Part One

After a month of shopping, the party load their packs and saddlebags, and together with their newly promoted henchmen, head south to investigate the abandoned wizard’s tower, where rumours of treasure and bandits lay.

Several hours later they arrive at the strange tower: a globe of metal plates nesting upon a windowless stone tower, a flight of steps leading to a pair of doors, all resting atop a rocky hillock. Four angled spikes point to the top, spread across a blasted waste, and lightning flickers between them. In the near distant a corpse lies on the ground.

They check the corpse, and Gideon recognises it as a famous thief, his pack ripped and empty, his grappling hook bent. He has been dead for days, half-eaten by animals. They approach the doors, carefully, and see a knocker and a pair of snake-headed handles. Gideon walks up and knocks, swinging the knocker against the door: with the boom of an unseen gong, the doors swing open and the party hurry inside, lighting a lantern so that they can see. They leave Tomlinson and Geoff outside, looking after the horses, and Oswaldfollows the party inside. They search the ground floor, finding a foyer, a cloakroom, and a room with a statue, a stack of boxes, a cabinet of china and a stairs going up. Slowly, wondering if the tower is as empty as they believe, the go up and find more rooms, mostly servants bedrooms. In one Iral finds a diary, that speaks of the tower’s wizard going mad and murderous. Another stairs leads up, and a Oswald spots a trickle of blood coming down the steps. Gideon goes up to investigate, finding a locked door, the key on the other side of the lock, from which the blood oozes out. Alvis gets a piece of cloth from the bedsheets below, and using that and an arrow, they poke out the key and reel it in; Gideon unlocks the door and swings it open: revealing a master bedroom, what looks like an elevator shaft, and an old wizard standing in a circle of salt.

“Oh, thank the heavens. I am so very glad to meet you.”

The wizard explains he is trapped, in the circle of salt as a result of some mishap. The party don’t quite believe him, and start poking around; the wizard gets annoyed, then angry as they continue to search and more or less ignore him. He then becomes enraged, firing off spells, but it is apparent that he is trapped and cannot get out by himself, nor can his spells. They ignore him as he threatens and curses them, investigating the lift shaft instead. Iral lights a torch and fiddles with the dial, bringing up a platform. He goes off by himself, finding how to reach each floor and discovering a possible treasure vault protected by forcefields, a dining room, a workshop of dissected animals, and an observatory at the very top of the tower. Then, one-by-one, they all head down to the workshop level. They find a corpse sewn with gold thread, but leave it alone; a room of crates of bones, with steps to a trapdoor that leads into the room where the boxes where, inside the shell of said boxes, which hid a secret trapdoor. Another door leads to a row of cells, and a host of ghostly figures that wail and demand to be freed, attracted by the Ghostcutter sword that Gideon carries. Before the party can react the ghosts are attacking, and only Gideon’s sword seems to have any affect; thankfully they manage to back off, Gideon taking a claw swipe across his chest, causing some frostbite. Oswald slams the door shut, and it seems that the ghosts can’t follow. Alvis heals him, and they then check out an alcove where five mirrors stand. Iral looks into one, and sees his reflection wither and age before his eyes and suddenly feels older and weaker [loses 4 points of CON]; they decide to leave the mirrors alone.

Next they head up a few levels, to the dining room, with a library leading from it and a cold storage room with a cupboard of vials holding what might be blood. Another room opens onto a chamber with a door blocked by a force field, and a table and two chairs: a ghostly figure appears, and asks who will gamble their soul to gain access to the blocked door. They all decline, for now, and retreat to the dining room to discuss their options.

So far they have been there for about an hour or so, and have not stolen anything from any of the rooms. But they have pissed off a wizard.

End of Session

Tallies

Total Kills: 1 monster, 34 bandits, 1 dead man, 9 mosquito-bats, 1 giant spider, 5 ghouls, 1 troll, defeated a party of three adventurers (but let them go free), 1 gelatinous cube;
PC deaths: 1 (and 1 lost an arm);
NPC deaths: 1 (Bran)
Shields Splintered: 10;
Total XP: 14,805.

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