Against the Shadows IV - A Faded Glory Story Hour

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Old One

Villager
Greetings All and Welcome to the New Boards!

IMPORTANT NOTE: I decided to place the entire Story Hour in this thread to make it easier for new readers (and old)...I will be formatting/cleaning up over the next day or so!

In honor of the move, we continue the Faded Glory Saga with Installment IV...

To follow the adventures of Rowan, Quintus, Sextus, Rose and Lew from the beginning, visit:

The Original - Against the Shadows - A Faded Glory Story Hour here:

Original Faded Glory Story Hour

-AND-

The Sequel - Against the Shadows 2 - A Faded Glory Story Hour here:

Second Faded Glory Story Hour

-AND-

The Trilogy - Against the Shadow III - A Faded Glory Story Hour here:

Third Faded Glory Story Hour

The Campaign Website, designed by Oberton, can be found here:

Faded Glory Website

*UPDATE: THE CAMPAIGN WEBSITE IS UNDERGOING SUBSTANTIAL CHANGES, PLEASE BEAR WITH US!

Campaign Info and Commentary can be found here:

Campaign Info

Another excellent Faded Glory Story Hour, using the Faded Glory Campaign Setting and run by DM Rel, with a different flavor and lots of twists and turns, can be found here:

Rel's Faded Glory Story Hour

Thanks to all of the readers and lurkers for their support, their readership, their commentary and their ideas.

Stay tuned for further adventures as the PCs face not only the dangers of the Faded Glory world - but the Table of Elemental Evil and a charter member of the Rat Bastard DM's Club (tm)!

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Old One

(DM's Note: I try to run a challenging - but fair - campaign. I make most of my rolls in the open and let the dice fall where they may. I also have lots of plots, sub-plots and 'red herrings' hanging about, so sometimes my players don't know whether they are coming or going. My two favorite player states are paranoid and confused! I think I have done a pretty good job so far - read on and see if you agree...)
 
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Old One

Villager
Dramatis Personae

Dramatis Personae Update

Gandlewyn (Lew) Fritinius (Human Cleric 4) - A Cleric of the Church of Light, Lew has advanced to an Acolyte of the Second Mystery of Osirian. Lew was born and raised in the frontier town of Glynden. His parents were killed in a bandit attack when he was 18 winters old and he left Glynden for three years to wander the Lost Northern Provinces and minister to the sick and suffering. He has recently returned to Glynden and has taken up with some childhood friends.

His younger brother, Marcus, is also a cleric of the Church of Light and has advanced to the rank of Acolyte of the Second Mystery. He secretly blames Lew for the death of their parents and relations between the brothers are cool, at best. Marcus recently departed Glynden to travel to Oar in the company of Brother Patroclian, a cleric of Osirian from the Jewel Cities.

Lew has been troubled by strange dreams of late, primarily related to his recently deceased friends, Garrick and Marcus Tiro. He is a kind-hearted and truthful soul and is sometimes distressed at the barbaric and/or underhanded actions of his compatriots - particularly Quintus and Rosë.

Lew recently decided to add some physical armor to the protection provided by the had of Osirian and now wears studded leather armor. He is primarily a defensive fighter and uses a quarterstaff for close fighting and a crossbow at range.

Rowan (Human Ranger 3/Rogue 1) - Born on a small farm outside of Glyden. He spent most of his youth shirking his responsibilities on the farm - fishing, hunting and playing in the woods instead. He took a nasty fall from a tall tree at the age of six, leaving him with a large scar on his forehead. He was tortured and almost slain by gnolls at the age of 10 and was rescued by a grizzled woodsman known to him only as "The Old Man".

Over the next 10 winters or so, the Old Man showed up from time to time, always unannounced, and taught Rowan the ways of the Ranger. Recently, he gifted Rowan with a battered short sword - the same one that had been used to save him from the gnolls many years before. The sword bears the faint outline of an eagle etched near the base of the blade, along with some undecipherable script.

No one else in town has ever actually seen the Old Man and some less kind souls whisper that he is a figment of Rowan's imagination, brought about by the blow to the head when he was a boy. Rowan scouts for the Glynden militia from time to time and spends the balance of his time doing as little as possible.

Rowan was deeply affected by the loss of Garrick and Marucs Tiro. He grieved silently for them until he was able to fashion a fetish, made of various components he gathered, for each of them and place them on their graves. After a rocky start, he and Quintus have become fast friends with a growing mutual respect. In fact, Quintus has steered Rowan towards one of his younger sisters, Maxima...an idea that Rowan has been most agreeable too!

Several recent events have complicated life for Rowan somewhat. During a disasterous battle with a mixed gnoll-human bandit group, several daughters of the Cassivius Family - prominent locals - were murdered. Only one daughter, Drusilla, managed to survive and she now travels with the group. The beautiful young woman has caught the attentions of Rowan, Quintus and Sextus. Quintus is quite cross with his friend, since the sorcerer sees Rowan's interest in the Cassuvius girl as an insult to his sister (and a threat to Quintus' own designs).

The second event was a chance meeting with the strange trader Lathan and his even stranger mule, Bogwell. The trader examined his battered short sword and said their was nothing remarkable about it save for a stylized "L" on the blade. The morning after the trader departed, the blade began to tingle and the faint outline of the double-headed eagle of Emor and the "L" became much more visible! Exactly what this means remains to be seen.

Due to the increasing danger of their travels and frequent ambushes, Rowan is now concentrating on his scouting abilities.

(DM's Note: Rowan chose to cross-class into "Rogue" the last time he levelled.)

Rowan is protected by studded leather armor, wields his trusty short sword in hand-to-hand combat and uses a short bow for ranged attacks.

(DM's Note: Rowan's player chose to take the alternative pseude-feats I allow for rangers, which are point-blank shot and far shot, instead of ambidexterity and two-weapon fighting)

Rosë (Human Barbarian 4) - Rosë was born into the Brigantes, a fierce and proud tribe from the barbarian wilds. A soothsayer assured his mother that he would be born a girl, so his mother named him Rosë to spite the soothsayer for being wrong. Not only was he born a male, but he had a birthmark across his shoulders that resembled a great bird with outstretched wings - the totem animal of the Brigantes is a great eagle.

He endured many taunts as a youth, for he did not know his father and his mother was rumored to have a wandering eye. The taunts became fewer as Rosë entered puberty and grew into a strapping youth, easily beating tribesmen two or three winters his elder in tests of strength.

At the Gathering of Tribes, a very rare event, he had the misfortune to fall in love with Asralla, virgin daughter of Talorc, Warlord of the Allmani and sworn blood enemy of the Brigantes. Talorc was furious when he discovered that his daughter was no longer a virgin and that a Brigante had taken her flower. During the inquisition that followed, Rosë was stunned to learn that Vercinox, leader of the Brigantes, was his grandfather and that he was the bastard son of a "Steel Man", as the tribes referred to Emorians.

Sentenced to death, he escaped with the help of his mother and fled the lands of the Tribes - an outcast. He eventually made his way to Glynden as a caravan guard for a halfling trade caravan, but took sick soon after arriving. Cared for in the Abbey of Osirian, he met "Lew" and Garrick brought him food from the tavern. Through these, he met both Rowan and Marcus Tiro.

Rosë was stoic in his acceptance of the death's of Marcus Tiro and Garrick, but anxious to return to the field to avenge their deaths. He recently had a major run-in with Kothric, the betrothed of Asralla.

During the course of events, Asralla sacrificed herself to save Rosë and his companions, Rosë discovered he had an infant son and he learned that his father, Gordius, was actually the self-styled "Emperor of the North" for a few short winters. Rosë feels that his life is becoming entirely too complicated!

He placed his infant son, named Gordius Vercinox, after his father and grandfather, in the care of the Scipio family and regularly provides coin for the child's care. To date, he has not formed a strong bond with his son, but it is early yet.

Rosë is somewhat uneven in combat. During some encounters, he fights like a ferocious beast and none can stand in his way. During others, he can't hit a thing! In one recent combat, he was bested by a pair of puny human rogues and has been itching for revenge ever since. During the encounter with the trader Lathan, he bought a battered woodsman's axe which transformed the next day into a gleaming hand axe. He has yet to determine what its exact properties are.

Rosë wears leather armor and fights with a variety of weapons, depending on the situation. His primary melee weapon is the great axe taken from Kothric and he uses a long bow for ranged combat.

The Brothers Scipio - Quintus and Sextus - The Scipio family has a long history of service in both the Emorian Military and the Imperial Service Bureau. Following the sack of Lords, the boys' father Lucius (the only surviving member of the family) relocated to Glynden and took a position with the Brathwaite Mining Company as a mining foreman. He married Julia Atticus, a distant cousin of the Cassuvius family. A virile man, he fathered two sons and seven daughters by the time he was 40.

Unfortunately, a mine cave-in left him permanently crippled four years ago. Based on his long years of service and excellent work, Boss Braithwaite allowed the family to continue living in their company housing rent free and even provided a small stipend. Lucius constant battle with pain has left him addicted to Krithroot, an herbal painkiller, and he is now bed-ridden and slightly unhinged mentally.

Quintus Scipio (Human Sorcerer 4) - The eldest of nine, Quintus carries a heavy weight on his shoulders. He has worked in the mines since his father was injured on a crew under the ultimate supervision of Ned Gallway, with whom he does not get along at all. He feels he must act as the "Father Figure" for the family now, carrying for his younger siblings and findind suitable husbands for his seven sisters.

A stern and sober young man, he avoids drink and other excesses, since both his grandfather and great-grandfather died early after falling under the spell of the bottle. He has also watched with dismay as his father has declined physically and mentally. Despite his taciturn exterior, Quintus is handsome, has a strong personality and is looked to as a leader by those that know him best.

He discovered his sorcerous abilities two years ago when attacked by dire rats deep in the mines. The power came to him unbidden and he put the two rats to sleep. One of his fellow miners, Abrigal Edelman, saw what happened, killed the rats, then revealed to him that she too had the "Gift". She tutored him in its use and the two grew close. Recently, however, she has shown an unhealthy interest in Necromancy and Quintus is concerned about this "dark" streak in her.

In the past several moons, Quintus' world has turned topsy-turvey. His two young cousins, Meikos and Wynda, have gone missing. He had a serious altercation with Ned Gallway, the Brathwaite Mining Company foreman. He caught his beautiful, but foolish sister Sebrina kissing Orsen Jucadius and put them both to sleep after a sharp argument. And his childhood friend, Tomas "Bull" Nacalius, refused to help him find his cousins - taking Orsen Jucadius' side and actually knocking his erstwhile friend down with his war-pony.

In desperation, Quintus turned to the only people who might know where his cousins are - Lew, Rowan and Rosë.

After a poor start, Quintus has emerged as somewhat a leader for the group. The successful retrieval of his cousins, the return of the barbarian Kothric to his people and the semi-successful clearing of several abandoned mines have elevated the sorcerer's standing in the group.

He is quite pleased that Rowan has taken a liking to Maxima, that her twin Luella is turning into a formidable trader and that he has affected the relocation of his entire family to a small caretaker's cabin near the Abbey of Osirian.

Quintus, however, is beset by problems on every side. Ned Gallway is out to get him, his one-time lover, Abrigal Edelman has disappeared, his eldest sister Sabrina has taken up residence at the Castellan Jucadius as Orsen Jucadius' lover and he has just accussed Josephus of Bremerton, a close friend of Constable Kyndalyn, of poisening his father!

Following the "trial" in which Josephus was exonerated (at least in the eyes of the law), Quintus couldn't get out of town fast enough!

In the intervening weeks, following the disasterous battle at the ruined villa and the retrieval of Drusilla Cassuvius, Quintus has become more and more paranoid. He is drawn to the beautiful Drusilla, but finds himself competing with Rowan and Sextus for her attention. He is also quite alarmed by the potential involvement of the Cult of Ashai within the Cassuvius Family through the actions of Domita Sestius, Drusilla's stepmother.

Quintus makes good use of his magic, both offensively and defensively. He uses a crossbow for ranged combat and a spear on the few occassions that he is called upon for hand-to-hand combat. He is still trying to scrape together the 1,000 denarii needed for the ritual components to summon a familiar!

Sextus Scipio (Human Bard 3/Ranger 1) - A year younger and two hand's breadths shorter than his brother, Sextus is as care-free as Quintus is serious. He has yet to find any real direction in life - he studied briefly under Father Thomas, spent a season or two with the militia and even managed to persuade "Uncle" Claudius to teach him a bit about magic, showing an inner apptitude like his brother, only not as focused.

For one of such small stature, Sextus has a suprisingly booming voice. He can easily make himself heard over a crowd and has used that ability to become somewhat of a fixture at Nan's Tavern. He is skilled with the hand harp, knows lots of stories and is a fairly talented entertainer when he puts his mind to it. He managed to avoid service in the mines, but picks up a few denarii entertaining or doing odd jobs. Although he is cabable of earning coin, he spends it even faster, so he regularly comes to Quintus seeking "loans"!

His father's illness has impacted him very hard and he often plays soothing music and sings softly to him, which seems to calm the elder Scipio and ease his pain. He is devoted to his older brother and usually follows his lead on issues regarding the family. He is aghast at Sebrina's involvement with the Jucadius boy and just as determined as Quintus to see that put to an end!

His knowledge of local legend and history have proved to be quite valuable and his charming personality has helped the group several times. The barbarian Kothric took a liking to the diminutive bard and that affection probably helped save the group from almost certain death. The band can count on Sextus to raise their spirits when things look bleakest!

Sextus can be quite brave (Quintus calls it foolhardy). Numerous times, he has either charged the enemy unsupported or stood his ground when any sane man would run. He also sings stirring ballads during combat, inspiring his comrades to greater feats of arms. That inspiration has turned the tide during several battles!

Since the rescue of Drusilla, Sextus has been quietly trying to win her affections. Rowan and Quintus are fairly straight-forward, but Sextus use small magic tricks, sleight-of-hand and other tricks to make the young lady laugh. The ultimate results of his efforts remain to be seen!

Impressed by the combat abilities and general "woodslore" of his friend Rowan, Sextus has been trying to emulate the ranger's movements and has been pestering the ever-patient Rowan about the finer points of tracking!

(DM's Note: Sextus chose to cross-class into "Ranger" the last time he levelled.)

Sextus is protected by studded leather armor and uses a short sword in melee combat. He relies on a crossbow for ranged attacks.

The Graveyard

Garrick (Halfling Rogue 1) - Slain and partially eaten by dire rats in the abandoned Western Mines (Session 2).

Marcus Tiro (Human Fighter 1) - Killed by falling into a 15-pace deep pit - twice (Session 2).

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Campaign Synopsis

Campaign Synopsis

Spoiler Alert: This post summarizes the campaign up through Session 10. If you are a new reader or want the 'Full Monty' - skip this post and read on!


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It all began on a blustery spring morning in ER 2994. Kyndalyn the Younger, accompanied by Rowan and two militia members, interrupted Rosë, Marcus Tiro, Lew and Garrick at breakfast. Gnolls had been spotted and their help was needed. Less than an hour and a very difficult battle later, one of the militia members lay dead and several of the party members were near death. The gnolls were defeated, but the cost was steep. They found a crude map on one of the gnolls, indicating several possible campsites around Glynden, but did not have a chance to follow up on the lead.

Recovering from their wounds, the party learned that two local children, Wynda and Meikos, had gone missing in the abandoned mines northwest of town. They decided to go after the children instead of tracking down the gnolls. They found evidence of the missing children in the 2nd mine trace. Entering the mine, they discovered undead miners and huge spiders, which they handily defeated. They continued on, but disaster soon struck!

While trying to cross a yawning pit, several of the party members fell into the hole and giant rats attacked soon after. When the blood and dust cleared, Marcus Tiro and Garrick, childhood friends, lay dead. The rest of the party, weakened by wounds and inflicted with rat fever, spent a miserable night in the infirmary while the rest of the town toasted the success of the Swords of Glynden, an adventuring group made up of several well-to-do townsfolk and their retainers. The Swords had tracked down a large band of gnolls and destroyed them.

The following day, Garrick and Marcus Tiro were laid to rest. One, Quintus Scipio, whose cousins had gone missing in the mine, interrupted the ceremony. He and his brother, Sextus, demanded the remaining party members assist them in recovering the children. Although irritated by his abrupt manner – Lew, Rowan and Rosë agreed. Returning to the abandoned mine, they searched high and low, finally discovering a hidden portal, which led to an abandoned complex deep within the mine. Skeletal archers, more undead miners and a stuttering human necromancer soon assaulted them. After a hard fight, they emerged victorious and discovered a nefarious laboratory, with all manner of alchemical substances, vials and equipment. They also discovered large amounts of food, water and mining equipment.

Stripping the dead necromancer and taking along a large chest, the party retreated from the mine. Rowan and Quintus stayed to keep watch on the mine, while the remainder hustled back to Glynden to refit and gather additional supplies. They arrived back in Glynden, only to find a major barbarian incursion was in the offing. After a hasty conference with Father Thomas – Lew, Sextus and Rosë returned, joined up with Quintus and Rowan and ventured back into the mine.

Rowan discovered the unholy power of a shrine dedicated to evil (to his dismay) and they finally found the children. They hustled the kids back to town, where they discussed the shrine with Father Thomas. He told them it was a shrine to the Cult of Ashai – an ancient assassin’s cult – and advised caution. They returned to the mine, mindful of the need to get back to Glynden before the arrival of the barbarians. They discovered some notes, a map and a journal kept by someone known only as “R”. They also discovered over 150 solidii worth of treasure (a veritable fortune)! Continuing on, they encountered a pit trap and some additional zombies. The ensuing combat left Rowan on the brink of death and Rosë badly wounded. Discretion being the better part of valor, they limped back to Glynden.

Barbarian warbands milled about town for a while, looking for something or someone then faded into the woodwork. The party prevailed on Father Thomas to accompany them to the ruined shrine. They arrived to find the laboratory cleaned up and cleaned out. When they attempted to enter the shrine room, a large band of undead attacked them, led by the rotting corpse of Luc the Necromancer. A very tough battle ensued and the party was victorious, thanks in large part to the help of Father Thomas. Exploring further, they found another secret door, which lead to a long underground passage that seemed to be the result of a long-dry underground river. They followed the passage for an hour before turning back.

After seeing Father Thomas safely back to Glynden, they decided to follow-up on some clues in the journal and explore the 5th and 6th mine traces, where a band of miners from the Monrovian Highlands were said to be working. Part way there, they ran into a barbarian warband led by Kothric, the son of a chieftain who was betrothed to Asralla (Rosë’s former lover). A running battle ensued and the party managed to capture Kothric with minimum damage (due in large part to Quintus’ Sleep spells). Following the battle, they learned much of Rosë’s amazing past. They returned the barbarian warrior to Glynden, then were tasked by the Council of Elders with transporting Kothric halfway to the Western Wilds and releasing him. They started to notice that one or two large ravens seemed to be shadowing their moves.

During the journey, Sextus and Quintus earned the barbarian warrior’s trust and he told them that the warbands were searching for a totem known as the Artosiak. As they released him, the poisoned arrow of an unknown assassin struck Kothric down. They attempted to heal him, but were forced to leave by the arrival of dozens of bloodthirsty tribesman. An epic chase began, with the party fleeing and the tribesmen hot on their trail. They took refuge an abandoned legion hill fort and slowly retreated as the barbarian warriors hacked at them. Rowan and Rosë discovered Asralla, Rosë’s one-time lover, hiding in the ruins and hauled her along in the retreat.

Just as the party was brought to bay, Asralla called upon the power of the Artosiak to transform into a great dire bear. The barbarian’s shaman responded by calling on a spirit bear. The two massive creatures raged against each other while the party and tribesmen hacked at each other. After a brutal fight, which left almost two-score tribesmen dead, the remainder of the barbarians fled and Asralla slumped to the ground, dying. With her last breath, she bade Rosë to care for their infant son!

Scarcely believing they were alive and badly wounded, the party found a hiding spot under a small church to Osirian within the ruins. Quintus, with the Artosiak faced down a large band of barbarians, trying to convince them that an unknown assassin had brought Kothric low and they meant the barbarians know harm. Just when it looked as though Quintus would be slain, Kothric revealed himself and the sorcerer was saved! The barbarians took their totem and retreated. The party, after poking about the hillfort for a short time and discovering an ancient burial crypt, hastened back to Glynden. They arrived to discover Quintus and Sextus’ father in a coma, that Sabrina Scipio had run off with Orsen Jucadius and that Quintus’ one-time lover Abrigal had disappeared!

They decided to resume their exploration of the 5th and 6th mining traces and discovered an abandoned mining camp just outside the 5th mineshaft. Exploring the shaft, they found lots of abandoned mining equipment, but no miners. They also discovered that someone or something was following them around the mine, setting traps. Exploring further, they ran into a group of small reptilian creatures that used magic and shot lots of crossbow bolts. Rowan remembered them as kobolds. After a hard battle, they defeated some kobolds, but found the mine to be riddled with small tunnels – too small for them to clamber about. They had captured one kobold and decided to take him to Glynden for questioning. During the return journey, a large raven swooped down and attacked the kobold, delivering a fatal shock to the poor creature!

Everyone fired at the bird, which managed to escape, despite several hits. They spent several days refitting in town, during which time they discovered that Quintus’ father had been poisoned. Quintus accused Josephus of Bremerton of using the herbal painkiller Krithroot to poison his father. During the “trial” that followed, Josephus as acquitted, although Quintus still had grave doubts about the woodsman.

The party decided to travel to Oar in order to:

  • Find out more about the Cult of Ashai from the library in the Cathedral of Oar
  • Try to reconcile Lew with is brother Marcus
  • Warn the trading caravans coming from Oar about possible bandit attacks, since the caravans are the lifeblood of Glynden

The journey towards Oar proved both dangerous and heartbreaking.

Several days out of Glynden, the discovered a wrecked carraige belonging to the Cassuvius Family and several dead retainers near a beautiful picnic spot. Rowan determined that Gnoll bandits were responsible for the attack and the party trailed the bandits to their hideout...a crude cabin and barn in the midst of a ruined villa. A quick recon revealed at least half-a-dozen gnolls plus at least one human.

The party put together a hasty plan of attack and assaulted the compound. From the beginning, things went badly, and then got worse! Most of the bandits resisted Quintus' sleep magics and quickly counter-attacked. Rosë soon fell the to combined attacks of a pair of human rogues and most of the others were badly wounded. They soon heard cries for help from several women.

The gnoll leader, a huge brute dubbed "Scarnose", threatened to kill the captive women if the party didn't back away. Sextus tried desperately to save them, but the viscious gnoll cut the throats of Calian Cassuvius' three daughters before his horrified eyes!

Quintus fell shortly thereafter and the party retreated into the woods. Lew and Rosë in one direction - Rowan, Sextus and Quintus in another. All were badly wounded and it looked like the end was near!

Fortunately, the bandits decided to take their loot and flee, concerned about facing more searchers and/or rescuers. They took the goods they could easily carried and fired the rest. A heavy rainstorm prevented the fire from spreading into the woods and gave enough cover to the party to escape detection. Rowan, returning to the scene of their defeat, found one of the girls, Drusilla Cassuvius, barely alive with a terrible throat wound.

Lew was able to save the girls' life, but the wound was beyond his power to heal completely and she remains mute. The aftermath of the battle saw fierce debate on whether the party should turn back or continue. Drusilla made it clear that she did not want to return to Glynden, but was evasive about her reasons. In the end, they decided to continue on, after resting and healing.

Several party members returned to the site of the carraige wreck to bury the dead there and ran into an irrascable old trader, Lathan, and his overloaded mule Bogwell. They invited the strange old man to share their camp, swapped stories with him and traded coin for some the mountain of goods he had strapped to Bogwells' back. He drove a hard bargain for some items and let others go for a fraction of their worth. He cooked the group breakfast the next day and departed towards Glynden, carrying letters for Kyndalyn and Father Thomas.

All agreed that he was more than he appeared to be - a feeling confirmed by the fact that most of the items he had either sold them or handled the night before now bore faint magical auras, including: Crossbow bolts for Quintus and Sextus, handaxe for Rosë, a satchel of writing utensils for Quintus, Rowan's battered short sword, a large frying pan and a comb for Drusilla.

Shaking their heads, the party continued south.

After several days, they came upon the dead bodies of several retainers of the Swords of Glynden. The tracks Rowan read pointed to an ambush by gnolls. The gnolls had won and continued south. They buried the retainers and continued. A day later, sharp eyes of several party members prevented them from walking into their own ambush!

Four gnolls engaged the party from either flank, but without the element of suprise, the party emerged victorious with only a few scratches. They barely had time to savor their victory, however, since several of the gnolls had broken contact and fled towards the ruins of Greenspire. Soon, horn calls and gnoll howls echoed across the hills and a huge gnoll warband (about 40) began pursuing the party!

The chase was on, but the gnolls soon ran the party to ground. Selecting the best defensive ground they could and making a quick plan, the heroes turned to fight. Osirian smiled upon them - for a combination of good magic use and good luck soon eliminated about 1/4 of the gnolls. Then "Scarnose" made an appearence and rallied his troops, forming a dozen into a wedge to charge the party and demolish them!

A critical hit by Quintus with an ensorcelled crossbow bolt and a well-timed Hold Person spell by Lew on "Scarnose" broke the gnoll's spirit and the remainder of the warband broke and ran. Howling in triumph, Rosë leapt forward and hewed the head from "Scarnose". To his amazement, the head shimmered and changed into the bloody visage of a young, dark-haired human male. Quintus and Sextus noted a momentary look of shocked recognition on Drusilla's face.

Gathering what equipment they could, they beat a hasty retreat before the gnolls could regroup. Before they departed, however, Rosë grasped a dull black stone dagger pendant from the ruin of "Scarnose's" body and a shimmering portal opened in the air over his head! Rowan, thinking quickly, slapped the necklace from his hand and the portal soon dissapated. They took both the head and pendant with them.

As they traveled, virtually everyone felt that they were being watched. Quintus was afraid the necklace was the source of their unease, so they stashed it and then made camp some distance away.

After dinner that night, Quintus and Sextus questioned Drusilla about the dead human. Reluctantly, she told them that it was her stepbrother, Acrius' head and that discovery confirmed her fears about her stepmother's involvement in her abduction and her sisters' murders! Most of the party slept very poorly that night, haunted by dreams of a dark portal and dull stone dagger aimed at their hearts!

After a hard days' march, they succeeded in finding the caravan, which had encamped in the ruins of Greenspire. Among the loot they had taken from the body of "Scarnose"/Acrius was a missive from "R" to Skilorn, the bandit chieftain, imploring him to leave the caravan alone on the northern journey. Apparently the message had been delivered, since the caravan had arrived unmolested to that point.

Drusilla refused to enter the caravan encampment, since her erstwhile fiance, Tomas "The Bull" Nacalius and the other Swords of Glynden were traveling with the caravan.

Lew and Quintus found a church knight, Pantonius of Tyrial, and persuaded him to carry several messages to Father Thomas in Glynden. Rosë and Rowan took all of the gear they had acquired through several victories over the gnolls and tried to sell it to a halfling trader from House Schulcross. The trader drove a hard bargain and Rowan ended up trading everything for a Sythian horsebow and 50 arrows!

As we left of at the end of Session 10, the party was preparing to resume their travels to the City of Oar...

Current Plot Hooks

There are many things at play right now, including (in no particular order):

The Mysterious “R” and the Cult of Ashai – “R”, clearly a necromancer of some power, is up to no good in the abandoned western mines. What is she up to and how can they stop her? Also, what is her relationship, if any, to Skilorn the bandit king and Domita Sestius, second wife of Calian Cassivius?

Rosë and his Past – The barbarian’s checkered past has raised its ugly head several times.

Crimson and Black – The colors keep showing up…in the shrine of Ashai, the livery of the bandits operating around the ruins of Greenspire and Lew’s dreams.

The Felevar Arrow – The arrow fired into Kothric by the “Mystery Assassin” has been identified as a Felevar arrow.

Abrigal is Missing – Where has she disappeared to?

Quintus and Sextus’ Father was Poisoned – With the prime suspect Josephus off the hook (at least temporarily), who did it and why?

Sabrina Scipio and Orsen Jucadius – The brothers Scipio are none-to-happy about their wayward sister’s choices.

Rosë’s Child – The infant, named Gordius Vercinox, is currently in the care of the Scipio family. Will Rosë meet his parental responsibilities?

The Barbarians of the Western Wilds – What keeps them from crossing the Thunder River and wiping out the remains of the Lost Northern Provinces?

The Abandoned Hillfort – What secrets, if any, does the structure still hold? Will Sextus make good his claim upon the fort for the family Scipio?

Rowan and Maxima Scipio – Will the growing affection between them lead to something more?

Drusilla and her family - With family ties like hers, who needs enemies? Why is she so determined to get to Oar?

Drusilla and Quintus, Sextus and Rowan - She is beautiful and quiet...who will win her heart?

Stay tuned for more!

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Supporting Players + Background Stuff

SUPPORTING PLAYERS

Brother Thomas - Abbott of Osirian in Glynden, Lew's superior, friend and mentor

Kyndalyn the Younger - Constable of Glynden. One of the few Caeldyn - or "Elven-blooded" - in town.

Bigglestrom "Boss" Brathwaite - Head of the Brathwaite Mining Company. Easily the richest and most powerful man in Glynden.

Ned Gallway - Boss Brathwaite's right hand man and mining foreman. Former boss and current enemy of Quintus.

Josephus of Bremerton - Trapper, tracker, tobacco-chewer and part-time militia scout. Hails from the town of Bremerton, sacked several winters ago by a barbarian horde. Accussed by Quintus of trying to poison Quintus and Sextus' father. Acquitted during a trial administered by Father Thomas and Kyndalyn.

Octave Octorus, Tomas "Bull" Nacalius and Orsen Jucadius - Sons of three of the wealthier families in town, they have started calling themselves the Swords of Glynden. They used to pick on both Marcus Tiro and Garrick when younger. Tomas was once friends with Quintus, but wealth and status have grown up between them. The Bros. Scipio beautiful (but foolish) younger sister, Sabrina, is currently the consort of Orsen Jucadius.

"Uncle" Claudius Sentenius - An increasingly senile battlemage that was mustered out of the Legions before they sailed for Emor 30 winters ago. Still capable of some feats of magic, but spends most of his waking hours in his cups at Nan's Tavern.

Kothric - Barbarian chieftan defeated, but later befriended, by the party. Betrothed to Asralla, the deceased one-time lover of Rose.

Asralla - Daughter of a barbarian warlord who was betrothed to Kothric. Fell in love with Rose and bore his child. Sacrificed herself to save Rose and the party during a battle in an old hillfort.

Brother Patroclian - Charismatic traveling priest of Osirian from the Jewel Cities who befriended Lew's younger brother, Marcus. Departed Glynden some time ago with Marcus in tow.

Skilorn - Bandit chieftain, thought to be gnollish, that is plaguing the area between Glynden and the port city of Oar.

Lathan and Bogwell - Strange trader and his overburdened mule encountered by the party. Sold them a variety of goods, some of which turned out to be magical.

Drusilla Cassuvius - Only Cassuvius daughter to survive a murder attempt by "Scarnose" the gnoll, who turned out to be her step-brother Acrius Sestius under magical disguise. Currently traveling with the party. The murder attempt left her mute. Rowan and Quintus are vying for her attentions.

Domita Sestius Cassuvius - 2nd wife of Calian Cassuvius and step-mother to Drusilla. Suspected of being behind the attempt on the Cassuvius daughters' lives.

THE VILLAGE OF GLYNDEN

Location and History: Nestled betwixt two rocky ridges at the southern end of the Dragon’s Tail range lies the mining and farming village of Glynden. It began as a collection of ragged tents around a single mine shaft over 250 winters ago. Once a part of the Imperial Theme of Lords, Glynden is one of the few holdings in the Lost Northern Provinces that has not been overrun by barbarians or the Felevar (Fels for short). Glynden was once the home of the 4th Cohort of the Rustica Auxilia and has significant, if crumbling, fortifications that have helped it survive. In addition, it is not adjacent to any of the major trade routes, so it attracts little attention.

Nevertheless, Glynden has survived ½ dozen barbarian incursions since the legions withdrew 30 winters ago. Several times, the village has come close to disaster, but has recovered each time. Several neighboring hamlets have been destroyed in recent years and their survivors now call Glynden home (Aquae Sulis, Ironoak, Greenspire and Bremerton - all but Aquae Sulis within five days walk of Glynden). Perhaps 700 souls now reside in Glynden and they make their living primarily from mining the rich iron and tin deposits in the surrounding hills and through farming.

Glynden boasts a large militia (about 100 – 10 always on duty, 50 within 1 hour, 100 with 3 hours) and their constant watchfulness help keeps danger at bay. Glynden is also the home of an ex-Emorian battlemage, who was mustered out of the legions just before they withdrew – Claudius Sentenius. “Uncle Claudius”, as the village children know him, is old and forgetful, but he can still call up some magical energy when the situation is desperate (he will also tutor aspiring wizards in simple spells, but the instruction process is long and arduous, as he often falls asleep during lessons or is too drunk to make much sense). The final reason for the village’s survival is that it lies within the shadow of Dragonspire Mountain. The barbarians, Fels and Dark Druids all give Dragonspire Mountain a wide berth, for it has an evil reputation.

Both legends and eyewitnesses agree that Dragonspire Mountain is the home of a great and terrible elder wyrm who has resided on the mountain’s peaks for over a century. The dragon does not bother Glynden or the other few surviving communities in the Lost Northern Provinces, but has been known to descend on large groups of armed men and utterly destroy them. Several barbarian hordes and Felevar armies are said to have perished under dragon fire and claw. Also, no one has ever successfully visited the dragon’s lair (and lived to tell the tale). Those few that have ventured close to the summit and returned tell tales of being chased away by a band of fearsome rock trolls. The trails and paths that lead to the upper reaches of the mountain are strewn with the skeletal remains of those that have sought the wyrm’s treasure and failed (each skeleton is laid out in a neat pile, skull on top, with their mundane gear stacked neatly beside it – no treasure or magical items are ever found among the remains). Some few report seeing a tall, slender tower rising into the mists on the highest peak of the mountain, but most reporting such a sight were found wandering aimlessly about the base, dazed and confused.

Curiously, the great wyrm has never bothered Glynden and most of the villagers seek to discourage would-be adventurers from stirring up trouble on the mountain.

Leadership: Glynden is ruled by a “Council of Elders”. They meet weekly in the Council Chamber located next to the market square to administer justice and discuss problems facing the village. The Council meetings are generally open to all and usually take place on the evening of Market Day. See Important Personages for those who sit on the Council.

Trade/Outside Relations: Traders come to Glynden two or three times a year, trading finished goods and luxury items for iron and tin ore, foodstuffs and the hardy mountain ponies bred at several of the surviving villas. Only large, well-armed caravans make the trip and they are normally controlled by one of the halfling trading families. Local craftsmen of note include a decent blacksmith, a good stonemason, an excellent leatherworker and a fair bowyer. All other finished goods must be imported (chief among these is metal armor – such as chain mail and the lorica segmentata). Horses, especially trained war mounts, are in very short supply (and very expensive), most families use mountain ponies, mules or ox-carts for transportation.

Other travelers are fairly rare, especially after the Suevi tribe sacked Bremerton 2 winters ago. Bremerton was the closest thing Glynden had for a trading partner, but the town, four days walk to the west and north, is now a deserted ruin. Those few that survived the attack now call Glynden home. Occasionally, a bard or tinker will stop in Glynden, bringing word from Oar or the Monrovian Highlands. Also, adventuring bands regularly use the village as a way stop in their forays into the North.

As often as not, the bright-eyed, eager youths that leave Glynden boasting of the deeds they will do return hard-eyed with terrible wounds and even worse tales – or fail to return at all. The jaded gamblers at Nan’s Tavern now lay wagers on who will or won’t return and those that bet against the adventurers win all too often. Perhaps two in three of the lads and lasses that pass through Glynden as fortune seekers are never heard from again.

Important Personages: There are still several veins of iron and tin that are actively mined, with perhaps half a hundred miners working the lodes. All of the miners currently work for the Brathwaite Mining Company, run by “Boss” Bigglestrom Brathwaite, easily the richest (and most powerful) man in Glynden. Several smaller operations have closed in recent months due to cave-ins or monstrous attacks. Boss Brathwaite has hired the remaining workers from the shuttered operations and actually expanded his own. Some in Glynden grumble that the misfortunes at the other mining operations were no coincidence, but Brathwaite denies any wrongdoing. Boss Brathwaite sits on the Council of Elders.

Calian Cassuvius is probably the second most important citizen of Glynden, even though he doesn’t live in the village proper. He and his family live in Castellan Cassuvius a large, fortified villa an hour’s walk south of Glynden. He is a tall man of aristocratic bearing, although almost 70 winters have stooped his shoulders a bit. Local lore holds that the Cassuvius family has held the villa for over eight hundred years!

The family Cassuvius still affects the style of Imperial Emor, in speech, dress and attitude. It is said that a visit to their holding is like returning to the glory days of the Empire, 300 winters hence. They hold a lavish banquet once a year, inviting the notables of Glynden and the other local villas. Calian regularly bemoans the fact that most “necessary luxuries” are so difficult to come by these days and is known to pay well for interesting works of art. The three greatest treasures that reside in Castellan Cassuvius, however, are Calian’s three daughters – Ludmilla, Drusilla and Carmilla – all great beauties of marriable age.

The ponies bred by Calian and his charges are said to be the swiftest and sturdiest within two weeks ride. Castellan Cassuvius also produces ample wheat and barley in its high-walled fields. Perhaps four score people call the Cassuvius compound home, and they are not counted among the inhabitants of the village. Calian Cassuvius sits on the Council of Elders. Three other fortified villas still exist, held by the Jucadius, Nacalius and Octorus families. Each of these families also holds a seat on the Council of Elders.

Young Father Thomas maintains the small abbey dedicated to the Church of Light. It is open to all who are “welcomed” into the Church. Father Thomas has ministered to the needs of the local parishioners since Father Holthyn disappeared while returning from one of the outlaying villas five winters ago. Two Acolytes of the First Mystery and four Lay Brothers assist Father Thomas at the abbey. Father Thomas holds a seat on the Council of Elders.

Kyndalyn the Younger commands the village militia. His father, Kyndalyn the Fair, his uncle, Farinmail, and their pack of staghounds succeeded in defeating a large war-band from the Averni tribe on a tall hill just to the southwest of Glynden. The Averni, over 90 strong, came at the town in the dead of night, in a heavy snowfall, just after the Midwinter’s Eve celebration. Had it not been for the watchfulness of Kyndalyn and Farinmail, it is likely that the village would have suffered the same fate as many of the others throughout the North.

Some in the village reported hearing sounds of battle, but the swirling winds made it impossible to discern the direction. The following morning, the rising Eye of Osirian illuminated a terrible sight. Atop the rocky tor, not 700 paces from the village gate, stood Kyndalyn the Fair, dead and rimed in ice, twin blades still clutched in unfeeling hands, amidst a circle of fallen foes. Kyndalyn, Farinmail and their score of hounds had all traveled to the Deathsgate – but so had every single one of the Averni! The grieving villagers built a lofty cairn over the brothers and their faithful hounds and to this day the hill is known as Kyndalyn’s Watch.

All of these events occurred 20 winters ago, when Kyndalyn the Younger was but a babe. Today he is a grim-faced young man of few words. He drills the militia hard, but is regarded as a fair leader. It is said that he rarely sleeps and spends much time patrolling the countryside around Glynden. His slightly pointed ears and straw-colored hair betray his elven heritage, for he is of the Caeldyn. Kyndalyn the Younger holds the title of Constable of Glynden and sits on the Council of Elders.

Threats/Opportunities: The greatest threats to Glyndon’s survival are the barbarian tribes of the Western Wilds. Raiding bands of numerous tribes have been seen in the area in the past several moons and the Council of Elder is concerned that one or more tribes may try to sack the village, destroying it as they did Bremerton. To make matters worse, one of the militia patrols clashed with several Fels recently, so those fey and evil creatures may be moving down from the Darkwood, looking for plunder and a “hot” meal.

The entire North, however, is dotted with lost ruins. Cities, abbeys, towns, towers, old dwarven holds and deserted legion forts are everywhere. Many have undoubtedly been picked clean by bold adventurers, but who knows what may still lie buried out there.

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 1 (Part One)

Of Rats and Men...

A fine spring day in the Lost Northern Provinces...overcast and chilly, with the threat of rain to come later. A recurrence of Rosë's stomach ailment returned him to the Abbey of Osirian and the care of Father Thomas (Rosë's player - John - was unable to make the session due to car problems). Lew, Garrick and Marcus Tiro were taking their mid-day meal at Nan's Tavern (mutton stew, day-old pumpernickel bread and slightly overripe radishes) when a red-faced Rowan burst into the tavern. Kyndalyn the Younger and two militia men, Vittius and Sanio were close on his heels.

"Gnolls!" he blurted out breathlessly. "Over by King's Mountain (referrencing a low, wooded hill about a league southwest of Glynden), the Old Man left me a warning totem, they are definitely heading this way and up to some kind of mischief!"

The others exchanged knowing glances. "Did the Old Man tell you this himself?" queried Garrick with a barely suppressed smirk.

"No", replied Rowan, face darkening slightly at the implication that his friends didn't really "believe" in the existence of the Old Man, "he left this." Rowan held up a bundle of bark with some symbols scratched into it and several feathers attached. "I know it doesn't look like much, but I swear its true!"

Kyndalyn stepped forward and in his usual gruff manner growled, "We don't have time for idle banter. Real or imagined, we must see if this rumor holds truth. Marcus Tiro, fetch your gear and come with Rowan, Vittius, Sanio and myself. Would you two care to join us?" He nodded towards Lew and Garrick.

Lew sighed, "Let me fetch my stave and medical kit."

Garrick plucked at his sleeve, "Shouldn't we let the militia handles this? I've never seen a gnoll before, but they sound dangerous!"

Lew shot Garrick a withering look and the halfling ducked his head, embarrassed. "Let me gather a few things," he mumbled sheepishly.

Within 15 turns of the minute glass, the small group passed through the gates and started heading southwest. Kyndalyn instructed the gate guards to call up the reserve and double the wall guard...just in case. Kyndalyn and Rowan ranged ahead of the group by half a spear's throw, moving quickly and quietly through the light woods and tangled underbrush. Soon, the rocky promentory of King's Mountain appeared ahead and Kyndalyn guided the party to a hiding place on the Northeast side of the summit.

"Rowan, with me," he whispered, "the rest of you stay put and stay quiet." With that, Kyndalyn and Rowan crept to the top of the hillock and hunkered down, looking and listening. Before long, Kyndalyn's sharp ears picked up movement below and the pair could see several forms moving along a game path, about a bowshot distant.

Carefully backing off the hill, they returned to the rest of the party and Kyndalyn led them around to the Southeast and into some large rocks just above the game trail. "Prepare yourself," he whispered, "they should be here very soon. Do not attack until I loose."

He unslung his long bow and placed several arrows tip down in the ground within easy reach. Rowan did the same with his short bow, Garrick loaded his light crossbow with trembling hands - mumbling something about the lunacy of leaving the comfort of Nan's Tavern, and the rest of the group readied their weapons and waited. Lew quietly called for the Blessing of Osirian on all present and each member of the party felt their spirits and sword arms strengthen.

Soon, they could hear low, gutteral voices and the voices were followed by four gnolls. The were all dressed in ill-fitting leather armor, reinforced by small metal studs and plates. The lead gnoll had a large wooden shield slung over his back and rested a notched axe on his shoulder. The next two in line also carried axes, but also carried a large wicker cage, suspended from a long wooden pole, in which several large grey-furred creatures squirmed. The last gnoll had a long bow and quiver slung across its back and shouldered a long, heavy-headed spear-like weapon. The gnolls seemed unaware of the party's presence.

Just as Kyndalyn was drawing an arrow to his ear, a high-pitched buzzing sound filled the air and an arrow, coming from the other side of the trail, buried itself in a beech tree a pace or two away from the last gnoll in line. Stunned, for a moment, the last gnoll barked an order, stuck his spear-weapon in the ground point first and unslung his bow. The rest of the gnolls crouched low, gripping their weapons and looking about uncertainly. The gnolls attention was riveted to the right side of the trail and the party was positioned on the left.

"At them!" yelled Kyndalyn, loosing an arrow. Rowan and Garrick followed suit, but the first volley fell ineffectually among the gnolls. Rowan targeted the gnoll with the bow, but it twisted aside at the last minute, causing his arrow to glance off its armored chest. Marcus Tiro, Vittius and Sanio raised their shields and moved forward cautiously through the rocks.

The two gnolls with the wicker cage ducked behind a large tree for cover. The lead gnoll hefted his axe and shield and charged up the hill, seeking an opponent and the gnoll with the bow returned fire at Rowan, striking him solidly. Rowan staggered and almost fell, but Lew stepped forward and called upon the power of Osirian to heal his friend. A nimbus of blue-white light surround the cleric's hands and Rowan felt a surge of power as his greivous wound closed!

A second volley of missles by the party was as impotent as the first. Then the gnolls that had ducked behind the tree charged up the hill, led by three huge, slavering rats as big as Garrick! The battle soon degenerated into a confused melee, with gnolls, rats and militia men hacking, biting and slashing at each other.

Vittius charged down the hill to engage the bow-weilding gnoll, only to be shot through the lung from less than 5 paces away. Sanio stepped around a boulder and straight into the waiting axes of two gnolls. He fell quickly from several powerful axe blows. Marcus Tiro met the charge of a gnoll and two rats, holding the line and preventing the center of the party from being overrun. Kyndalyn fired one last shot from his bow, wounding a gnoll, then discarded it in favor of two short swords. Garrick crouched behind a tree, taking pot shots at enemies as the opportunity presented itself. Finally, Rowan engaged in an arrow duel with the gnoll archer.

Marcus Tiro dealt several solid blows before his multiple opponents dropped him, bleeding severely from numerous grave wounds. Reaching deep within himself and overcoming his fear, Garrick felled the gnoll that had just smashed Marcus Tiro to the ground with a bolt right though its vile throat. Then he sprinted forward to try to staunch the blood flowing from Marcus Tiro's wounds. Kyndalyn quickly dispatched one gnoll and engaged another, although he took a wound to the thigh. Rowan hit the gnoll archer with a glancing shot, but was rewarded by an arrow in the chest and slumped to the ground. Again, Lew stepped forward and chanelled the power of Osirian into his friend, reviving him from his stupor.

Garrick slapped a makeshift bandage on the worst of Marcus Tiro's injuries, stemming the flow of red blood, but was immediately set upon by two of the huge rats. Unable to fend them off, he fell beneath their slavering bites. Meanwhile, Kyndalyn finished off the gnoll he was facing, side-stepped and skewered one of the rats atop Garrick. As Rowan pulled himself back up, another rat rounded a boulder and flung itself on him. Lew stepped forward and struck it with his stave, cracking its foreleg. Undaunted, the pain maddened rat continued to lunge at them. The gnoll archer, seeing an opportunity, shifted his fire from the armored Rowan to the unarmored Lew and put an arrow into his ribs, dropping him to the ground and leaving him on the verge of unconsiousness. Rowan ducked behind a boulder, drew his short sword and attempted to finish off the wounded rat, which managed to slip aside and dodge his blow.

Kyndalyn's sure blow felled the second of the three rats and, leaving the final rat to Rowan, the constable charged down the hill toward the gnoll archer. The gnoll shifted his aim to the charging Kyndalyn, but only grazed him. The remaining rat, preferring a defenseless target to an active one, lunged forward and sank its teeth into Lew's prone form, sending him into blackness. Again, Rowan, slashed at the rat and again the pesky rodent rolled under his blow.

The gnoll archer dropped his bow and lunged for his spear-weapon, but Kyndalyn got there first and eviscerated the dog-man with two well-placed thrusts. Back up the hill, the rat ducked under Rowan's guard and sank its teeth into his leg. Waves of pain rolled over Rowan and he came close to falling, but he focused his anger and finally pinned the rodent to the ground with his short sword, severing its spine.

Their enemies vanquished, Kyndalyn and Rowan quickly saw to their friends. Despite the bodies littering the ground, only Sanio had travelled to Deathsgate. Only Marcus Tiro's youth and hardy constitution prevented him from following, for he was sorely wounded.

(DM Note: I use a house rule that "Death's Door" is -10 +/- CON modifier - Marcus Tiro got down to -11, one away from death)

Lew, Garrick and Vittius - although badly hurt - were not in danger of expiring immediately. Kyndalyn left Rowan to guard the fallen and ran back to Glynden for help.

Several times, Rowan thought he heard movement, but did not see any dangers approaching. After what seemed like eons to Rowan, but was, in reality only an hour and a quarter, Kyndalyn returned with an ox-cart and Lew's brother Marcus, from the Abbey of Osirian. Marcus invoked Osirian's power to return all but Vittius to wakefulness. They did a quick search of the area, stripped the gnolls of their weapons and armor, discovered a small pouch of denarii and sestercii on the body of the archer along with a crude map of the area around Glynden. It was marked with several "Xs" and some writing that stated "Beware of K". They found no trace of the arrow that had warned the gnolls just before their ambush, although they searched for it extensively. Just "Who" or "What" had fired that arrow, they all pondered.

With nighttime approaching, they returned to Glynden. Lew and Marcus, brothers in blood and in the service of Osirian, said nary a word to each other on the return trip. The entire party, along with Vittius, where housed in the Abbey infirmary that evening so Father Thomas could look after their wounds. That precaution turned out to be warranted, as both Marcus Tiro and Rowan took a serious fever from their rat bites before the next morning. Garrick and Lew followed close on their heels. Even with the assistance of Father Thomas and the miracles of Osirian, it was several days before all of them returned to full health.

During that time, Lew's brother Marcus departed Glynden in the company of Brother Patroclian, a visiting cleric of Osirain from the Jewel Cities, bound for the port city of Oar - three weeks journey to the South. He left without any reconciliation with Lew as the two stubbornly refused to talk to each other. As they recovered, they debated whether they wanted to follow-up on the map they had discovered or search for two children, Meikos and Wynda Usaris who had gone missing in the abandoned mine traces West of Glynden.

After consulting Kyndalyn, they opted to try to locate the kids first and set out for the abandoned Western Traces...

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 1 (Part Two): Look out for the Miner 49er...

(DM's Note: The first battle was almost the last for the group. I roll attack and damage rolls in the open and had some seriously "hot" dice, including two criticals - fortunately by rats - not gnolls. The party, on the other hand, couldn't hit the broadside of a barn with their missile fire - 0 hits in the first six shots and didn't do much better in melee. They also made a couple of minor tactical errors. Despite not having any ranks in Heal or a proper bandage, Garrick rolled a "20" to stabilize Marcus Tiro, who was one hit point away from traveling to Deathsgate. All-in-all, a VERY tough fight. It probably would have gone easier if Rosë had been there - maybe next time!)
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 1 (Part Two)

Look out for the Miner 49er...

What little information they had on the kids was their ages (12 and 10), what they were wearing when last seen and the general vicinity they were last seen in. A significant storm rolled through the area the night they disappeared and there was conjecture that they might have taken refuge in one of the old mines.

The party (Lew, Garrick, Marcus Tiro and Rowan) set out on the morning of Marktday (Market Day), passing several carts of produce straining up the switchback trail to bring their goods - mainly spring wheat, turnips and "Cor-apples" (an apple-like plant that blooms in the spring). Garrick "liberated" a cor-apple from one of the carts and munched on the tangy fruit as they marched. The day was actually sunny and pleasant, with a slight breeze blowing out of the southwest.

The last of the Western Trace mines had been abandoned about three winters earlier, when the Kolthir Mining Company folded after losing a dozen miners in the space of several weeks to an unknown menace. Garrick piped in that he had heard from Nan about a band of miners from Clan MacGlowan in the Monrovian Highlands who had passed through while they were laid up and indicated they planned to set-up operations in two of the abandoned western mining shafts.

About mid-day, Rowan located two sets of fairly fresh tracks along the 2nd trace and thought they lead into the mouth of the mine.

(DM's Note: A mining trace is the detrius left over from the mining operation. It is usually a mixture of silt, stones and worthless "tracings" of whatever metal is being mined piled up outside of the mine entrance. They usually stretch for a bowshot or more away from the mine.)

The intrepid band reached the yawning mouth of the mine, where the tracks disappeared into inky darkness. Everyone paused and they looked at each other expectantly. Marcus Tiro asked, "Alright...who brought the torches?"

It was quickly determined that no one had a ready light source, so a lunch break was called while Marcus Tiro rushed back to town and purchased some torches, flint and steel! On the way back out, he told the gate guards where they think the children may be. After that brief interlude, the party descended into the mining tunnels. Every five paces or so, thick wooden support beams braced the walls and the ceiling.

They quickly came to a four-way intersection. Ahead, they saw what looked to be a rail system, while the tunnels on the right and left were boarded up about 5 paces in. There was a 2-pace by 2-pace hole knocked out of the boards covering the right hand tunnel and the dust on the other side looked to Rowan like it had been recently disturbed, so they decided to head off in that direction.

After some shuffling about..."You hold the torch, I must have my hands free for my sword and shield."..."No, I can't use my staff if I hold the torch and what if I have to call upon the miracles of Osirian?"...they finally proceeded down the tunnel, which turned to the left after 25 or so paces. Continuing forward, the tunnel opened up into a larger chamber, perhaps 20 paces in width and another 40 in length.

(DM's Note: A "pace" IMC is about 2 feet.)

Around the perimeter of the chamber, the party saw the cracked remains of wooden bunk beds, mostly fallen in on each other. Rotted bedding was strewn about the room and piles of fist-sized stones lay in several places where part of the ceiling had fallen in. They moved cautiously into the chamber and start working their way down the left hand wall. As they passed the third bunk, they heard a low moan and a dessicated hand swiped at Rowan. Rising from the ruin of the bed was the rotted remains of a long-dead miner, pick-axe still clutched in its undead hands.

Lew stepped forward, raised the sunburst symbol of Osirian and called upon the righteous might of the One True God to send the abomination to its final rest. Bluish-White light flared and the corpse cringed from the power of Osirian and fled away from Lew. Marcus Tiro and Rowan pursued it and quickly hacked it to pieces in the far corner of the chamber. They quickly noticed that there was a stout door near that corner and an exit passage close by.

While they were discussing what to do next, several more moans issued from the passage and three more undead miners shambled forth, fixing hateful gazes upon the party and raising rusty pick-axes. Again, Lew stepped forward and reached deep within himself - calling forth resevoirs of strength from Osirian. "Begone from here," he shouted,"return to the dust!"

A blinding blue-white light sprang from Lew and engulfed the three unnatural foes, consuming them in holy flames! Three pick-axes clattered loudly to the floor, scattering the zombie dust. Garrick looked at Lew with awe and admiration, "Can you teach ME to do that!"

(DM's Note: One of Lew's Domains is Sun and he rolled REALLY well on this "Greater Turning" check.)

Garrick, Marcus Tiro and Rowan turned their attention to the door, while Lew kept watch down the passage, confident that Osirian would help him defeat any further incursions by the undead abominations. The door proved to be stoutly locked and wouldn't budge, despite the best efforts of Marcus Tiro and Rowan. "Let me take a look at that," Garrick said.

The dexterous halfling quickly overcame the door's lock and Marcus Tiro shouldered the door open and peered inside. Numerous crates, barrels and boxes were stacke haphazardly about the 10-pace diameter chamber, which was also covered with cobwebs. Just as Marcus Tiro was about to turn and inform his companions, he felt a "plop" on his back. Rowan and Garrick's eyes widened as an enormous black and orange banded spider dropped down a web filament onto their companion's back.

"Aaaaggghhhh!" screamed Marcus Tiro as the creature's mandibles, dripping with yellowish liquid, sank into his flesh. Dropping his torch, which sputtered but did not extinguish, he tried to flip over on his back and crush the monster underneath him. Unfortunately, his feet tangled and he fell into a heap. The spider nimbley raised itself on it's web strand for a moment, then dropped on his chest, mandibles clashing. From the interior of the room, Rowan and Garrick could see two more of the monstrosities advancing toward the prone Marcus Tiro.

Garrick loaded his crossbow and tried to jump up on one of the bunks to get a shot into the room. The rotten wood crumbled under him and he sprawled on the floor, discharging his crossbow. Rowan drew his short sword and moved up to attack. Marcus Tiro attempted to squash one of the spiders with his bare hands and received another viscious bite for his trouble. This wound burned like the fires of hell itself and Marcus Tiro suddenly felt weaker.

The second spider dropped on him, but its mandibles failed to penetrate his armor. The third scuttled over to the fallen halfling and sank its mandibles into his prone form, drawing a scream of pain from Garrick as he felt a wave of weakness wash over him. Undaunted, however, Garrick rolled to his feet and pulled out a dagger.

Hearing the screams of agony, Lew rushed to aid his companions and in short order, the floor was covered with spider ichor as short sword, dagger, stave and bare hands did their work (although not before Marcus Tiro suffered another painful bite that weakened him even further). The party rested for a few moments, then determined that they would leave the storage room alone for the time being and continue to search for the missing children.

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 2 (Part One) - Four Rats and a Hole

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Old One

Villager
Session 2 (Part One)

When we last left off, our intrepid band had just defeated several undead miners and some very large and very nasty spiders.

Four Rats and a Hole...

Marcus Tiro and Garrick's spider bites still burned, leaving them light-headed and weakened. Before pressing on, they decided to examine the contents of the storage chamber. Garrick and Marcus Tiro rummaged through the boxes, crates and barrels - discovering a variety of mining equipment including picks and shovels, lanterns and several casks of lamp oil.

They quickly replaced their sputtering torches with a lantern, prepared another as a reserve and rejoined Rowan and Lew in the subterranean bunk house.

Back in town, while the party was waltzing with zombies and doing the cha-cha with venomous arachnids, Rosë hauled himself out of his cot in the Abbey infirmary. "I can stay here no longer," he mumbled through gritted teeth, "the others are out matching blades with great dangers while I lay here mewling like a newborn kitten!"

He readied his gear, heedless of the cramps that continued to twist his innards and the sweat dampening his forehead and stumbled out into the sunlight for the first time in a week. The gate guards exchanged quizzical looks as the unkempt barbarian, slightly hunched and in obvious pain, demanded to know where his companions were. Rosë grunted his thanks, hefted his sword and departed to the Northwest, wincing in pain with every step.

(DM's Note: Rosë was still suffering from his stomach ailment and at an effective -1 to both STR and CON.)

The main party started down the passageway leading out of the chamber with the ruined bunks, with Rowan scouting slightly ahead. After 30 paces, the rough hewn corridor turned to the left. As they started to make the turn, several of the party members thought they could here faint shouting echoing through the area. The group shuffled to a halt and everyone stood still for a moment, heads cocked, listening intently.

No additional sounds were heard. "Probably just air moving throught the mine shafts," Lew speculated.

They hadn't gone 5 paces before they heard the noise again and several thought they actually heard their names being called. After a hasty conference, the party backtracked towards the mine entrance, where they found Rosë leaning on his sword and bellowing, "Lew, Garrick...Rowan, Marcus Tiro!" at the top of his lungs in heavily accented Tradespeak.

Eyeing the sweating barbarian, Rowan inquired with a raised eyebrow, "I thought you were sick."

His face reflecting continuing internal distress, Rosë replied through gritted teeth, "I got better!"

United again, the party decided to travel down the main tunnel, following the mine cart track. Within 60 paces, they reached a four-way juncture, with the mine cart tracks continuing forward into the darkness. In the center of the juncture, the floor hand fallen out, leaving a gaping 4 to 5 pace hole. The floor around the hole was fractured in numerous places and the fault lines radiated outwards for a pace or more in some places and looked unstable. The mine cart track and crosspieces were intact and looked stable.

Quickly deciding on a course of action, Rowan deftly secured a length of rope to himself and tied the other end around Garrick. The nimble halfling balanced himself on one of the rails and crossed the chasm with no difficulty, securing the rope on the other side to one of the cross-ties.

In short order, Rosë and Lew crossed, using the rope secured to Rowan on one side and the cart track on the other side to steady themselves. Marcus Tiro looked suspiciously at the arrangement for a moment, started to say something, then shrugged his broad shoulders and started across.

On the far side, Rosë and Garrick strained to see past the feeble light thrown off by the lantern on the ground at Rowan's feet. Garrick felt the hairs on the back of his neck begin to rise as his keen ears picked up some chittering sounds in the darkness. He readied his crossbow and nodded to Rosë, who hefted his sword. As four pairs of glowing yellow eyes appeared from the shadows, a loud scream from behind caused the pair to jump!

"Clumsy oaf," Marcus Tiro cursed under his breath as he slipped from the rail midway through the crossing. He desperately grasped for the guide rope, but it eluded his outstretched hands. The cart rail proved equally difficult to obtain a purchase on. Arms windmilling in a doomed attempt to fly, Marcus Tiro disappeared into the pit - the sound of his own screaming filling his ears.

Rowan stared with disbelief as his friend disappeared into the yawning hole. He clearly heard the fighter crash heavily onto the floor below and detected a faint moan. "We've got rats!" Garrick yelled on the far side. After a moments hesitation, Rowan maneuvered near the edge of the hole and used the rope still attached to his waist to rappel to the bottom. He had just enough length to make it.

Above, things were not going well for Lew, Rosë and Garrick. As the enormous rats bounded out of the tunnel, yellow eyes and yellow teeth shining, Garrick's first panicked shot missed by a large margin and the bolt shattered against the ceiling. The barbarian stepped forward and prepared to meet the charging rats. Rosë swung his sword in a vicious arc when the first rat came within reach. The nimble rodent danced aside and Rosë's momentum carried his stroke into the wall with crushing force, badly bending the tip of his sword!

(DM's Note: On his first attack, our barbarian friend rolled a crit fumble, seriously damaging his sword - that was the highlight of his combat!)

Then the rats were upon them! Three of the rats swarmed onto Rosë and one slipped past to attack Garrick. The barbarian swung desperately at the one that scurried past him, but his sword cut naught but air. His attention diverted for a moment, all three rats he was facing squirmed past his guard and sank their teeth into the barbarian is several places - including a severe wound in one thigh. Rosë slumped against the cold stone wall, barely retaining consciousness.

Garrick flung down his crossbow and whipped out a dagger. He sidestepped the lunge of halfling-sized rodent and slashed at with his dagger. The rat jumped aside and Garrick connected with the floor, shattering the dagger into metallic slivers.

(DM's Note: Critical fumble number 2!)

Meanwhile, down in the pit, Rowan located the badly injured Marcus Tiro and tried to bandage him up the best he could in the feeble light filtering down from above. He utterd a quick prayer to Osirian and began climbing back up the rope to aid his companions.

Above, things had gone from bad to worse. Rosë, barely on his feet, made a feeble swipe at a rat, but his waning strength and damaged blade combined to rob the strike of any power and the dexterous rodent easily rolled away from the blow. Garrick desperately pulled another weapon and struck out wildly, failing to connect. Lew stepped up and swung his staff at the rat attacking the halfling. He struck it with a glancing blow, leaving a small mark, but not slowing the slavering rodent appreciably.

The rats surged forward, chittering and biting with their yellowed teeth. Rosë crumbled before their assault and dropped, bleeding from several wounds. The rat facing Garrick easily evaded the halfling's waving dagger and leaped through the halfling's guard, tearing a huge hunk of flesh from his shoulder. Garrick's world darkened as the halfling fell heavily to the floor. "Boy those are big teeth," he thought to himself as he passed out from blood loss.

Lew, suddenly facing four vicious rodents with only a staff and a thin robe to keep them at bay, stepped back and sent a fervent prayer to Osirian, praying for the Lightbringer to grant him Sanctuary from his enemies until help arrivet. Three of the rats lose interest in Lew, but the fourth shook its head after a momentary pause, sending saliva and foam flying, then narrowed its already beady eyes and continued forward, nipping the cleric on the leg.

Lew scrambled back across the pit, without the aid the guide rope (which is still attached to Rowan), just as Rowan heaved himself from the pit, pulling his trusty shortsword and assuming a defensive stance. On the other side, Lew hefted several fist-sized rocks and prepared to hurl them at the rats.

Despite his significant defensive abilities, Rowan's contest with the rats was an unequal one. The wily rodents, working as a team, managed to get past the ranger's guard numerous times, opening small wounds on his calf, forearm and hand. Lew, separated by the pit from his friend, hurled stone after stone, to little effect. One emboldened rodent tried to flank Rowan and the ranger's shortsword flashed down, cleaving it in twain!

Soon, however, the remaining rats leave Rowan staggering and Lew attemped to re-cross the pit to aid the ranger. Halfway there, in a replay of Marcus Tiro's ill-fated crossing, Lew lost his balance and was swallowed by the pit. A moment later, a rat ducked under Rowan's blade and bit down hard on his shin. The weakened ranger, unable to fight off the waves of pain, slowly fell backward into the hole - disappearing into the murk.

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 2 (Part Two) - From Bad to Worse

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Old One

Villager
Session 2 (Part Two)

From Bad to Worse...

The mantle of Osirian himself must have been protecting Lew, for the cleric received fairly minor injuries from his swan dive into the pit - despite falling about 15 paces!

(DM's Note: I rolled 3d6 for the falling damage and rolled 1, 1, 2 - I believe Lew had 5 hit points left - bringing him to 1 HP!)

Rowan, the rope still tied around his waist, had his fall partially arrested by the length of hemp, but still struck the stone floor with enough force to be knocked unconscious. Lew called upon his last major miracle of Osirian to aid Rowan and divine power surged through the ranger's body. Rowan sat up groggily and the two looked fearfully at each other through the dim light then looked upward, expecting to see the remaining rats coming down the rope after them.

After a few moments, no rats were forthcoming and the pair hurridly discussed what to do next. Lew determined that Marcus Tiro was still living - if only just - and Rowan was determined to get help or die trying. After a few moments to catch his breath, Rowan carefully climbed the rope, taking care to make as little noise as possible. After what seemed to be an eternity, he eased himself over the edge of the pit and is greeted by a horrible sight.

The three remaining rats were busy worrying the body of Garrick, now clearly dead. They have devoured most of the skin off his face and eyeless sockets stared unseeing towards the ceiling. Two were tearing into the soft abdomen, while one was burrowing through the neck. As Rowan stood, the bloody muzzle of the rodent at Garrick's neck rose and its beady gaze fell upon the ranger - their eyes locked for a moment - then Rowan dashed across the rails, pulling out his shortbow and nocking an arrow as he ran.

The rat chitterd angrily and started to follow, while the other two glanced up - cross at being disturbed from their feast and began to skitter towards Rowan as well. He fired a quick shot, grazing the lead rat, which quickly lunged forward and bit him, wounding him badly. Unfortunately, the rope was still secured to a cross-tie on the far side of the pit and tied securely around Rowan's midsection - preventing him from retreating any further. The remaining two rats began to scramble across the rail and the ranger's heart sank. Then, an amazing thing happend.

Perhaps it was the divine breath of Osirian, answering Rowan's earlier prayer or perhaps it was just plain dumb luck. Both of the trailing rats, like a synchronized acrobatic team, slipped from the twin rails at the same time and, claws scrabbling desperately, plummeted to the stone floor below with two sickening thuds. The falling rodents barely missed the unconscious Marcus Tiro and the almost unconscious Lew.

That left Rowan, exhausted and barely able to keep from passing out, and one barely injured rat. Screaming incoherently, Rowan charged forward, surprising the rodent and driving it over the lip of the hole. As he followed it over the edge, the blackness took him as he mentally shouted, "At least I took one with me!" while falling to the floor below!

(DM's Note: The rats had almost an automatic success chance to cross the pit, given their Climb Skill bonuses. Not only did they both slip and fall, they both blew Reflex Saves with substantial bonuses and got splatted. Marcus Tiro's player -Steve - commented, "If I hadn't seen you roll those in the open - I never would have believed it!"...another reason to make those open combat rolls, IMO. Also, see Rowan's note below...he was at "0" HPs, had one partial action before he passed out and did the last thing anyone expected...he charged! His "Bull Rush" knocked that ol' rat right into the pit and even cushioned his fall.)

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 2 (Part Three) - Death and Disaster!

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 2 (Part Three)

Death and Disaster!

Lew jumped out of his skin when yet another rat pancaked itself on the pit floor, followed immediately by Rowan. Again, the rope helped attenuate the ranger's descent, but he still landed with enough force to be knocked unconscious. Lew hurridly checked Rowan over, getting him stabilized and comfortable then slumped to the floor, exhausted. After a few moments, the shallow breathing of Marcus Tiro and Rowan - accompianied by the soft snores of the spent priest - were the only sounds that could be heard.

Lew awoke with a start, finding himself in total darkness. "Must have fallen asleep," he mumbled.

He could here Marcus Tiro and Rowan's breath, but had no idea what happened to Rosë and Garrick. He calmed himself and attempted to renew his spirit with the power of Osirian. The Lightbringer answered his call, filling him with holy might! Feeling around in the dark, he located what he thought to be Rowan's prone form and channeled the power into the ranger. He moved to Marcus Tiro and repeated. Soon, all three were up and about - but all were in very fragile condition.

Lew called up a minor orison to create a temporary light on Rowan's dagger pommel. The area around them finally illuminated, they found themselves in a rubble and dead rat strewn four-way juncture, with rough hewn passages leading off into different directions. They quietly discussed their options and Rowan informed the two of Garrick's fate. Marcus Tiro ducked his head to hide the tears welling from his eyes - Garrick was his oldest and dearest friend. He savagely kicked one of the rat corpses, cursing under his breath.

Rowan then attempted to climb out of the pit using the rope. He made it to the top, but part of the fractured ledge gave way as he climbed out and he hurtled downward, knocking himself unconsious as he re-connected with the hard floor. Lew offered him some comfort, but had no more major miracles to call upon. Lew decided to climb out next, he slowly and painfully made his way to the top.

Once there, he saw Garrick's small form - bloodied, half-eaten and frozen in death. Just beyond the dead halfling, he saw Rosë. Somehow, the barbarian's incredible constitution allowed him to survive! He was barely breathing and terribly wounded, but Lew judged him to be in no immediate danger. He loosened the rope from the cross-ties, carefully crossed the cart rails and threw the other end down to Marcus Tiro so he could start up.

(DM Note: Rosë stabilized at -9. He could have gone to -11, based on his effective CON - see earlier note for house rule, but it was a VERY close thing.)

Marcus Tiro began to climb. Near the top, the fighter's strength failed and he started to fall. Lew tried desperately to keep his friend from falling, but hadn't taken the time to tie the rope off to an immobile object. The rope tore the skin from his palms as it slides through his hands and Lew couldn't hold the heavier Marcus Tiro. Finally, the rope slipped from his grasp and Marcus Tiro plummeted to the bottom of the pit, striking at a terrible angle. Lew heard the dry snap of breaking bones and Marcus Tiro did not answer his frantic calls.

Lew stood, trembling, with tears streaming down his face. He looked at Garrick's pitiful form and Rosë's beyond that. His mind whirled and only one thought cut its way through his clouded brain, "Father Thomas...I must get Father Thomas!"

Lew turned and fled from the abandoned mine. He stumbled outside and found that it was dark and there was a soft rain falling. Frantic and badly injured, he raced the league back to Glynden as fast as his aching legs would carry him.

(DM's Note: IMC a league is 3 miles/5 kms.)

Behind him, in the dank darkness of the pit, an ever-widening pool of blood spread from the fracture point on the left side of Marcus Tiro's head. Three turns of the minute glass after Lew exited the mine, Marcus Tiro found himself surrounded by mist. He saw a faint light at the end of the mist and moved towards it. In a nimbus of golden-white light, he found Garrick seated atop an enourmous cask. The halfling, smiling beatifically, thrust a foaming flagon of ale towards the confused warrior, "Welcome home, my friend!"

(DM's Note: Yes, it is sad but true, Garrick and Marcus Tiro, childhood friends, met an ingnominious end at the hand of four rats and a hole...)

The aftermath of the sordid affair was somber and sad. Lew was able to secure assistence and by mid-morning, in the midst of a desultory downpour, the living (Rowan and Rosë) and the dead (Marcus Tiro and Garrick) had been recovered from the mine. The children still had not been found and to add insult to injury - by nightfall - all the survivors where shaking from the alternate fever and chills of the "Rat Fever".

Adding to the gloom was news that the Swords of Glynden, with half-a-dozen retainers, had met and defeated a large gnoll band - taking 10 heads. They returned to the town muddy and bloody, but triumphant. Soon they were at Nan's, buying drinks for everyone and boasting of their exploits - bloody gnoll heads lining the bar. Soon a raucuous crowd was gathered and the loss of Marcus Tiro and Garrick was forgotten by all but a few.

Lew, Rowan and Rosë lay in their sick beds, trying desperately to block the noise of merriment floating in from the tavern. Father Thomas placed his quill on his writing desk, pausing his work on the eulogy for the burial service, and shook his head sadly. Two of the gate guards, pulling their cloaks tight against the wind and the rain, talked quietly about the strength and loyalty of Marcus Tiro. And over in the tavern, a human woman, large and dumpy, stood at the corner of her bar and wept silent tears for the diminutive halfling she had cared for over nine winters.

The funeral service the next day...ironically Festday...was a quiet and joyless affair. Father Thomas' eulogy was smple, yet forceful, concentrating on duty and sacrifice. Several others stood afterward to praise the pair and while Lew was speaking, a well-dressed young man stood at the back of the sanctuary and intoned in a steady voice, "And what of my cousins? They are still lost out there in the mines. They are innocent and blameless. Will those that sought them before now assist my brother and I in finding them?"

Lew's words faltered and he sat down, flustered. Rowan cast an angry look towards the young man, known to him as a miner from "Boss" Brathwaite's operation, but remained silent. Rosë regarded him skeptically. "Perhaps now is not the best time to speak of this, " Father Thomas said gently, "let us wait until after the service."

"Very well," the young man replied impatiently, "but every moment we do nothing, their chances for survival grow slimmer...do you want these two to have died in vain?"

Father Thomas turned away, completed the Rite of the Dead and led a small procession of clergy and lay brothers out of the Abbey and into the burial catacombs. Rowan quickly left the Abbey, brushing past the young man who tried to speak with him. Rosë grunted non-commitally when approached, mumbeling that he was off to the tavern to hoist an ale to his old friends. The exasperated youth waited until Father Thomas returned and entreated the cleric to order Lew to help him!

"That I cannot do, my son. I feel that your urgency is well-placed and that it has merit. Lew must make his own choice on this however. Place your trust in Osirian that all will happen as it is meant to."

Somewhat mollified, the young man departed the Abbey, seeking Rosë in the tavern. He found the barbarian quizzing miners about the best way to cross cave-ins, what kind of equipment is most useful in the mines and how best to avoid a repeat of the disaster that was visited upon the party. He strode up to Rosë and placed a bulging pouch on the table in front of him. Several denarii leaked out.

"My name is Quintus Scipio. There are over 700 denarii in this pouch - more than enough to purchase all of the equipment we will need. My brother and I tend to retrieve our cousins on the morrow. Your woodsman has run away and your priest is a coward, but I am told that the people of the tribes are without fear...will you at least help us?"

Rosë looked from Quintus to the money and back again, then nodded his head in agreement. "Very well, then, we will gather in front of the tavern at the seventh hour." With that, Quintus turned away and marched puposefully from the tavern. Meanwhile, Rowan stumbled to his mother's cottage and collapsed on a stool near her hearth - his breath came in great, ragged gasps and shuddering sobs soon wracked his body. His grey-haired mother stepped close and embraced her grieving son, saying nothing. After nearly an hour, the sobs subsided. Rowan gathered a few things, hugged his mother, and disappeared into the night.

Lew, eyes puffy, heart and head aching, sought the counsel of Father Thomas. He spoke in hushed tones of the guilt he felt - saying he was not worthy of Osirian's gifts. Father Thomas let him speak on for some time, then put his hand on the younger priest's shoulder.

"Lew, my friend, the ways of the Lightbringer are not always clear, even for us. I cannot tell you why your friends have been taken," he said gently. "The young man who spoke out-of-turn today, Quintis, I believe his name is - has asked me to order you to assist him in finding the lost youngsters. Although it is within my power to order this, I will not do so. You must search your own heart and decide this on your own. I trust that you will make the right decision."

Lew nodded, quietly thanked Father Thomas and departed, walking towards his own sleeping chamber. In the corridor, he almost bumped into Rosë without noticing him. The hulking barbarian youth was leaning against the wall in the shadows.

"Friend Lightman," he said in heavily accented Tradespeak, "I go tomorrow to help the Quintus-man and his brother. I may need your light-power...will you come?"

Lew looked into the guileless eyes of the barbarian and nodded. "When and where?"

"The seven hour," Rosë grunted. Before turning away, the barbarian laid a hand on Lew's arm. "It is good!"

With that, he strode away, and Lew couldn't find his bed soon enough!

The next morning, Quintus was suprised to see Lew arrive along with Rosë. After an awkward silence, Quintus said, "I must apologize for my hasty words yesterday and the tone in which I spoke them. It is just that I fear for my young cousins and you are the only ones that have any idea where they may be!"

Quintus then introduced him to his brother, Sextus, a small man with a booming voice, whose fingers played idly with a hand-harp.

Lew grasciously accepted the apology and they set about the task at hand. Unfortunately, it was Restday - and many merchants shops were not open (also, many merchants had spent the night drinking at Nan's tavern). Through Lew and Quintus' persuasiveness, Rosë's icy glare and Sextus' quips they soon had all of the equipment they needed, albeit at a stiff mark-up for the merchants' trouble.

They departed Glynden - laden with ropes, spikes, hammers, boards, poles and all manner of mining goods - making for the mine with all possible haste. As they neared it, they found a deep furrow in the ground that ran through the mine trace and into the mine. They suspiciously readied their weapons and cautiously entered the mine, lighting two lanterns as they did so. They found a muddy track, matching the outside furrow, which headed down the central mine shaft, along the cart track.

Advancing with trepidation, they soon came to the pit, which now had a large, muddy log place across it and lashed into place. The group looked around, puzzled, shrugged their shoulders and proceeded to take the next three-quarters of an hour to build a sturdy bridge over the pit. Rowan appeared on the far side about five turns of the minute glass after they started pounding spikes into the wall. He shook his head, motioned them to follow him and disappeared into the gloom.

"Sturdy as the bridge of an Emorian legion!" Sextus boomed. The group shared a laugh and continued forward. After half-a-hundred paces, they found Rowan standing on the far side of a large chamber. They moved to join him and he greeted them silently, pointing to a leather doll, stuffed with cloth, laying on the floor. Quintus bent and retrieved the doll. "It is my cousin's," he said, "let us search the area!"

After half-an-hour of fruitless searching, Rowan discovered a small slot, angling upward under an overhanging stone. He inserted his dagger into, wiggled it about and was rewarded with an audible "click". Slowly, a section of the wall slid back on oiled runners, revealing a narrow, damp passage. He motioned the group to follow him, saying nary a word and moved quickly away.

The party moved through the twisting, turning passage for some time. It seemed to be older than the mine, to their untrained eyes. Water ran down the walls in places, leaving a slimy trail and puddled on the floor. Rowan found one clear footprint in the muck, a man-sized boot print - heading forward. They went down several sets of rough-hewn stairs, then came to small chamber that was littered with rocks and rubble. They could see several fault lines in the ceiling and no exits from the room.

They carefully searched the walls of the chamber for close to an hour, but found nothing. Quintus, Sextus and Lew debated backtracking to see if they had missed something. Suddenly, Rowan dropped to one knee and began sweeping rocks aside on the floor. Quintus and Sextus looked at each other - then dropped to do the same. They soon discovered a patch of floor where the rocks did not move!

On closer inspection, the found a slot similar to the other one and determined that there was some type of trap door in the floor. Rowan repeated his earlier dagger trick and a section of the floor slid away, revealing an iron rung ladder heading down. After a quick decent, the band found themselves standing in fairly well finished corridor - maybe not Khazardyn craftsmanship - but definitely not rough-hewn.

By their lantern-light, they saw what appeared to be the beginnings of a chamber about 10 paces away and a door beyond that. They started forward cautiously and Rowan peaked into the room. His keen ears caught it first, the creaking sound of dry sinew rubbing across even drier bone. From the four corners of the room, Rowan saw skeletal warriors, clad in rotted armor, swivel their red-eyed gaze in his direction, raising bows nocked with bone arrows.

Rowan frantically motions to the rest of the party to get back into the hallway and flattens himself against the passage wall, drawing his shortsword...

To Be Continued...


Next: Session 3 (Part One) - How Many Skeletons in the Closet + Meet Quintus and Sextus Scipio, our latest victims, er...party members!

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Old One

Villager
Interlude - Garrick's Log + Quintus' Intro

Greetings All!

Corey, player of the recently deceased Garrick has written a great tongue-in-cheek tale of his demise! Here it is in its entirety. If you enjoy it, please post a little note to encourge Corey for future writings !

Enjoy!

Garrick's Tale

Greetings, I am Garrick. I'm dead now, but not long ago I was an orphaned halfling living in a town called Glyndyn. I liked being alive, but this afterlife place is pretty interesting too. Plus, now I know what happened to my parents and the adventuring group that left me in Glyndyn with promises of coming back for me.

Since I'm new to the realms of those who have passed, I have not met too many people, though my good friend Marcus Tiro arrived shortly after I did. Since he was practicing with the new weapons they gave him, I decided to find Corey and keep him company.

The deity Osirian assigned Corey to be my "Player" and watch over me. I think that was really nice of them. Apparently though, he did not do a very good job since I'm dead and he has to spend all of his time reading big books. With titles like 'Remedial Dungeon Exploring for Profoundly Clumsy Players Who Get Their First Level Charges Killed' I can understand why he seems so unhappy all the time.

When I found him today he was once again hunched over his book at a table. Coming up behind him I said, "Greetings, Did I tell you how I died?"

His shoulders seemed to tense. I guess he still feels bad about it. However, he did not look up, rather his face seemed to press closer to the text as if his eyesight was getting poor. His hands also went to his ears. I suppose all that quiet study would make my head hurt too.

I figured he needed some cheering up, so I hopped up on the table next to him and, to make myself more comfortable went to kick off my shoes, but of course they were not there. Here in the afterlife we don't wear shoes - clouds are not hard and do not have any sharp edges.

I tapped his head, right on the spot where his hair is the thinnest. Now he looked up. I smiled, a big white toothed display that I was always proud of. As usual, he wore that serious almost frown. The set of his mouth always makes me think he has something to say, but is pressing his lips together to stop the words from pouring out.

After a moment he said, "Yes, Garrick you told me this morning."

Excellent I thought. "Well I thought of some more details, you know to give it flair when I tell everyone. Let me tell you again."

Corey's shoulders sagged. His lips moved once or twice. "Fine," he said.

If you ask me that word had to force its way, all fangs and claws, past those tight lips. Poor guy, needs to relax more and read less.

"Okay, there we were in the mine traces west of Glyndyn looking for two kids who had disappeared. My friend Lew, actually its Gandelwyn but who can say that in one breathe, had just splattered some spiders. He is one of Osirian's acolytes you know."

"You don't say," Corey replied. He is an uptight audience, but I like it when he responds to what I say. It makes the story more interactive.

"I do," I continued. "Anyway, its strange that he did all the smashing, I mean Marcus Tiro and Rowan were there too, and they train with swords everyday day. So I went into this room where the spiders had come from and looked around. It was boring stuff, picks and shovels packed in crates. But I did find a couple of lanterns. That was nice since we were about to run out of torches and boy does it get dark in those caves. I mean total pitch black, like wave you hand in front of your face and..."

"So you lit the lanterns?" Corey said. I liked that, showed he was listening to the details.

"Yep, and we were going to keep going down this corridor when a banshee started calling my name from behind us."

"That was not a banshee," Corey said, "It was the barbarian Rose at the mines entrance looking for you."

"Oh please, do you think he would just wander into some haunted mine and start yelling like he owns the place? I'm telling you it was a banshee and it wanted to suck my brain through my eye sockets, but Rose scared it off."

Corey said, "Very commendable." His tone was still not like my friends back in the tavern when we were having fun. It was very dry, like he needed water- or a personality. I figured that this was a great story and was now really convinced that he needed to hear it.

"So we went back and got met up with Rose. He had been sick for a long time and still looked a little... you know... gross. But he's really tall and has red hair. No banshee would feel safe around him.

"After meeting with Rose we decided to try another corridor. The mine entrance had three tunnels driving into the hill sort of like a W. We had been trying the corridor on the right and the left-hand corridor was all blocked. The corridor up the middle seemed the best choice, plus it had tracks laid for the miners to roll their carts on.

"Well Rowan, he spends a lot of time in the woods, went first. I tried to stay close to Lew and the barbarian since creepy things had already attacked us and I'm the right size for a good snack."

"We went a ways and then came to a spot where the tracks went over a big hole in the ground. It was wide and there was no way to get around it so everyone suddenly decided they were an engineer and offered ways to cross over. It reminded me of a game Marcus Tiro and I used to play. We could not afford toys like the other kids so we had to make do with what we could find in the street. We always used to take planks and lay them out and balance on them. Marcus always fell, but I was pretty good."

"So while they are discussing it, I hopped up on the tracks and started to walk across. Rowan got all testy, so I went back and let him tie a rope around my waist. Then I started to cross again. Somebody, maybe Marcus Tiro, asked me how deep the hole was. Well, I worked up some spit and lobbed it down the hole but it hit the bottom maybe eight (DM - actually 15) paces down. That's boring. You know in the heroic stories its always a little more impressive than that. I told them it was bottomless just to add to the effect of my bravely crossing it."

"Rose and Lew came across after me. I figured I'd be safe with them around, but just in case I took out my crossbow. Of course, when Marcus Tiro got to the hole he made a big show of tying knots and looping rope so that he would not fall in. I was just about to make a comment on how silly he looked when I saw the red eyes. At first I figured it was that pesky banshee again but then I remembered seeing such orbs before."

"I yelled 'RATS' and shot a bolt. I think Lew nudged my elbow or something because my bolt smacked into the tunnel's ceiling. Lew's a nice guy, but when he gets here I'm going to have to tell him that was not the time to be joking around. A halfling could get hurt?"

"You did," Corey said.

"Did what?"

"Get hurt."

"Hurt. I got killed. Made dead, finished off, turned into rat bait, bought the farm? have you been listening?"

"Sure, the rats?"

"Yea, the rats. This is the part where I get confused. First, I figured Marcus Tiro would run across the tracks and wham bam, no more rats. Instead, he's back there screaming, I don't know about what but it was not his usual 'Garrick, I'm charging so get out of the way' noise."

"Second, Rowan's normal hail of arrows did not come."

"Third, Rose attacked the cave wall instead of the rats. Gosh, that wall must have really upset him. I mean you should have seen the massive blow. He got so much of his weight behind it that his sword tip bent."

"There were four rats. They went after Rose and I. The three kitten looking ones went after him and the biggest, meanest one in the bunch, all yellow fangs and growls, came right for me."

"Rose started doing some barbarian dance, swinging his bent sword all around. I think he was summoning some avenging spirit to protect him. It was impressive, his sword flashing around not touching one of the rats. There was more rat than air around him but still he managed not to touch them once."

"So anyway, I'm left to deal with Man-Gore, the undefeated champion of all rats. Do you like the name? I added it for zest. Lew rapped the slavering pit-bred monster with his staff. It snarled and growled at him and its eyes glowed bright red in hate. I'm sure that it was a demon in rat form."

"I figured on sending the devil rat back to the fires of the underworld so I pulled out one of my daggers. I slashed down with a powerful blow but some stinking fairy knocked my blade aside. Everybody likes to use the halfling for their jokes, you know what I mean? My knife smacked right into the tunnel floor and shattered. I never did like fairies."

"I looked at the rat summoned from another world, trying to figure if I had enough time to get another dagger out. By my calculations I did not since he jumped up and bit me. It hurt a lot. But you know demon's teeth inject fire into you, so it was okay that I screamed. I remember thinking 'big teeth' and then he bit me again."

Corey looked upset again. What could he have done? I mean, I was up against Man-Gore, the pit-bred demon from another plane champion of all rats. Who do you think was going to win?

He turned away from me and snatched two books. On one cover I saw 'Exorcising Evil Pool Tables that are Biased in Favor of the DM.' On the other 'Dice for Idiots: its about rolling something higher than a three, stupid.'

Wow, they must really be mad at him. I could not even understand those titles. Deciding that it is pretty boring watching him read two books at once, I hopped off the table. I found a cask of ale locked inside a big vault and went looking for Marcus Tiro. First, we'll find some comfortable cloud. Then we will spend the rest of our day making it rain on the Swords of Glyndyn and watching our friends rescue those missing kids.

~ Garrick


Thus ends the tale of Garrick - a brave halfling and good fried! Lot's of great plot-hooks died with him!

Quintus' Journal

I do not know what response I expected after interrupting a funeral and calling for brave souls to help find my cousins. Certainly, more enthusiasm than I initially received. Perhaps the sacrifice of Marcus Tiro and Garrick has paralyzed the community with gloom. If that is the case, it did not show in the Azrael-Arhiman inspired festival that broke out after the return of the Swords of Glyndyn.

My personal frustration was probably an influencing factor. Who responds well to a hostile stranger pleading for aid? For certain, Kyndalyn the Older would. His son as well. The siege on Glyndyn's collective soul, starting thirty years ago with the Emorian Legion's evacuation, is taking is toll on the town's spirit. We are becoming more selfish, less willing to sacrifice.

Enough. The last few days are taking their toll on my spirit as well.

Of the group who initially sought my cousins, I was immediately able to convince the Barbarian to continue the search. The presence of denarri helped. He deserves credit for not taking it from me in payment. I found Gandlewyn truly surprising. Upon reflecting, I realize a night alone in a haunted mine surrounded by dead and wounded comrades is a trying experience at best. Yesterday though, I called him a coward.

I was wrong about Rowan, I assume I am wrong about Gandlewyn. Rowan, who stalked into the forest after the funeral, ignored my calls. But finding him in the mines, proceeding alone with the search for my cousins, inspired me. I owe him both an apology and thanks.

After gathering my things and getting Sextus from the house, I met with the barbarian and Gandelwyn outside Nan's. After discussing our equipment needs, we set about making our purchases. The money was sorely needed at home, but it would cut into my soul spending it on my needs and neglecting two children who are dear to me.

We then quickly went to the mine, finding odd tracks and smears in the mud outside. Inside, we decided to convert the tracks over the hole into a bridge. These noisy proceedings are what attracted Rowan's attention from his place further in the mine.

Upon joining up with him, he handed me Wynda's doll. This place is disturbing to me; it must be a horror for a child. Rowan is refusing to speak, a further sign that he is honoring this quest with the utmost intensity. I am considering introducing him to my sister Maxima. Unlike Sebrina, she is pious and industrious. I will discuss the issue with Sextus.

The mine apparently dead-ended. I think we all found this questionable. Searching revealed a hidden opening. Four years in Braithwaite's pit and I have never seen such a thing. This led us down into an area where the place stopped looking like a mine and took on another nature. All agreed on proceeding. I think finding the doll has given us hope.

Further down, we hit another dead-end. This one containing another hidden door concealed under a false cave-in. Roget Crow, my mining team's leader, would be slapping his head in frustration if we slowed down and started trying to craft such works. That someone is hiding something is obvious.

We continued down.

The barbarian and Gandlewyn had told Sextus and I of their encounter with the undead in this mine. Abrigal taught me something of a cantrip to damage these infernal creatures. I never thought I would have any cause to use this skill.

That changed coming into a large room in the mine. There, imposing themselves between my hopes of rescuing my cousins and I, were a pack of animated skeletons. As we scrambled deal with them, they were nocking arrows.

~ Quintus Scipio


(DM's Note: Everyone show Corey how much you appreciate his excellent effort by posting glowing praise here...hint, hint!)
 

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Old One

Villager
Session 3 (Part One)

When we last left our intrepid band, they had buried two of their own and met two new companions, the Bros. Scipio - Quintus and Sextus. Venturing back into the mines, they discovered a hidden tunnel, then a hidden ladder leading down to a fairly well-carved chamber. Cautiously entering the chamber, they were confronted by four skeletal archers with glowing crimson eyes who raised decrepit short bows and prepared to launch bone arrows at our heros...

Session 3 (Part One) - How Many Skeletons in the Closet?

Recoiling from the sight of the skeletons, Rowan, thinking quickly, reached back through the ranks and grabed Lew, hauling the priest forward to where he could see at least some of the skeletons. As the rest of the party jostled for position, two of the skeletons launched arrows into the tightly packed group, but they shattered harmlessly on the wall.

Lew presented his holy symbol and called for the power of Osirian to rid the them of the skeletons. A shimmering wave of bluish-white light rolled forward from Lew and two of the skeletons turned and cowered in the far corners of the room.

(DM's Note: Lew could only see 2 of the 4 skeletons, his view of the other 2 was blocked by walls, due to their location. Therefore they had "full cover" and were immune to his turning effects.)

With that, Rosë rushed into the room to engage one of the remaining skeletons. He suffered a bone arrow in the back, causing a minor wound from one and then the skeleton he moved to engage attempted to fire at him from point-blank range. He lashed out with his sword, knocking some bone chips from its shoulder and spoiling its aim. Sextus raised his crossbow excitedly to fire at one of the cowering skeletons and promptly fired a bolt into the floor in the middle of the room.

(DM's Note: Rolled a "1", no fumble.)

Quintus surveyed the scene and bided his time.

Rowan slipped around the corner and engaged the skeleton that shot Rosë in the back, drawing a point-blank shot of his own, which he deftly avoided. His return blow sent pieces of bone flying and staggered the skeleton. Rosë hacked away at his skeleton as it again attempted to fire an arrow, but it managed to avoid both that blow and his follow-up attack. Sextus re-loaded his crossbow and, overcompensating for sending a bolt into the floor on his previous shot, sent one into the ceiling instead.

(DM Note: Another "1", no fumble.)

Lew continued to present his holy symbol and Quintus prepared to cast a magic missile at anything that might come out of to door.

Rosë and Rowan both sent their opponents tumbling into a heap of cracked bones and both moved to engage one of cowering skeletons. Sextus, remembering that he failed to "tune-up" his crossbow before setting out, spent the next few moments adjusting the sights and tightening the prod, mumbling angrily to himself. Both Quintus and Lew slowly advanced to the center of the chamber, warily eyeing the door.

As Rowan and Rosë ganged up on one of the skeletons, Sextus re-loaded and fire once more at the unengaged skeleton. The bolt clipped through the ribcage, damaging it slightly and he grinned in satisfaction. Just then, a previously unseen slot, about eye height, slid open in the door and a quavering voice called out, "W-w-what do you t-t-think you are d-d-doing? S-s-stop this at o-o-once - m-m-my m-m-mistress will be very d-d-displeased!"

Thinking quickly, Quintus replied, "Your mistress will be even more displeased that your incompetent guardians have assaulted us! Cease this attack at once and open the door immediately - I command you!"

Rowan sent the skeleton he and Rosë were facing flying into a dozen different pieces with a powerful blow and Rosë, not missing a beat, curled around Rowan and ran at the door, leaping into the air and attempting to kick the door open. Unfortunately, he struck only a glancing blow and the door refused to yield. Rosë, meanwhile suffered a "stinger" to his foot and dropped to one knee, cursing.

The stuttering voice called out again, "F-f-for the l-l-last t-t-time, y-y-you b-b-better c-c-cut it out a-a-and g-g-go away!"

Quintus, continuing his banter, moved up to stand beside the door, "And for the last time, cease this attack at once and let us in or your mistress will go hard on you!"

Sextus follows his brother's remark with a booming pronouncement, "Fool! Do you know who you are dealing with?! Quintus Necromantus, Black Lord of the Northern Wastes, Warlord of the Skeleton Hordes, the one the gnolls call He Who Drinks From Skulls, he who has played chess with the demons from the pit ... "

(DM's Note: I don't have the actual text for what Sextus said, but that was the general gist, it was very well done and we all busted up after he said it. If Steve, Sextus' player, has it all written down, I will post it later...I have updated to correct quote above.)

Everyone paused for a moment and looked at Sextus in suprise!

Lew saw what appeared to be the head of a large, dark-colored bird poke through the slot, look left, right and straight ahead, then withdraw quickly.

The voice issued forth again, "Y-y-you were w-w-warned!"

Quintus heard low chanting on the other side of the door and recognized the incantation as one designed to create great fear in those affected. Across the room, Sextus felt a wave of momentary panic wash over accompianied by an overwhelming desire to flee the area. With great effort, he steeled himself mentally and shook the feeling off. Quintus stepped directly in front of the door and sent a magic missile screaming through the slot, right between the two eyes he saw dimly through the opening.

"O-o-o-o-w-w-w-w!" came a pained retort and the slot slammed shut.

Rowan moved to engage the last remaining skeleton while Rosë backed up a few paces, gathered himself, dropped his shoulder and ran full-tilt into the door. The iron-bound wooden door proved to be tougher than the barbarian, who stumbled backwards on wobbly legs, then sat down heavily, shaking his head. Quintus, listening intently at the door, heard some muffled curses and a "cawing" sound, then silence.

While Rowan finished off the remaining skeleton, Rosë staggered to his pack and retrieved a large sledge that was strapped to the frame. Motioning everyone to get out of the way, he charged forward and visciously assaulted the door. After several minutes, the fiendish door gave way to the barbarian's relentless attack and the top hinge broke away, sending the door crashing open and hanging drunkenly on its one remaining hinge.

The band quickly advanced into the next room, finding a large chamber with six stone sarcophagai, a small pile of bones and another stout door on the far side of the chamber. A cursory search of the room showed no signs of habitation - living or otherwise - so they continued forward to the next door. Sextus attempted to slide the slot in this door open, to no avail, so Rosë shouldered him aside and started swinging with his sledge again. Quintus readied another spell and waited.

After several mighty strokes, the slot slid open. A crackling beam of greenish-black energy issued forth, striking Rosë full in the chest and bathing him in an sickly green light. He gritted his teeth and fought through the chilling power that attempted to sap his strength. With a mighty heave of his shoulders, he shattered the effect and continued to swing the sledge. Both Quintus and Sextus identified the magic as that designed to steal the victim's strength.

Quintus stepped forward and spoke another command word before the slot closed, attempting to render their as yet unseen adversary unconscious. He heard cursing from the other side of the door and assumed that his own spell had been unsuccessful.

Sextus and Rowan readied their crossbow and short bow, respectively as the door began to sag under Rosë's blows. The door finally tore lose from its hinges and crashed to the floor with a resounding boom that echoed through the chamber. Flickering lamplight revealed a long narrow chamber with a door at the far end. In front of the door stood a tall, lanky figure in dark gray robes, a belt made of large metal rings with numerous pouches dangling from it and pointy-toed slippers. Several paces in front of him, to either side, were a pair of skeletal archers, which launched bone arrows through the doorway at Rosë. Like a swarm of angry hornets, the arrows buzzed towards the barbarian. Amazingly, they all failed to find their mark!

Low moaning on either side of the doorway betrayed the presence of undead miners, complete with rotting flesh, glowing crimson eyes and heavy pickaxes. They crowded into the doorway in an attempt to overwhelm Rosë, who quickly discarded the sledge and drew his blade.

Rowan stepped back and sent an arrow winging towards the shadowy figure, it went wide and shattered against the wall. Sextus fired quickly, sending a bolt into the door frame. Quintus gathered his will and sent forth another spell, determined to rid them of the spellcaster. Again the enemy mage resisted the effects of his sleep spell. Quintus cursed and readied his crossbow. Rosë stepped forward and cleaved into one of the zombies with all of his strength, sword slicing through collarbone, lung and heart before coming to rest on the sternum. The blow drove the undead miner to it's knees, but the unholy magic that knit the creature together did not fail and it climbed back to its feet, moaning loudly.

Rosë was stunned for a moment, since his blow was struck with enough force to fell two ordinary warriors!

Lew manuevered to where he could see the four zombies and a pair of the archers. He reached deep within himself and called upon Osirian for his greatest miracle, focusing his holy power to completely destroy the unnatural undead creatures. A wave of blue-white light rolled forward. It washed over the zombies and coninued on, engulfing the two skeletal archers, which flared brightly and exploded into fine ash. The glow around the undead miners, however, sputtered and disappated, leaving them unharmed!

The undead miners pushed forward, pickaxes swinging. One struck Rosë with a crushing blow, battering through his defense and injuring him seriously, although he avoided several other blows. Sextus and Quintus both fired crossbow bolts into the mass of zombies, striking true, but failing to slow them down. A pencil-thin beam of ice shot from the upraised hand of the figure in gray, narrowly missing Rosë and Rowan launched another arrow toward the figure, determined to bring it down. His shaft again went wide.

Lew dodged around the melee and moved to support Rosë, calling upon the might of Osirian and channeling the power of the Lightbringer into his friend, partially healing his grave wound. Somewhat refreshed, the barbarian's blade flashed forward again, tearing through the damaged zombie and sending it crashing to the floor.

The remaining ones swarmed forward, however. A vicious swipe tore into Sextus' chest and he dropped to the floor, bleeding profusly. Rosë was struck by another powerful blow and barely maintained his feet. He gritted his teeth and raised his sword again. Quintus dropped to one knee beside his brother and desperately tried to stem the flow of blood from his brother's wound, to no avail. Lew, now able to see the other two skeletal archers, along with the three remaining zombies, called forth the power of Osirian once more. This time, his prayer was answered completely and the zombies and undead archers all turned to flee. Rosë struck one as it fled past him, staggering it but failing to bring it down. The shadowy figure opensed the door behind him and started fumbling around in one of his many pouches.

Rowan sighted carefully over the heads of the fleeing zombies, took a deep breath and loosed. His blue-fletched shaft flew true this time and buried itself in the gray-robed figure, just below the breastbone. The enemy spellcaster flew backwards into the chamber beyond and landed with a meaty "thud". The slippered feet twitched once and were still.

(DM's Note: Rowan rolled a critical and hit for almost max damage!)

Lew dropped to the ground beside Quintus and said, "Let me show you how this is done!" He quickly patched up Sextus and stopped the bleeding.

Assured that his brother was out of immediate danger, Quintus followed Rowan and Rosë into the chamber. The latter two quickly cornered the cowering skeletons and battered them to pieces. The zombies, appartently, had disappeared through the open doorway. The trio find themselves in some type of workshop.

There are several large casks, a huge chest, a long work table with all manner of beakers, glass containers, mortar and pestel, jars with various colored powders and other sundry items stacked upon the workbench. Two closed doors are in the side walls of the room and a heavy brown curtain was drawn across an opening in the far corner. A large brazier burned in a near corner, lighting most of the room.

After a hasty conference, the group decided to withdraw. Rosë drug the body of the fallen spellcaster from the doorway, leaving a broad smear of blood across the labratory chamber enroute to the sarcophagai room. Quintus hefted the chest and followed, while Rowan acted as a rearguard. Meanwhile, Lew expended several minor miracles to get Sextus back on his feet. They quickly searched the dead body, stripping off the metal belt, from which hung six pouches - they find nothing else.

Dragging the large chest behind them, they retreated all the way to the mine entrance before halting and examining the chest. Several well-placed blows by Rosë opened it, revealing four velvet lined trays, but otherwise empty. Quintus surmised that it was used to transport the lab materials.

They quickly decided that Lew would accompany the badly injured Sextus and Rosë back to town to tell Kyndalyn and Father Thomas what they have found and seek additional medical help, while Quintus and Rowan kept watch on the mine entrance. The two that remained behind found a good vantage point while Lew, Rosë and Sextus departed for the hour-long journey back to town.

The trio arrived just before Evening Vespers and the closing of the gate. Even though it was Restday, the streets are nearly deserted. They went to the Abbey and discovered that Father Thomas was not there. Drusan, one of the Aspirants, told them that almost the entire town was at a meeting in the Council Hall.

They made their way there and found several hundred people crammed into the hall - standing room only! Rosë received several dark looks as they pushed their way inside and the reason soon became apparent. Kyndalyn the Younger was telling the gathering that several large barbarian warbands had crossed the river, heading East, and Glynden seemed to be their target. He implored the people to return to their homes and prepare for the defense of the town, as the barbarians were no more than three days away!

Sextus, Lew and Rosë looked at one another in dismay! What of Quintus and Rowan?

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 3 (Part Two) - Another Hole and a Zombie

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 3 (Part Two)

Another Hole and A Zombie...

Lew and Sextus pressed through the throng rapidly exiting the Council Hall to speak with Father Thomas. They passed a grim-faced Calian Cassuvius, surrounded by armed retainers and hustling out. Rosë decided he was hungry and headed over to Nan's Tavern for some roast mutton and an ale. Finding the door locked, he sat down, back against the wall, and waited.

As they neared Father Thomas, Sextus heard a sharp whisper in his ear, "Where is your damnable brother, Scipio? He and I aren't done yet...you tell him that I am looking for him!"

Sextus turned to see the pock-marked face of Ned Gallway, the lanky overseer of the Braithwaite Mining Company, leering down at him. "He's still out looking for the missing kids," Sextus replied evenly, returning Ned's gaze. "I will see that he gets the message."

"You do that," Ned sneered, before he turned away and disappeared into the thining crowd.

"What was that all about?" Lew inquired.

"Oh nothing, just a little family business," Sextus replied, a wane smile touching the corner of his mouth. "There's Father Thomas."

They quickly briefed Father Thomas on their findings thus far. He stopped them when they started talking about the skeletal archers and zombie miners - suggesting they retire to somewhere more private. Several turns of the minute glass later, they were comfortably seated in his small study. He sent an aspirant to fetch Rosë and listened with growing alarm to their tale of undead and associated magic users.

When Rosë showed up, Father Thomas called upon the miracles of Osirian to return he and Sextus to full health. He encouraged them to rest, then return to the newly-discovered complex and continue searching. He also provided them with a small wooden box that contained three healing draughts and three vials of water blessed by Osirian, which he indicated could be helpful against undead creatures. With that, he excused himself, saying Kyndalyn was expecting him, and departed.

The trio stopped by the tavern for a late meal, found it nearly deserted, and retired. Sextus' sisters and mother, alarmed at his blood-covered clothes, quizzed him until early in the morning about his adventures. Sextus also discovered that Abrigail, Quintus' "friend" had stopped by looking for him earlier in the evening.

The next day dawned chilly, with a fair amount of low-laying mist. They trooped out of town at first light and met back up with Quintus and Rowan, who had spent an uneventful evening watching the mine entrance. The only thing they had seen was a large, dark-colored bird that exited the mine just before dark and flown North. Quintus had searched the dead mage's pouches and discovered various spell components, a large sum of solidii and denarii, along with a strange golden amulet. It was about twice the size of a solidus, with a skull and dagger imprinted on it, along with some runic script. Quintus, Lew and Sextus all attempted to decipher the script - with no luck.

They ventured back through the mine, the secret passage and into the carved out chambers. They spent some time examining the "Tomb Room" - opening each of the sarcophagai and searching them thoroughly, finding nothing. The body of the mage, slowly ripening, lay were they had left it. They stepped over it and moved into the "Laboratory Room".

They assumed a defensive array, then tried the right-hand door. It revealed a 5 pace by 10 pace chamber, hung with burgundy and black wall hangings. Along the center of one of the long walls was a low table, with several small, gold vessels atop it. Shortsword at the ready, Rowan moved cautiously into the room. He heard a low humming noise fill the room and a moment later, a crackling crimson beam leapt from the table, striking Rowan full in the chest and dropping him to the ground, smoking and popping!

Rosë reached through the doorway and pulled Rowan to safety. A quick check by Lew showed that Rowan was quickly fading, so he called forth the power of Osirian to heal his friend. Several miracles latter, Rowan was back up, although his hair still stood on end. They decided to leave the burgundy and black chamber alone for the time being and moved to the door on the left.

Rosë forced the door open and they found a narrow chamber stacked high with crates and boxes. In one corner, Rosë noticed two small forms, bound and gagged, laying amid over-turned pewter bowls and cups. He advanced cautiously, blade ready. The lantern-light revealed what looked like two wild-eyed children. Rosë called Quintus forward.

He rushed into the room and discovered his cousins, Meikos and Wynda, scared and hungry, but otherwise unharmed. Wynda began crying immediately, but Meikos started babbling excitedly about the "Mean Man" and the "Pretty Lady" and the "Icky Men". They were able to determine that the dead mage was the "Mean Man" and that a dark-haired "Pretty Lady" was nice to them and made sure they had food. Wynda's crying intensified when she saw the dead body of the "Mean Man" - so the band decided, after a quick conference, to take the children to town, then return.

They returned to find Glynden busily preparing for the anticipated barbarian incursion. After a tearful reunion between parents and children, the party went to see Father Thomas. They showed him the strange medallion they had discovered on the dead mage. After consulting a dusty tome, he indicated that it was the symbol of the Cult of Ashai, an ancient sect dedicated to a minor servant of Azrael-Arhiman.

Father Thomas seemed very disturbed by their find, but did not elaborate in great detail. They all felt that he might be holding something back from them, but decided not to press the issue further. When they asked how to deal with the chamber that contained the wall hangings and the alter, Father Thomas indicated that Lew could pit his holy power against the wardings of the chamber, much like he would when channeling the power of Osirian to repel undead. He warned his acolyte against taking such an action, however, since he could be seriously injured should he fail. The group decided, with Father Thomas input, to return to the complex and finish searching it.

Lew stayed behind to talk to Father Thomas for a few moments, since the burgunday and black hangings reminded him of the nightmares he had about his parent's deaths. He had a small crises of faith, unsure whether he could return to the complex. Father Thomas talked quietly with him for a few mintues and Lew, feeling better, emerged from the study to join his companions. Father Thomas' parting words was that they should be back no later than midday the following day.

The return trip was uneventful and they found the complex undisturbed since they last foray.

They examined the crates and boxes from the storage chamber, finding a large amount of preserved food and various mining and stone-working implements. Behind the heavy brown curtain they found a privy - no one volunteered to examine it closely!

They cautiously moved through the doorway that the enemy mage had fallen in. Beyond the threshold, they found what appeared to be living quarters, with two beds, a table and several stools. On the table they found writing insturments, what appeared to be a journal, written in a flowing script, and a crude map. Half-hidden by the covers on one of the beds they found a note, written in the same hand, to someone named Luc, who they surmised was the mage they had killed. Searching the room throughly, they found a hidden stash of coin, including over 150 solidii - more money than most of the group had ever seen in once place before!

(DM's Note: I will post the contents of the journal and the note a little later.)

Another heavy brown curtain covered the only obvious exit from the room, so the group moved forward cautiously to investigate. They discoved a narrow, rough-hewn passage behind the drapery and advanced, single-file. They kept a careful watch, since they had seen no sign of the undead miners that Lew had driven away the previous day. After 10 or so paces, the passageway turned to the left.

Rowan, in the lead, failed to hear a faint metallic "click". He did, however, notice the floor dropping away under him!

He desperately sought to catch himself on the edge of the pit as a section of the floor, hinged on one side, fell away. His lantern and short sword dropped into the pit, followed shortly by Rowan as his hands failed to find purchase. He dropped about 10 paces, landing heavily. Pain shot up both of his legs and he was greeted by a low moaning sound.

His lantern had hit and tipped over, spilling out oil which ignited, throwing off a dim light. He saw the horrid visage of an undead miner, swinging a rotted fist at him. Underneath the feet of the miner were the broken bodies of two more...he had found the missing zombies!

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 3 (Part Three) - How Many Adventurers Does It Take to Kill One Badly Wounded Zombie?

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Old One

Villager
Interlude - Note and Journal Entries

As promised, here are the note and the journal entries discovered by the PCs:

NOTE

Luc –

Continue with the Greenstrake experiment. Darkclaw and I are going to examine this new development in the 5th shaft. Prepare the new materials and don’t forget to feed our guests something.

-R.


JOURNAL


14 Meresworn – Luc and I, along with our companions arrived at our destination. As C. indicated, it is truly a forsaken place. Have encountered several of the Blessed and set them to watch the upper mine and expanding the lower living quarters for a proper lab.

20 Meresworn – Preparations complete. We have set up the first titers for the Greenstrake experiment. Have located several more Blessed in the halls and bent them to my will. Luc is getting on my nerves – how I miss my home!

24 Meresworn – Luc is an idiot! I specifically told him to wait for 5 turns before mixing in the zombie powder. First titers are ruined. Darkclaw just returned from C. – more supplies should be coming soon.

2 Earthturn – Attended the Greengrass festival in that poor excuse for a town a couple of days ago. What a bunch of hicks! Did pick up some much needed supplies – soap and a washbasin among them. Some snoopy Caeldyn questioned me for a few minutes – but I made eyes at him and he left me alone.

10 Earthturn – Interesting! Darkclaw informs me that a bunch of strangers have occupied the 5th and 6th. I will have to see what they are about after we run the next titers tomorrow. No further word from C. about the additional materials I requested. Well, maybe Luc does have a brain in him – he captured two sweetlings. They may come in useful in our experiments. I will have to examine them more closely when I return.

10 Earthturn – Just what we need, a bunch of kilted idiots from some unwashed clan in the highlands! Perhaps we can turn this to our advantage. I just hope Luc doesn’t destroy the place while I look into this.


Stay Tuned...

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 3 (Part Three)

How Many Adventurers Does It Take To Kill One Badly Wounded Zombie?

Rosë, who was directly behind Rowan, used his sword to jam the trap door over the pit open as it swung shut. He managed to stop it just before it closed, but couldn't see what is happening below. The others crowded forward to see what was happening. Rosë used his foot to shove the well-oiled door back open, but forgot to hold onto his sword. The large blade plummeted into the pit and narrowly missed Rowan!

Down in the pit, the badly injured Rowan took a feeble swing at the zombie miner, but failed to connect. The undead creature's return hit slammed the ranger up against the wall of the pit with stunning force. Bones buckled and Rowan dropped in a heap, bleeding from internal injuries.

Rosë saw his friend fall, snatched up a small hammer, grabbed the end of a length of rope and leapt into the pit, attempting to land on the zombie and crush it! Unfortunately, he missed everything and landed on the only spot that did not contain a zombie or a companion, wrenching his leg in the process. The zombie greeted him with a stunning attack that left the barbarian reeling.

Above the pit, Sextus, Quintus and Lew milled around for a few moments in confusion before deciding on a course of action. Rosë and the undead miner traded blows, with the barbarian missing badly and the zombie scoring another hit, leaving Rosë teetering on the edge of consciousness! Meanwhile, the spilled lamp oil from Rowan's lantern had ignited the rotted clothing of the two zombie bodies, creating clouds of acrid smoke. The fire crept dangerously close to the prone form of Rowan, whose condition was rapidly deteriorating.

Lew stepped forward, raised his holy symbol and used the power of Osirian to banish the zombie to the far wall of the pit. Quintus tied a rope around a healing draught to send it down to the barely conscious Rosë. The barbarian fumbled for a waterskin and attempted to put out the fire, but he did not have the strength to make the effort.

Quintus swung the healing draught into Rosë's hand and the failing barbarian gulped it down. Somewhat refreshed, Rosë quickly squirted water onto the leg of Rowan's trousers, which had just ignited from the burning oil. Then, coughing and wheezing through the increasingly dense smoke, he tied a rope around Rowan's pale form and called for the others to haul him up.

The ranger's limp body slid over the lip of the pit. Lew, fearing his friend was dead, dropped to one knee and detected a faint pulse. He quickly called upon all of his orisons and the minor holy power returned some color to Rowan's face. Quintus and Sextus hauled Rosë from the hole as the remaining zombie caught fire, moaning pitifully. The smoke was so dense that the group decide to beat a hasty retreat after administering another healing draught to Rowan. The potent liquid returned the ranger to wakefulness.

(DM's Note: Rowan stabilized at -9, just before Rosë tied the rope around him to haul him out! He has not CON bonus, so he was 1 HP away from Deathsgate...still alive and kicking though.)

Since they had expended two of their healing draughts, Lew was completely exhausted and both Rowan and Rosë were badly injured, they wisely decided to return to Glynden. They made it back to town without incident, reaching the gates 15 turns of the minute glass before they closed. They made straight for the Abbey to inform Father Thomas of their finds.

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 4 (Part One) - Dead Man Walking

I haven't finished doing the XP yet, but I think there will be enough for almost everyone to level for the next event. The way I work leveling is that training is required if:

1) A new feat is gained

2) A new spell level is gained

3) A new skill is chosen

4) A new class is taken

If the character is improving skills already known, gaining additional spells for spell levels they can already cast, etc - then training is not required. New hit points, saves, BAB bonus, etc. are obtained as soon as they level.

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 4 (Part One)

When we last left our intrepid band, they had successfully rescued the missing children, Meikos and Wynda, and discovered a den of foul necromancy - filled with alchemical materials, zombies; skeletal archers and necromancer named Luc. After dispatching Luc and his menions, they found an unholy alter (which almost killed Rowan with a bolt of black, crackling energy) and information pointing to someone named "R", who seemed to be in charge of the operation. They also discovered symbology pointing to the involvement of an ancient assassin's group with ties to undeath - The Cult of Ashai.

An impending barbarian attack on Glynden forced the party to take cover within the stout walls of the town, their investigation incomplete...

Dead Man Walking

The barbarian warbands milled about Glynden and the surrounding area for over a week, but never even got within ballistae range of the town. Scouting expeditions by Kyndalyn the Younger and Josephus of Bremerton indicated that the tribesmen seemed to be searching the area...looking for something or someone.

Constant false alarms caused many sleepless nights and as the forced confinement continued, nerves began to fray and tempers grew short. "Boss" Brathwaite complained continuously about the amount of money he was losing due to the mines being closed and several fistfights erupted between miners and militia members.

During the forced inactivity, the party continued their research on the Cult of Ashai and discovered the following:
  • Ashai was once an angel, but rebelled against Osirian during the Sundering and is a retainer of Baelzar
  • The cult is known for its female followers and use of undead assassins
  • There are several old prophecies from the Cult of Shadow that refer to Ashai as a “path” or a “way”, but the context or meaning is unclear
Father Thomas’ information on the cult and Ashai are limited. He did relate that a shrine dedicated to the cult was reported to be located in the Lost Northern Provinces, but has no idea as to the exact location. He suggested that the Bishop’s library in Oar, which was much more extensive than the one in the Abbey, might hold more information.

Quintus and Sextus invited everyone to dine with his family on several occasions and he arranged to have his sister, Maxima, serve Rowan each time. On one occasion, the shy but levelheaded Maxima left Rowan a garland of flowers. Quintus was quite pleased by the smiles exchanged by his friend and sister!

Less pleasing to Quintus was that Ned Gallway (Brathwaite's foreman) dark looks followed him whenever they were in proximity. Quintus informed his companions that Gallway had forcibly prevented him from trying to search for his missing cousins and that he (Quintus) had escaped his confinement in the mine and stolen something very valuable and potentially very embarrassing from Gallway during the escape. He related the story because he was worried that Gallway might use the cover of a barbarian attack to stick a knife in him. He did not discuss the exact nature of the item, saying instead that it would be better for them if they did not know (for their own safety). In addition, his one-time lover Abrigal was missing. Quintus feared that she had fallen prey to either her own unhealthy interest in Necromancy or the machinations of Ned Gallway.

Sextus composed a song about the party’s exploits in defeating the undead and rescuing the children. He sang it at Nan’s Tavern several times, usually to a good response. One particular night, however, one of the miners starts making fun and Sextus takes offense. A scuffle ensued and Sextus was left with a badly wrenched back. Father Thomas recommended several days of bed rest, so Sextus did not accompany the group on their next foray.

(DM Note: Steve, who plays Sextus, had an emergency trip to the vet with his dog as was unavailable to play.)

The parents of Meikos and Wynda prepared a fine dinner for the party in thanks. Meikos also took to following members of the party around everywhere, proudly proclaiming to all that he too would be an adventurer someday – just like his brave uncles, Sextus and Quintus! Although it is flattering at first, the lad’s attention soon became rather cloying.

Rowan got Lew to teach him the basics of healing – bandaging, splinting, applying ointments and salves so the party would have some additional skill in that area.

Lew had a disturbing dream one night. He saw a lush green field and spotted a small figure approaching him. As the figure got closer, he realized that it was Garrick, wearing a broad smile. As Garrick got closer, Lew noticed that the look on Garrick’s face turned from happiness to concern and the halfling started running towards him – waving his arms, pointing behind Lew and screaming wordlessly. Lew was unable to turn around, his vision remained fixed on Garrick. Just before the halfling reached him, he saw a large curved sword blade reflected in the halfling's luminous brown eyes and the scene went blood red, then faded to black. Lew awoke in a cold sweat.

After ten days, no more was seen of the barbarians, so the Council of Elders released the townsfolk and miners to be about their business. With Sextus confined to his bed with a bad back, the party beseeched Father Thomas to accompany them to the underground laboratory and shrine to help them dispel the foul magic that so badly hurt Rowan. After some consideration, he agreed and joined them clad in ring mail armor and bearing a two-handed morningstar. They carefully retraced their now familiar path through the 2nd mine trace and reach the compound.

They noticed immediately that the body of Luc and the other undead they killed before were gone. Advancing cautiously, they found - much to their dismay - the entire workroom had been cleared out. In addition, the storeroom and sleeping chamber were also empty. The door to the shrine was closed, but Father Thomas detected some type of malevolent magic around the door. Father Thomas instructed everyone to prepare themselves, while he and Lew matched themselves against the magic. He called upon the power of Osirian and a pulsating wave of shimmering blue light washed over the door like the ocean against a rocky coast. Crackling black energy surged against the blue and the two forces contended against ear other for several moments. Suddenly, without warning, the door shivered and then exploded into a thousand fragments. Father Thomas and Lew were pelted with wooden splinters, but sustained no real injuries.

Beyond the ruined door, the shrine chamber remained intact – walls covered with alternating crimson and black vertical hangings, a low table and three vessels. Father Thomas gathered his will once more and called upon the favor of Osirian. Waves of blue force emanated from the priest’s outstretched hands and rolled into the room. The images within shimmered for a moment, then dissipated, revealing skeletal archers and rotting zombies. Four arrows sliced through the open doorframe and both Father Thomas and Lew were grazed. Lew raised his own holy symbol and called upon his most potent power against such creatures, Greater Turning. He felt the power of Osirian grow strong within him and sent the gathered strength hurtling towards the enemy. The waves of blue force washed over the skeletons and zombies, then a black flash issued from the chest of one of the zombies and the power of Osirian was shunted aside, leaving all of the undead unharmed. Lew noticed that the black flash had originated from the zombie formerly known as Luc. Father Thomas attempted to repel the undead, with equally poor results.

As the remainder of the party readied themselves, four zombies plowed through the doorway and engaged Father Thomas, Lew and Röse. Three were swinging mining picks and one, the undead form of Luc, bore a long, curved knife with a serrated edge. The battle that followed was brutal. One zombie was quickly felled, but the other three landed punishing blows on Lew and Röse. Zombie Luc struck Röse again and again with the evil looking knife. The barbarian felt an unearthly coldness each time the knife struck, but was able to fight off any untoward effects. Röse, badly rattled, could not connect with Zombie Luc. Quintus, however, pump bolt after bolt into the body from just a few paces away. Rowan, using his superior aim, sailed several arrows into their foes until his bow broke unexpectedly with a resounding “crack”!

(DM’s Note: Critical Fumble by Rowan.)

The powers of the two priests of Osirian, normally very effective against undead, were useless. Each time they attempted to turn or dispel the creatures, a black stone amulet on a thong around Zombie Luc’s neck flared with crackling energy, counter-acting their positive force. In addition, after landing a mighty blow, Röse was stunned to see the stone flare and the undead flesh begin to knit back together! Quintus noticed this as well and continued to fire into Luc’s undead form. As Rowan discarded the remains of his bow and moved forward with his trusty shortsword, Lew called upon the power of his God to temporarily imbue Rowan’s blade with magical power. Another zombie was quickly dropped, but the gap created in the enemy line now allowed the skeletal archers to fire at the party. Numerous bone arrows started cutting through the air and several found their marks.

A powerful blow from Röse finally sent Zombie Luc crashing to the floor, after it had sustained enough damage to kill seven normal men. Quintus, waiting for just such an opportunity, leaped forward to tear the black stone pendant from Zombie Luc’s neck. Unfortunately, as Quintus grasped the stone, black crackling energy surged through him, seriously injuring him and forcing him to release the talisman. A moment later, a bone arrow struck the sorcerer in the chest and he slumped to the floor. Lew rushed to his friend and found him barely conscious. “Use the power of Osirian to banish the others,” Quintus mumbled through gritted teeth, fighting to stay awake.

His faith in his ability somewhat shaken, Lew instead chose to use an orison to heal Quintus and allow him to act. A sword thrust from Rowan finished the last zombie and Father Thomas stepped around the doorway and felled a skeletal archer with a powerful blow of his morningstar. Another bone arrow grazed Lew while Quintus struggled back to his feet. Röse struck around the corner at another skeletal archer but missed. The hair on the back of the barbarian’s neck started to rise as he heard a scuffling sound at his feet – Zombie Luc’s flesh was knitting back together and the undead horror lunged forward, trying to bury its knife in his flesh! Desperately, he slashed down with his sword, but was unable to make contact. A crossbow bolt from Quintus and slash from Rowan’s blade felled Zombie Luc again and an audible “pop” was heard as the creature collapsed. Black smoke drifted up from the unmoving body…the black stone amulet was no more!

Seeing an opportunity, Father Thomas presented his holy symbol once more and called upon the power of Osirian to blast the skeletal archers into oblivion. This time, there was no dark magic to protect them and the three remaining archers burst into dust in rapid succession. Röse, furious at the damage Zombie Luc had done to him, proceeded to hack the head, hands and feet from the corpse and array them on the empty work bench. They also noticed that the other three zombies all wore gray, rust and green checked tunics and they appeared to be fairly “fresh” – unlike the desiccated ones they had encountered before. After pausing to rest and heal for a few moments, the party pushed on to the tunnel past the sleeping chamber.

They used wood from the workbench and abandoned beds to bridge the pit where Rowan had nearly come to grief on their last foray and soon found well-worn shallow steps leading up, which ended before a blank wall. Röse quipped that he understood why the steps were so worn, “People walk up the steps, see wall, walk back down…then repeat!”

A quick search yielded a concealed slot. An inserted dagger later, a door swung open, revealing a rough-hewn corridor that opened into a slightly larger natural passage with smooth, irregular walls. Quintus indicated that it was probably an old underground stream or riverbed. They followed the dry streambed for about an hour, before deciding to return to Glynden. They speculated that a feature on one of the maps they had found might be the underground riverbed. They discussed their options with Father Thomas. They speculated that “R” had attacked the mining operation of Clan MacGlown and/or might be setting up operations in one of the more remote mines. They resolved to rest, re-fit and attempt to track her down.

Just as they were entering the town, Rowan noticed a large black crow watching them from a tree. When he turned to look fully at the bird, it disappeared into the woods.

To Be Continued…

Next: Session 4 (Part Two)- Röse’s Past Rears Its Ugly Head

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 4 (Part Two)

Röse’s Past Rears Its Ugly Head

That evening, they all gathered at the Scipio house for a chaotic meal. The oldest Scipio girl, Sebrina, is moping because she has been under "house arrest" since the kissing incident with Orsen Jucadius. Maxima, however, seems quite taken with Rowan (although he has spoken to her very little - his eyes and shy smile indicate he may be interested as well). Sextus remained firmly entrenched in his bed, even though several of his sisters whispered to Quintus that he was just malingering! Before departing, Rowan placed several pressed flowers from the garland Maxima had given him under his plate for her to find as she cleaned up after dinner. Quintus beamed to himself, "One down, six to go!"

Father Thomas took Lew aside for a few moments after he returned to the Abbey from dinner. "Lew, I want you to be very careful in your pursuit of the Cult of Ashai. The magics we encountered today are quite powerful. Do not be afraid to retreat if you are over-matched...I have already lost your brother and I can ill-afford to lose you as well!"

Lew mumbled that he would be careful, then stumbled off to bed, praying fervently to Osirian for a dreamless night. He awoke the next morning feeling alive and refreshed.

They set out early the next morning, into the teeth of a chill breeze blowing from the north, bound for the 5th and 6th mine traces. Heavy dew covered the ground and shadowy tenidrils of mist drifted down from to foothills. Rowan, as usual, scouted ahead, alert for any signs of passage. After they passed the 2nd mine trace, the ground became much more broken and rocky. The path wound back and forth between huge boulders, rocky outcroppings and patches of scrub brush. About two turns of the hourglass out of Glynden, Rowan came across clear signs of a good-sized group (4-8) of human-sized creatures that had crossed the trail moving from west to east.

After a brief discussion, the party decided to follow the trail. Weapons were readied and they cautiously continued on. After another quarter of an hour, the rising sun began to burn off the dew, making it more difficult for Rowan to follow the trail. They soon came to a ridgeline, below which they could see the trail they had been following earlier. Several of the sharper-eared members of the band heard some faint noises ahead. Rowan crept forward to investigate.

He inched up one side of a large boulder and peeked over the top. There, not half a dagger throw away, the bearded visage of a tribesman stared back at him. The barbarian's face was well-tanned, his hair was coiffed in elaborate braids and several feathers were woven into his hair. They stared at each other for a moment, eyes wide with suprise, then both dropped down their respective sides.

Rowan alerted the others to the prescence of the tribesmen and a moment latter, gutteral shouting could be heard on the other side fo the ridgeline. The party clustered indecisively for a moment, trying to determine the best course of action. Several heartbeats later, three barbarian warriors charged over an adjacent hill, clad in leather armor and bearing large wooden shields and javelins. Their advance slowed for a a grain or two, then they saw Röse, broke into a chorus of warcries and sprinted forward. Lew and Quintus had some training in Gallic, the language of the tribes and clearly heard shouts of "Traitor"!

At ten paces, the barbarian hurled their javelins, then split up, seeking cover among the boulders. Their javelins tore into Röse with telling effect and blood gushed from two wounds. Recovering from their suprise, the party leapt into action. Rowan and Röse snapped off quick shots with their readied arrows and each grazed a tribesman. Quintus ducked behind a large rock and prepared to cast a Sleep spell. Lew called upon the power of Osirian to close some of Röse's wounds, but was able to channel only a small amount of his God's power.

The inner power that Röse had struggled to keep in check for the past several moons burst forth and the barbarian, in a cold rage, flung his bow aside, pulled his mighty blade and charged towards the nearest tribesman. Rowan's arrow buzzed past Röse's ear, drawing a thin line of blood across the enemy tribesman's scalp just before Röse reached him. A mighty two-handed blow cut through the tribesman's arm just above the rim of his shield, completely severing the limb before lodging in the ribs. The tribesman collapsed in a bloody heap - dead!

(DM's Note: Not a critical - but a max damage hit while raging...ouch!)

Quintus stepped around the boulder he had been using for cover and sent the other two tribesmen into a dreamless slumber with his arcane power. Just then, another trio of tribesmen broke cover and charged directly towards Röse. The two flanking warriors were accoutered like the first group. The one in the center, however, stood well over three paces high and bore a massive two-handed axe. He bellowed in anger when he saw Röse and began to froth at the mouth. Lew and Quintus both heard him shouting, "Where is she, traitor, what have you done with her?!?"

Röse's rage-dimmed mind sparked in vague recognition of the blond giant, although he couldn't place the name. Another javelin struck home as they closed with him and he barely avoided the deadly arc of the huge battle axe. Even in the depths of his rage, his wits were not totally gone and his brain screamed that he was doomed if he stood his ground. Röse leaped back and sprinted back up the hill towards his companions.

Lew took one look at Röse's bloodied form streaking up the hill, then he too turned and bolted. Quintus and Rowan looked at each other, then at the axe-wielding giant charging up the rocky slope towards them and reached an unspoken agreement to join the retreat!

"Turn and fight, softlings! You run like a woman, coward! Turn and face me, Traitor!"

Paying no heed to the epithets that followed them, the four companions raced back in the direction they had come. They succeeded in outpacing the two tribesman, but the blond giant gained ground on them with each step. Finally, Röse, slowed by wounds and feeling the adrenaline of his rage leaving his veins, could run no more. He ground to a halt and turned, wearily raising his blade and awaiting the onslaught of his enemy. The other three skidded to a halt and prepared to give battle.

Lew called the blessing of Osirian down upon them and everyone felt their limbs and spirit strengthen. Röse fired at the charging barbarian, who shrugged off the arrow strike and continued forward, axe held high. Quintus prepared another Sleep spell and commanded the two trailing tribesmen into slumber.

The howling tribesman's first stroke shaved the stubble from Röse's face, but left his skin untouched. In return, Röse slashed into his opponent's leg - the power of Osirian's blessing helping him past the raging barbarian's guard. Rowan took careful aim and fired again, but his shot sailed wide. Quintus added to the enemy's pain with missile of mystical force that burned into his chest.

The enraged barbarian slashed at Röse again. Somehow, he managed to stagger out of the way and the whistling axe blade cut nothing but air. The mad tribesman continue to shout curses at Röse, but his muscles are starting to quiver with exhaustion. The companions press their advantage in numbers and a sword blow and arrow later, the hulking tribesman lays at their feet...blood rapidly draining away.

(DM's Note: My now infamous "dice luck" completely deserted me on this encounter. Depsite significant bonuses to hit plus raging, the barbarian leader missed Röse on every attack...all four of them. Boo Hiss!)

Quintus, thinking quickly, instructed Lew to save the barbarian before he is completely gone. Lew looked at his friend in suprise but complied. Rowan and Röse quickly trussed up the two closest sleeping tribesmen and stripped them of their gear. Röse recognized them as being from the Allmani and the Nervii tribes. They found curious fetishes around the tribesmen's necks - made of feathers, animal claws and intricately wrapped string. Röse was uncertain as to their origin or meaning.

After a short, but heated debate, they decided to take the unconscious barbarian with them and retreat before any more tribesmen arrived. They decided to make for the 2nd mine trace first, see if they are pursued, then return to town. As they departed, Lew and Quintus demanded that Röse tell them what was going on and how the barbarians knew him.

Röse remained tight-lipped for a moment, then relented.

Röse's Story

"Seven or eight moons ago, I went to a great Gathering of the Tribes - an event that happens but once every five or six winters. While there, I met a beautiful young woman by the name of Asralla. She was as taken with me as I was with her and we lay together...many times. Unknown to me, she was the daughter of Talorc, Warlord of the Allmani - who are the sworn blood enemy of my people, the Brigantes.

Her father's warriors caught us together and we were hauled before the Council of Warlords. Not only was she the daughter of Talorc, but she was promised to the son of the Warlord of the Nervii, Kothric, and it is he that we now carry! Vercinox, Warlord of the Brigantes, sentenced me to die at the hands of Barag, the great bear - totem of the Allmani - to prevent open warfare at the Council.

My mother, however, helped me to escape and I fled. Vercinox and his warriors pursued me to the Bridge of the Steel Men and I attempted to leap across it's broken span. I nearly made it, but fell instead into the Great Water. I was swept away and thought I that I was dead. Wingstrom, the Great Eagle - totem of the Brigantes - did not want me to die.

He sent the old witch to save me. She tended my wounds for many days and many nights and taught me to speak the words of the Steel Men. Then she turned into an eagle and flew away, heading east. I followed her path and eventually came to the huts of the Steel Men.

The only thing I can think of is that he is seeking Asralla, but I do not know why he would. She is only a woman and I have already taken her flower! I cannot believe that the Nervii and the Allmani would send a warbard after her...although she is beautiful enough to warrant it!"


Quintus was incredulous. "You mean to tell me that this is a chief's son AND you stole his woman AND we have defeated him in combat?"

Röse nodded mutely, suddenly quite embarrassed. They arrived at the 2nd mine trace and entered, setting Rowan to watch for pursuit while the continued to discuss their options. Lew indicated that they needed to get the prisoner to some "proper" medical facilities or else he might still expire. Quintus was torn between killing him outright and trying to use him as a bargaining chip. In the end, they decided to return to town, with Kothric, and present the dilemma to the Council of Elders.

They returned to Glynden without further incident, although Quintus noticed a large crow atop one of the towers as they entered the gates. The bird cawed jeeringly at him, then winged its way north.

They quickly gathered Father Thomas and Kyndalyn and explained what had transpired. They made Röse relate his tale again and both were clearly concerned. Kyndalyn departed to find Josephus of Bremerton while Father Thomas called upon Osirian to close the most serious of Kothric's wounds. The tribesman regained consciousness and immediately began railing at Röse. Then, taking note of his surroundings, he clamped his mouth shut and refused to say more.

A combination of diplomacy, bluffs, threats and intimidation did not elicit any further verbal responses, although his reactions to Röse's taunts led the party to believe that he was indeed searching for Asralla. Responding to queries on the subject, Röse indicated that returning him to his people would not guarantee the safety of Glynden, since he was not taken in honorable individual combat, but by many against one. He did seem to think that holding the son of the Warlord of the Nervii would all but ensure an attack.

Kyndalyn and Josephus arrived during this discussion and since Josephus seemed to know more about the tribesman than anyone except Röse, they asked for his advice. Quintus bluntly asked him if the drugs that he was using to poison, er...treat Quintus' father with would be of any use. Josephus bristled at Quintus' thinly veiled accusation and defended his aid for the elder Scipio. Quintus let the matter drop and they returned to the matter at hand.

After cutting off a huge chaw of raw tobacco, Josephus indicated that the best course of action was to take Kothric part-way to the Thunder River and leave him for his people to find after lighting a fire. While not assuring the town's safety, Josephus indicated that continuing to hold him was not a good idea. Kyndalyn and Father Thomas agreed and the Constable bluntly asked the party to accept the task.

"I will provide a buckboard and team...can you leave at first light?"

Quintus, acting as party spokesman, agreed, but placed a condition upon the agreement.

"I am concerned about the proximity of my family's dwelling to the walls. If I...we agree to this, will you agree to find a suitable dwelling for them closer the center of town?" He was desperate to get his family out from under the thumb of Ned Gallway and "Boss" Brathwaite.

Kyndalyn agreed to look into the matter, as did Father Thomas. Josephus looked at Quintus, a sly gleam in his eye and fished a small glass vial, filled with green liquid, from his pouch and handed it to the sorcerer. "Here'n ya go, this may come in helpful. Just a coupla' drops now...not too much...it should keep him quiet!"

Quintus nodded wordlessly and accepted the vial. They all agreed that they would gather at first light and depart. Röse suggested that Kyndalyn exchange the ropes for manacles. Looking down, the Constable was shocked to see that Kothric had already chewed his way through the topmost rope. He hastily agreed and the party, subdued and concerned, departed to turn in for the night.

That night, Lew had another bizarre dream. This time, Marcus Tiro approached him across the same field that Garrick had. Marcus, however, was covered in blood and had a score of barbarian javelins protruding from his body. His eyes were closed, but as he drew close to Lew, he opened his eyes and mouth and bright red blood came gushing out. With each step, Marcus Tiro left a huge puddle of blood. As before, Lew's vision went blood red before fading to blackness.

The band gathered at the gaol early the next morning and prepared to depart. A chill wind blew from the north, quite unusual for that late in the spring. Their cargo, awake but bound and gagged, was loaded into the buckboard. He glared at them with hatefilled, bloodshot eyes that seemed to burn right through them! Shaken, they prepared to depart Glynden with the son of the Nervii Warlord.

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 5 (Part One)- Barbarians, Dire Bears and Diapers…Oh My!

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Interlude - Quintus' Log

Greetings All!

The following is the log for Quintus (played by Corey) from our last adventure. It is written from the PCs perspective and gives his thoughts on many of the "plot hooks" that are dangling out there!

Enjoy!

Quintus' Journal

When the barbarian tribes crossed the Thunder River, I feared they had finally decided that to rid the north of civilization's remaining stronghold. I was relieved when they withdrew after more than a week of inexplicable activity.

Certainly their puzzling behavior needs further investigation, but I remember my grandfather, Tribune Antonine Scipio, using his few sober moments to tell me to stay focused on one objective. Currently, our objective is to investigate the activity apparently being conducted by the Cult of Ashai in Glyndyn's western mine traces.

However, my grandfather never mentioned that several problems might all demand my attention at once.

These problems, as near as I can sort them in my own head, include:
  • My corrupt former boss Ned Gallway wanting me dead for stealing information that could compromise his illegitimate activities
  • My former fiance Abrigal is missing
  • My crippled father, emotionally ruined mother, irresponsible brother and six younger sisters may be thrown homeless into the street at any moment
  • The eldest and most foolish of my sisters is obsessed with one of the town thugs
  • Some crazed woman has established an alter to an ancient necromantic deity
  • And now the barbarians are playing mind games with us.
Trying to sort all that out makes my head hurt!

During the barbarian troubles I had Sextus, my less than responsible brother, compose a song about rescuing our cousins. He lacks direction, but is a fine singer. This admittedly weak ploy achieved my purpose of calling positive attention to our band. I feared a fight with the barbarians might be excellent cover for Gallway to put a knife in me. I hoped the attention the song brought to us meant Gallway could not exploit my relative anonymity in Glyndyn to have me quietly thrown down one of the town wells.

I also invited my new friends to dinner to informed them of the situation with Gallway. They also helped to ensure my safety. I also used the dinner to introduce Rowan to my sister Maxima. They seemed to get along and perhaps in a few months that could mean one less sister as my direct responsibility. Rowan has shown himself to be a fine and responsible man.

For several reasons, returning to the Ashai alter seemed the best course of action after the warbands left. This allowed me to honor Father Thomas' request that we continue to investigate that situation. Plus, it meant I might locate some information on Abrigal. Her interest in necromancy, the issue that led to our split, might have drawn her to the temple. Finally, I find being out of town helps ease the crawling feeling I get between my shoulders when I see Gallway or his cronies.

With Sextus "injured" at home ensuring our sisters' safety our band enlisted Father Thomas' aid and returned to the mine traces. Outside the mine entrance Rowan located a woman's footsteps going in and then coming back out. I strongly believe that it may have been Abrigal. Inside, as I had assumed, the mysterious woman behind the kidnapping of my cousins had cleaned the place up. I did not expect the trap she set for us.

As Father Thomas attempted to remove the evil of the alter, it disappeared - leaving several undead attacking us. I expected Lew and Father Thomas to deal with the creatures quickly, but a pendant around the now undead neck of the wizard Luc, who we had killed on our last visit, seemed to absorb the power of Osirian. From behind a door I fired bolt after bolt into the zombie. Each time that pendant around his neck flashed black and undid some of the damage I had done. When our band's barbarian felled Luc, I immediately rushed in to cast the pendant into another room. With the pendant's evil removed from the area, I assumed our hard pressed clerics could then turn the remaining undead.

The jolt of raw power that surged through me when I grabbed the foul pendant was more painful than anything I can remember. I was trying to gather my wits when another undead beast shot me with an arrow. My knees gave out and I fell hard to the floor. I remember Lew coming to me, but using very little of his power to heal me.

In fact, it was just enough to let me get up and weakly stagger away from the combat area. He argues that by then the situation was in hand and he did not want to misuse the healing force of his deity. I maintain that I am useless to my companions flopping around on the floor nearly unconscious. Our disagreement aside, our party did survive the trap and Father Thomas healed my injuries.

More searching of the area led us into a tunnel that my experience in Braithwaite's mines told me was carved by an underground river. We followed it a short way, finding signs of someone recently passing through, but gave up the trail after an hour.

That night I again inquired around town about Abrigal, but found no good news. Roget Crow, the leader of my mining team, kindly provided information about the other mine traces we needed to investigate. I invited Rowan to dinner. Maxima and he seemed pleased to see one another. Sextus remained in bed, but Luella and Chastina tell me he is merely enjoying being waited on. I should be mad but for some reason, I can never be angry with Sextus.

My father, of course, was intoxicated on that cussed painkilling herb Josephus of Bremerton is always providing. Part of me wonders what motivates Josephus. I have tried to stop him, but mother always insists that it is for the best.

The next morning Rowan, Lew, the barbarian and I headed out of town to begin investigating the 5th and 6th mining traces. Quickly, Rowan spotted recently made tracks crossing the trail we were following. When he identified them as a barbarian warband my heart sank.

I wanted to continue on our way to the mines and report our find to the militia later. The others all wanted to follow the warband. I bowed to their consensus.

We followed the tracks for only a short time before Rowan hissed us to a halt and pushed forward to scout the area alone. His very rapid return and the obvious danger it implied threw us into momentary confusion. I heard barbarian voices shouting. Figuring to use our barbarian to confuse them I shouted a greeting in their own language, which I had learned from some fellow miners. The ruse worked just long enough for them to see our barbarian. I was able to pick the word "traitor" out from the curses they hurled his way. Their foul oaths were rapidly followed by well aimed javelins.

Then they split up. I saw a couple moving to flank us and positioned myself to deal with them. As the initial rush of violence passed my mind started working, trying to assess our situation. We had no idea how many barbarians were concealed in the rocks around us. Certainly, their reaction indicated that violence was the only way they would resolve this situation. I made a decision.

It was time to run.

I spotted the two barbarians who were trying to flank our party. I hit them with the sleep spell Abrigal had taught me. They both dropped in their tracks. Turning to my party members I yelled, "Run!"

Being called a traitor had a significant effect on our barbarian's mood. His face went red and his whole body gathered itself like a coil. He exploded in the direction of one of his fellows who had appeared from behind a rock. Rowan grazed the enemy warrior with an arrow just before Rose reached the man. Rose's rage and charge combined into a mighty swing that instantly severed the man's arm from his body. The dying man collapsed his face displaying complete shock.

Agreeing with my sentiment, Rowan and Lew moved to extract themselves from the fight. Slaying the warrior seemed to restore some reason to our barbarian and he too decided to flee.

Behind us the pursuit began. One barbarian in particular seemed fueled by his utter hatred of Rose. He pulled ahead of our other pursuers and rapidly gained ground on us. Seeing that he would soon catch us, I worked out a quick plan with the others.

We stopped and I cast my sleep spell again. It failed to penetrate his rage and he slammed into us. I think Rowan may have hit him with an arrow before he did so. While the other three took on this monster of a man I watched for his comrades. As soon as two of them appeared I dropped them with a sleep spell and then turned back to their now very outnumbered leader. He was directly engaged with Rose and Lew while Rowan stood back and spiked him with arrows. I blasted him with a magic missile and Rose finally landed a blow that overwhelmed the raging barbarian leader.

Knowing he could provide much useful information I had Lew bind his wounds while Rowan bound his limbs. Rowan also tied up the two sleeping barbarians. We argued over a course of action but ultimately agreed to return to the mine trace we had previously explored and see if we were pursued.

On the way I began to grow angry. Perhaps it was Rose they had been searching for. Certainly, the barbarian elicited a strong reaction from the other tribesmen. Had Glyndyn, and my family, been threatened with eradication by this barbarian who choose to keep secrets?

As soon as we were safe I challenged him with these concerns.

The tale he told us, well edited I believe, boiled down to irresponsible drinking and womanizing. He had demonstrated admirable morality in helping to rescue my cousins. However, with this nonsense he completely reinforced all the stories of barbarians passed to us from our great-grandfather, the heroic Senior Centurion Manlius Scipio. I remain convinced that the Northern Provinces need the return of imperial Emorian stability.

Recognizing that this situation was beyond our meager experience, we elected to return to Glyndyn and turn our prisoner over to our betters.

It shocked me when Kyndalyn left me to question the prisoner. My experience with such matters is limited to posturing for tough miners seeking to intimidate, fool or coax them into doing tasks they would prefer to avoid. I tried everything I could and failed utterly to extract any information. On prodding from our barbarian, the warleader, Kothric, did give away that the tribes had been searching for a woman named Asralla. This was the same woman our barbarian had flung himself upon and who was
supposed to marry Kothric.

Kyndalyn, Father Thomas and that pig Josephus conferred on a course of action. They decided, on Father Thomas' recommendation, that my companions and I should take this Kothric to a place where other tribesmen can retrieve him, thus averting a possible attack on Glyndyn.

This additional problem caused my head to ache more.

I know Kyndalyn and Josephus are friends. It is a relationship that concerns me, since Kyndalyn's father is well known to have been an honorable man. I tried to discredit Josephus a little in Kyndalyn's eyes by asking about the poison he keeps my father sedated with. Josephus of course blamed it on my mother and Kyndalyn elected silence.

We agreed to undertake the task, but I placed a condition on our aid. I asked both Kyndalyn and Father Thomas to aid me in finding new housing for my family. I need them out of a residence controlled by Ned Gallway. The two men agreed and knowing my situation my companions kindly remained quiet about my seemingly odd request.

So tommorow, we will take Kothric away from Glyndyn. Josephus gave me some of his vile liquid to keep the warchief sedated, but I chucked it as soon as I could. Tonight, I will reflect on the missing Abrigal and the odd crows that seem to be watching our movements recently.

~Quintus Scipio
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 5 (Part One)

When we last left our intrepid band, they had returned to the underground temple of Ashai, only to find it abandoned and trapped with some very persistent undead. After defeating them (with the help of Father Thomas), they decided to examine the 5th and 6th mine traces to see if the operations of “R” had moved there and to discover the fate of the miners from Clan MacGlowan. Enroute, they encountered a small mixed band of Nervii and Allmani, led by Kothric – son of the Nervii warlord. After a tough fight, they captured Kothric and discovered that the tribesmen were searching for Asralla, Kothric’s betrothed and Rosë’s lover! After consulting with the Council of Elders in Glynden, they decided that holding Kothric was too dangerous, so they resolved to transport him partway to the Western Wilds and release him. Sextus finally rose from his sickbed and joined the rest of the group just before they departed.

Barbarians, Dire Bears and Diapers…Oh My!

The first four and a half days out of Glynden were fairly uneventful. They traveled south for a day, then turned west until they reached the Thuringian Wood. Their plan was to travel along the north side of the woods, following the tree line as it turned southwest, then release Kothric at the western most edge of the woods. The weather was mostly clear, with a couple of brief rain showers and the temperatures were comfortable. The Council of Elders had provided a buckboard and team to make transport easier and the standard marching order was Rowan ranging out ahead, Lew driving the team, Sextus guarding Kothric (who was manacled in the bed of the buckboard), Quintus walking beside the buckboard with a Sleep spell at the ready and Rosë guarding the rear. Numerous times, they noticed large crows watching them, although there didn’t seem to be any pattern. The birds were careful to stay several bowshots away and Rowan thought that at least two different birds were keeping tabs on their movement. In addition, all the companions felt that they were being watched from time to time during the journey, but they were unable to locate any spies.

During the journey, Quintus and Sextus worked hard at gaining Kothric’s confidence. For the first day or so, their efforts were rewarded with nothing but snarls and silence, but gradually the two charismatic brothers wore the barbarian chieftain down. By the third day, Kothric was laughing at Sextus’ jokes (even though the diminutive bard spoke little Gallic and Kothric’s Tradespeak was abominable). Quintus also spoke with Kothric at length about the dangers of the Shadowlord and his menions, trying to impart upon the barbarian the common dangers that they all faced and find some common ground. Despite his best efforts, he discovered that Kothric had a very simple world view – there were good totems and evil totems. Barag – the bear totem – was a good one, strong and brave. Others were not so good. Quintus produced the medallion they had found with the symbol of Ashai on it and tried to get Kothric to take it…so he and his people could be on the lookout for such things. After all of Quintus’ talk of evil and spirits and demons and the Shadowlord, the overwhelmed barbarian vehemently refused!

One morning, Kothric let slip that Asralla had taken the Artosiak, a talisman sacred to Barag, when she fled and that was the REAL reason that so many tribesmen were searching for her. Talorc, Warlord of the Allmani, and his shaman swore that Rosë had crossed the river in the dead of winter and stolen the girl and the talisman away. The companions countered that Rosë had been in Glynden all winter and spent much of the time sick in bed, so it was impossible that he had been responsible for the girl and the talisman’s disappearance. At first, Kothric did not believe him, but Quintus, Lew and Sextus all swore that it was true. Troubled by the revelation and the absolute certainty of the party, the barbarian retreated into thought, emotions clearly playing across his face. By the following day, even Kothric’s denunciations of Rosë lost most of their venom and the huge warrior seemed to be struggling with numerous thoughts and emotions.

On the fifth day out of Glynden, as they were skirting the northern edge of the Thuringian Wood, the pleasant weather turned threatening. Rosë and Rowan agreed that the large thunderheads building in the sky to the North meant a significant storm before the end of the day. The party hatched a plan to try and snare the “ghost” that had been following them. They decided that Rowan would use the cover of the storm to double back and try to locate whoever it was that was following them. Unfortunately, the violence of the storm made the endeavor impossible. Tremendous winds and torrential rains cut visibility to half a spear’s throw and the party, minus Rowan, decided to hunker down and wait the storm out. After wandering blindly about for an hour, Rowan reached the same conclusion. After several hours, the rain slackened somewhat as the worst part of the storm passed. Somewhat disoriented, Rowan spent several hours traipsing about the woods before he located the remainder of the party. Wet through and through, cold and dispirited, the companions slept fitfully on the soggy ground.

The morning sun revealed a thick layer of mist blanketing much of the area, limiting visibility to a bowshot. After a brief debate, they decided to press forward, using the wood line as a guide. The heavy rains of the previous night made for slow going, as the buckboard became mired again and again. By noon, everyone was tired and muddy – but Rowan thought they were getting close to the area where they planned to release Kothric. The ranger also noticed a heavily wooded ridgeline rising out of the forest to the southeast. The group decided to halt, eat a quick meal and rest the team. Rowan conducted a quick reconnaissance of the area and noticed numerous shapes moving in the mist to the west and the north. He saw the unmistakable outlines of tribesmen separating from the mist and sprinted back to his companions. As he did, a long deep blast from a hunting horn echoed from the mist only a few bowshots away!

Thinking quickly, Quintus ordered Rosë into the woodline. Once the Brigante disappeared into the trees, he jumped up into the wagon, unshackled Kothric and pointed into the mists, “Go now, your people are there!”

The barbarian warrior looked down at his unrestrained wrists and flexed his massive hands. He stared hard at the party for a moment, looking at Quintus, Sextus, Lew and Rowan in turn before gazing in the direction that Rosë had run. An internal struggle played clearly across his rugged features, then he grinned and pointed back in the direction they had come from, “Go now,” he stuttered in broken Tradespeak. “Take funny man with you and go quickly!”

He indicated Sextus with a nod of his head and, after another brief look towards Rosë’s hiding place, jumped down off the wagon and strode purposefully towards the approaching tribesmen. With a collective sigh of relief, the companions got the buckboard turned around and hastily began to depart the area.

Rosë, who was watching the proceedings from the cover of the trees, caught a flash of movement from the corner of his eye. He glimpsed a green cloak and a moving arm, then saw an arrow sail from behind a tree several spear throws away and bury itself in Kothric’s back. As he slapped the reins to get the team moving, Lew heard a low thrumming sound and turned in time to see the arrow strike their erstwhile prisoner, who pitched forward with a cry of agony! Lew didn’t even bother to stop the buckboard – he just jumped off and sprinted to the now prone Kothric. Rowan, Sextus and Quintus looked at each other in stunned amazement, then followed Lew. They found Kothric alive, but bleeding profusely from a terrible wound in the lower back.

Meanwhile, Rosë snapped a shot at the green cloaked form, but his aim was off and the arrow sank into a tree two paces above the figure’s head. The hooded form looked briefly in Rose’s direction, turned away, shouted something in Gallic, then sprinted up the ridgeline. Rosë leapt off in pursuit and was unable to make out the words. Down below, Lew made out the words ”Kothric, death and Steel Men”. Cries of anger and outrage hurtled from the mist to the west and north – very close at hand – the tribesmen were closing in!

Lew, assisted by Sextus, worked feverishly to save the barbarian warrior’s life. He called upon the favors of Osirian while Sextus administered a healing draught. The flow of blood slowed somewhat, then Lew noticed that the area around the wound was quickly turning black…poison! Tearing into his kit of salves and herbs, the cleric made his best guess as to the source and offered up a fervent prayer to Osirian. Meanwhile, Quintus called out in Gallic that an assassin had tried to kill Kothric and they were doing there best to save him. He hoped against hope that the enraged tribesmen would hear. Kothric’s color improved as Lew’s skill bested the poison and another healing draught and prayer to Osirian closed the gaping wound. Kothric’s ragged breathing improved to the rythmic cadence of deep slumber – but he remained unconscious.

The shouts of rage continued unabated from the closing tribesmen and a clear chant separated itself from the cacophony of sound – “Death to the Steel Men!"

Rosë had already disappeared up the mist-shrouded hillside in pursuit of the green-cloaked assassin. Quintus looked at the numerous shapes emerging from the mist and converging on their location. Many were less than half-a-bowshot away!

“Run!”

Abandoning the buckboard and team – Rowan, Sextus, Quintus and Lew turned and sprinted into the woods, making for the ridgeline. Quintus lagged behind a little to cover their retreat, ready to use his magical slumber if need be. His heart sank as he saw two score or more tribesmen emerge from the mist. Several stopped to look at the prone, blood-covered form of Kothric. The rest, catching sight of the fleeing companions, bellowed war cries and sprinted forward in pursuit like a pack of wolves!

To Be Continued…

Next: Session 5 (Part Two) - Last Stand?

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 5 (Part Two)

Last Stand?

Dodging through the mist and the trees, Rosë caught several glimpses of the green-cloaked assassin, but even his superior speed was not enough to close the gap. Suddenly, rising out of the mist at the crest of the ridgeline, the sharp-eyed barbarian spotted ivy-covered walls and the faint outline of a tower…there was a structure surmounting the hilltop. Shouting and waving frantically, he tried to catch his companion’s attention.

Lew noticed Rosë’s gestures and spied the walls looming to his right. He called to those behind him and altered course, making for the structure. Eventually, everyone noticed what looked like a very old hill-fort, heavily swathed in clinging ivy, squatting atop the ridge like a tired old man. About a bowshot away, they stumbled over the remains of a well-worn stone trail that led up to the crumbling ruin.

The rigors of the climb took their toll on the group – particularly Lew and Sextus. About ¾ of the way to the summit, Sextus could go no further and had to stop and catch his breath. The pursuing tribesmen continued to close as Quintus reached his brother and urged him to continue with all speed. Reaching deep within himself, Sextus summoned the last of his energy and gained the hilltop on leg muscles screaming with agony. The two brothers joined Rowan, Lew and Rosë before a pair of rusty iron gates that led through a simple gatehouse and into the fort. The towers flanking the gate where about 12 paces high and the curtain wall stood seven or eight paces above the ground.

Rowan and Rosë advanced cautiously into the structure, arrows notched, while Lew, Quintus and Sextus tried to get the gate shut. They found themselves in a small courtyard with eight or nine small stone buildings built against the walls. Directly across from where they had entered, they saw another gatehouse with an ironbound wooden gate that appeared closed. Rowan caught a brief glimpse of a shadowy figure in an earth-tone cloak, but it disappeared behind the remains of building before he could get a good look at it. Rowan motioned to Rosë and the pair split and circled the building, attempting to trap whoever it was between them.

Meanwhile, the rusty iron gate squealed and shuddered in protest as Lew, Sextus and Quintus threw their combined weight against it. As they strained against the gate, they could see nearly a score of barbarian warriors closing on them. With a supreme effort, they managed to push the gate shut just as the lead barbarians slammed against it! Quintus stepped forward with the beam to bar the gate, but the tribesmen heaved against the door before he could firmly seat it and it popped out and fell to the ground. Glancing back and seeing their dilemma, Rowan rushed back to the door and put his shoulder to it as Quintus once again tried to get the bar in place.

A tense, silent struggle ensued as the party and the barbarians pushed with all of their might – separated by a hand’s breadth of rusty iron. With a desperate heave, Rowan, Lew and Sextus pushed the door closed enough for Quintus to clap the crossbar into place. Exhausted, the quartet backed away from the gate and Rowan broke off to assist Rosë. Quintus noted that the ivy on either side of the gatehouse was moving and quickly surmised that the barbarians were using the ivy to scale the wall. He sent Lew and Sextus to try and open the next gate and grimly prepared to cast a Sleep spell the moment a tribesman’s head appeared over the rampart.

Rowan crept towards the place he had last seen the cloaked figure, ready to fire. On the other side of the building, Rosë peeked around the corner and saw a figure, swathed in a brown, hooded cloak crouching low and peering in the direction of the rest of the party. He grimly raised his bow and prepared to fire – then hesitated. Slowly stowing his bow, he pulled a dagger, flipped it over and moved forward, preparing to strike the crouching figure with the pommel. He was only a pace away when his foot crunched on a piece of dry ivy. Without turning around, the cloaked figure rolled to the right, through an open doorway and into the building interior. The Brigante cursed and leapt forward. Rowan arrived just in time to see the brown-cloaked figure disappear and he ran forward as well.

Several heads appeared above the parapet on the left side of the gate and Quintus loosed his magic. Most of the heads disappeared, but one tribesman resisted his magic and continued to climb. Lew and Sextus had no luck forcing the other gate. They looked at each other, nodded and started to climb. Sextus made no progress at first and Lew reached the top of the wall before a handful of ivy gave way and he fell heavily to the ground. Sextus redoubled his efforts and reached the top. Looking behind him, he saw numerous tribesmen swarming over the first wall.

Quintus continued to call forth his magic, casting spells on both the right and the left of the gatehouse. Most of his targets succumbed to the magic and one fell from the top of the wall into the courtyard. The tribesman struck the ground heavily, but the force of the blow jarred him from his slumber and he sat up groggily, trying to focus on the sorcerer. Quintus spoke in Gallic again, maintaining their innocence and pleading with the barbarians to call of their attack. The tribesman struggled to his feet – but seemed to be listening to the silver-tongued sorcerer. Just then, a black arrow struck the warrior right below the collarbone, slamming him back into the wall. Four or five of his fellows topped the wall as he crumpled to the ground and the howls of outrage began anew! Quintus, greatly angered, looked around – but quickly surmised that none of his party had launched the arrow.

Rosë and Rowan cornered their quarry in an interior room of the ramshackle stone building. A heavy bladed dagger appeared in one hand as the large hood fell back. Rowan looked down to see a dirty, but beautiful, face – framed by lustrous dark hair – gazing fearfully up at him. Rosë’s forward momentum ground to a halt as he stared in disbelief. Asralla’s full lips mouthed a single word…

“Rosë!”

To Be Continued…

Next: Session 5 (Part Three) - Lost, Found and Lost Again

Old One
 
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Old One

Villager
Session 5 (Part Three)

Lost, Found and Lost Again

Rosë quickly recovered from his shock, reached down and hauled Asralla to her feet. He dashed from the building, dragging her with him – Rowan was right on their heels. Rowan noticed that the girl was cradling a bundle under her cloak. Sextus had managed to unbar the second gate and both Lew and Quintus slipped inside. Around the gatehouse, a dozen tribesmen formed up and charged forward, hurling javelins and swinging battle axes.

Rosë, Asralla and Rowan reached the gate a dozen paces ahead of the barbarian and squeezed through the opening. Asralla was jostled roughly as she passed and a high pitched wailing, completely out of place for the situation, issued from beneath her cloak. Quintus yelled for Rosë to stop and lend a shoulder to the second gate, but the barbarian continued forward with the girl. A smaller courtyard, enclosed by a seven or eight pace high curtain wall, lay behind the gate. A squat, two-story tower was in the center and a small building that reminded the Brigante of the Abbey of Osirian was off to the left.

Quintus cursed Rosë under his breath and the remainder of the party tried desperately to close and bar the gate as the tribesmen hurled themselves against it. Javelins flew through the narrow gap and whistling battle axes cut huge slivers of wood from the gate. Despite their best efforts, the superior numbers of the tribesmen began to tell and slowly, inexorably, the gate began to open. Quintus stepped back for a moment, sighted through the opening and left fly with a Sleep spell. Half of the tribesmen dropped and the remainder milled about in confusion for a moment. The companions used the respite to slam the gate shut and slid the crossbar into place.

Meanwhile, Rosë was battering against the door of the tower, with little success. Rowan, Sextus and Quintus readied missile weapons and slowly backed away from the gate – which was now shivering under the renewed assault of the tribesmen. Again and again, Rosë hurled himself against the stubborn tower door. Finally, his effort were rewarded by a resounding CRACK as the tower door gave way. Unfortunately, that noise was echoed as the crossbar on the gate splintered and the doors flew open, releasing a flood of howling tribesmen. Simultaneously, several barbarians gained the towers flanking the gate after scaling the ivy-covered walls and began hurling javelins into the party.

The party’s readied missile weapons flew into the mass, but failed to make a dent in the surging horde. Quintus and Rowan broke for the tower, but the leading tribesmen caught Lew and Sextus. Lew suffered a staggering blow and was in danger of being swarmed over. Every fiber in Sextus’ body screamed at him to run, but he merely took a step back, raised his crossbow and fired it point blank into the nearest tribesman – buying Lew a chance to disengage and stumble to the tower.

For a moment the tableaux held – the diminutive bard stood, defiant and all alone, before the cresting wave of tribesman. Miraculously, he dodged axe blow after axe blow, twisting and turning, before disengaging and racing towards the tower.

Inside the tower, the rest of the party found naught but wooden ladders leading up to a second story and then the roof. Lew and Rowan climbed for altitude and a good firing position while Rosë, Quintus and Asralla stood at the door – watching Sextus with a mixture of fear, awe and admiration. When the bard broke for the door, Asralla shoved the bundle she had been carrying – soft and whimpering - into Rosë’s hand and ran towards the charging tribesmen, tears streaming down her face. Rosë grasped desperately at her but she slipped from his grasp and was gone. His mind whirled, refusing to accept what his other senses told him to be the truth. The Brigante stepped into the interior of the tower, carefully placed the bundle in a corner and returned to his place at the door. Sextus passed Asralla and literally dove through the open doorway, skidding past Quintus to momentary safety. Vastly relieved, Quintus yelled to his brother to help Rosë bar the door and began climbing the tower. Lew paused for a moment and called the blessing of Osirian down upon his friends.

Rosë exited the door just in time to see Asralla halt before the charging mass of warriors and raise her arms. The blood-mad tribesmen did not even slow – several javelins plunged into her body and at least two axes landed with clearly audible sounds – her brown-cloaked form slumped to the ground! The barbarian wave washed over her and continued to the door of the tower. Rosë was struck be several hurled javelins as they closed. Rosë screamed in pain and anguish and felt his anger, barely held in check to that point, boil over into rage and started laying about him with his battle axe. On the battlements above, Lew and Rowan traded arrow fire for javelin tosses and lucky throws hit both of them.

Suddenly, a vibrant green flash emanated from Asralla’s slumped form and the surging knot of tribesmen broke apart with yells of terror and dismay. An enormous bear, coarse brown fur bristling, rose from the ground were the bleeding form of the girl had been, standing above the fray on two tree-trunk-sized legs – towering eight paces high. For a moment, everything stopped as attacker and defender stood stock still in slack-jawed wonder. Then an ear-splitting roar, strong enough to shake loose stones from the top of the tower, rent the air and two huge paws flashed down into the tribesmen – sending warriors and parts of warrior spattering in every direction. Asralla had activated the Artosiak!

Momentary panic seized the barbarian warriors, but a clear voice called out from beyond the second gate, “Stand before the false image!”

The power of the voice steadied the tribesman and they renewed their assault. Some launched attacks at the impossibly large bear, while others slipped behind it at rushed Rosë, pushing him back from the threshold of the door. Above the second gate rose gray vapors and they began to coalesce into the semi-solid form of another huge bear, a twin to the first. With a spectral howl that chilled all who heard it, the ghost bear leapt forward and attacked the first bear. The force of the impact sent several tribesmen flying.

Lew and Rowan retreated from the exposed roof and joined Quintus on the second floor of the tower, taking advantage of the cover provided by the arrow slits on that level to pour arrow and bolt into the tribesmen. Lew, using a bow borrowed from Rowan, proved to be particularly ineffective, so Quintus suggested that he try to find an escape route from the tower in case the battle went against them. Down below, the enraged Rosë discarded his axe, which was too big for the enclosed space and drew two heavy bladed daggers. Sextus tried unsuccessfully to wedge the door shut, then was forced to defend himself against as a warrior slipped past Rosë and lunged at him. He still held his crossbow and managed to deflect the first attack!

Out in the inner courtyard, a titanic struggle was taking place. The bear of flesh and the spectral bear slashed and roared and snapped at each other with unspeakable violence. When the ghost bear struck, it left blackened wounds in its wake. When the solid bear landed a blow, gray tendrils of smoke wafted skyward then dissipated. Below them, the tribesmen hacked away with battle axes and desperately hurled javelins, scoring numerous hits on the bear of flesh, which was soon bleeding from a dozen or more wounds. From time to time, a huge paw or the gaping maw of the solid bear dipped into the tribesmen surrounding it, usually with fatal results.

Lew discovered that a steep slope lay behind the tower and he began to secure a rope to allow the party to escape off the tower if necessary. Meanwhile, Rowan and Quintus fired as quickly as they could, with Quintus taking special care to aim for injured warriors. Rosë’s flashing daggers took one warrior and then another, but more kept taking their place and soon both he and Sextus were bleeding from serious wounds. Staggering back from a vicious cut, Sextus threw caution to the wind, gritted his teeth and slapped another bolt into his crossbow. He deftly avoided the tribesman’s thrust and fired his weapon point-blank into the warrior’s face. The bolt flew true and the barbarian flew backward – stone dead!

(DM’s Note: This was one BOLD move. Sextus, low on hit points, braved an AoO to load and fire his crossbow. It worked and he felled an enemy!)

Now bleeding from a score of wounds, the bear of flesh nevertheless scored a series of telling blows on the spectral bear, tearing great chunks of smoky essence from it – the outline of the ghostly bear began to waver. The archery of Quintus and Rowan, along with the blades of Rosë, were rapidly thinning the ranks of the tribesman. Lew yelled down from the roof to inform everyone that the rope was secure. Sextus, fatigued from his climb up the hill, bleeding from a serious wound and on the edge of complete exhaustion, let his guard slip for just a moment – but that was enough. A barbarian’s blade pierced him deeply and he fell to the floor, dying.

Quintus heard his brother cry out, crouched and looked down to the lower level. He yelled in anger and sent a missile of magical force slamming into the tribesman that had just dropped Sextus. A double-thrust from Rosë finished the man and Quintus bellowed for Lew to get to Sextus. Rowan sent another warrior crashing to the ground with a well-placed arrow.

The inner courtyard was beginning to resemble a slaughterhouse. Blood spattered the walls, bodies, entrails and unidentifiable lumps of flesh were strewn everywhere. With a tremendous effort, the solid bear lunged forward and clamped down on the throat of the spectral bear, its jaws slamming shut with crushing force. The smoke-gray form of the ghostly bear lost its coherence and faded away, accompanied by an inhuman cry of torment from just beyond the second gate. With a ghastly howl of triumph, the crimson-streaked bear of flesh swept its savage claws down into the remaining tribesmen, tearing two of them asunder.

It was too much for the remaining barbarians. Their spectral totem gone, the dozen or so that remained turned and fled out the second gate – all save one. One blood-soaked warrior stood in the gateway, clutching a huge axe. With a cry of anger and despair, he charged forward, avoiding the sweep of the bear’s paws and buried his axe in the creature’s midsection. The huge animal swayed for a moment, then slowly - like a great, hairy tree - toppled forward, crushing the warrior beneath it. The bear gave a huge shudder and went limp.

Rowan launched an arrow at the back of the fleeing tribesmen, but it sailed wide. Lew reached Sextus in the nick of time and called upon one of his few remaining miracles to stabilize the gravely injured bard while Quintus looked on worriedly. Rosë, bleeding and exhausted, staggered from the tower to find the shape of the bear subsiding in a shimmering green glow. The glamour ceased, leaving a small, brown-cloaked form – pierced by many javelins and rent by numerous cruel axe blows – in its wake. The Brigante stumbled forward and fell to the ground beside Asralla’s bloody body, fumbling in his pouch for a healing draught.

Her eyelids fluttered and opened, fixing him with her dark eyes. She spoke in a rasping voice, coughing blood as she did, “My love…I have done wrong…you must return this to my people.”

She pressed a heavy necklace made of huge bear claws, intricate beadwork and delicate green feathers into his trembling hand. He tried to pour the healing draught into her mouth, but she coughed up another gout of blood as he did so and most of the liquid fell to the ground. Summoning the last of her strength, she whispered, “Take care of our son…”

Her voice trailed off as her body gave a convulsive heave then relaxed one final time. The empty healing vial slipped from Rosë’s nerveless fingers as great, silent tears of sorrow streamed down the barbarian’s face.

Inside the tower, a pitiful wail rose from the forgotten bundle that Rosë had so carefully placed in the corner. Quintus, Lew and Rowan looked at each other in stunned amazement, then the sorcerer stepped over to the bundle and pulled some of the cloth back. He had heard that cry far too many times growing up! The fallen flap of cloth revealed the chubby face and open mouth of a two-moon old baby calling for food and comfort!

To Be Continued...

Next: Session 6 (Part One) - Sacrificial Lamb?

Old One

(DM’s Note: The players were pretty much on the edge of their seats through this entire session. You could actually feel the tension building as the PCs were pursued through the fog, made it to the fortress and then kept falling back. There were a couple of times that the barbarians ALMOST caught them – but the judicious use of sleep spells by Quintus and some good opposed rolls pulled them through. The look on their faces when they realized the twist at the end was priceless! Definitely looking forward to our next session!)
 
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