Olaf the Stout's Story Hour - "Shackled to the Age of Worms"

I've been DM'ing the Age of Worms adventure path for my group since mid-2012 using the D&D 3.5E rules. Prior to that, I ran the group all the way through the Shackled City AP over the course of about 3 1/2 years.

We're now about 40 sessions in and over halfway through the Age of Worms campaign. One of the players has been dutifully writing an adventure log every session through the eyes of his character. I figured now was as good a time as any to put those adventure logs up as a story hour.

We only play fortnightly but my plan for now is to post a new adventure log up every week. I hope you enjoy the read. Feel free to post comments in the thread.
 

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Since it fit in so well with the campaign, is such a cool adventure, and since the adventure path is known to be a bit of a PC-killer, I decided to run the group through the "Mad God's Key" before getting stuck into "The Whispering Cairn", which is the first actual adventure in the Age of Worms AP.

Our story begins in the mining town of Diamond Lake

Session #1

As scribed by Roku Gimball

I feel it is my duty to correct the blasphemies being circulated by Olaf the Stout regarding the happenings when our band arrived in Greyhawk. The fool will pay for his insults in the fullness of time. What follows is the real truth.

Our band consists of:

Myself, Roku the dwarf – cleric of Bleredd.
Cirian Meliamine – wise and revered wizard.
Traeven the rogue – my trusted accomplice.
Ezio Auditore – the noble and strong crusader.
Aramil the half elf ranger – a very secretive character indeed.

We left Diamond Lake on the 3 day trip to Greyhawk as guards to the small caravan of Allustan the wizard. An easy few days work for a group as accomplished as ours. In the early morning of the second day we were attacked by a group of lizardmen. They were dispatched with ease by Ezio – hardly requiring any assistance from the rest of us. I helped a little but the others barely needed to rise from their beds. The rest of the journey passed without incident. Easy money.

Our room and board was paid for by Allustan and we were given a few days off. We cashed in the looted weaponry from the lizardmen and spent the rest of the time resting up. Traeven is acting very strangely – he’s never out of the rooms and takes his weapons and armour wherever he goes. I am concerned – and will not leave mine behind either. Traeven knows this town. But the others seem not to have noticed and take no heed to protect themselves.

On the second morning at breakfast we witness 2 thugs looting a locksmiths store across the street. They are threatening passing townspeople who question them. This behaviour is intolerable to me. I will not accept innocent people being accosted by such ruffians.

Cirian and I go over to see if we can assist. The others follow a little reluctantly. I can understand this – it is difficult to know whether to get involved, and we are newcomers to this town.

We subdue the looters and make them give up their stolen goods. Traeven has a quiet word with one of them in a back alley. Perhaps it is just as well there were no witnesses to this event.

The owner of the business then arrives. His name is Theldrat. He is extremely distressed to discover that a particular key is missing from his store. He agrees to pay us a small sum to help him recover it. We offer some gentle persuasion to the 2 thugs to give us some information. We don’t get much, but it seems we need to go to Barge End – a wharf area in the slums of town – to find a half-orc named Irontusk.

I am also questioned by the town guard who demand to see proof of my allegiance to Blerred. Apparently they are suspicious of some clerics of Boccob, who may be up to no good. A precious tome has been stolen from the town library. Bad news for Cirian.

We go to Barge End. Some minor bribes put us on the track of Irontusk but he is alerted to our arrival by an accomplice and he runs. It was then that our party showed our true colours. So as not to alarm the quarry too severely, myself and Traeven sneak around the back of the waterside buildings, hidden well out of sight.

The mighty Ezio scales the same buildings with barely a check in his blinding speed. Running across the roof tops and jumping from building to building he was in position to cut off Irontusk’s retreat in a few seconds.

Meanwhile, the wily Cirian and Aramil stage a brilliant diversion to deflect Irontusk’s attention from Ezio’s advance. They cleverly skate and slide around on some of the nearby boats, all the while juggling with pieces of fish they find lying around.

Irontusk could be seen holding his sides and hooting with sheer amazement at their skills. His accomplice was similarly made helpless. At one point, Cirian even strategically threw himself into the water so that the splash would cause Irontusk to look towards him. At the same time, Aramil could be seen playing tricks with some of the towns dogs, all to give Irontusk something other than Ezio to concentrate on.

In a supreme effort of personal sacrifice, Aramil even decided to die on 2 separate occasions so as to give Irontusk a false sense of security, knowing full well that this would eventually lead to his downfall.
I was, of course, on hand to bring Aramil back to us on both of these occasions. Never fear my comrades, should you ever find yourself at deaths door, be assured I will be there to pull you through!!

Ezio, naturally, dispatched Irontusk with a couple of his usual massive blows. Even though he had no armour, he was still virtually invincible. His armour is, even as I write these words, back at the hotel being buffed to a lustrous sheen by half a dozen slightly moist waitresses. Fortunately for the half orc, he was only knocked unconscious. When he comes to, we will see what tales he has to tell us.

As expected, an exemplary display of faultless teamwork.
 

Session #2

As scribed by Roku Gimball

With a little help from myself, Irontusk eventually regains consciousness – but not before we strip him of all his weapons and armor. He possesses a crude map of the city with a building drawn very roughly. It's all but impossible to identify. He is understandably very uncooperative when we try and negotiate with him. We offer to return his equipment if he will tell us what he knows – and he eventually agrees.

Apparently 2 days ago he was approached by the Green Dagger Gang and offered 100 gold to steal Theldrat’s copper key. He did so and gave the key to the only two gang members he has met – a smart, rich looking elf and a human who, he says, appeared to be very sickly looking. They dressed in all black garb and wore green dagger pins. Other than this he knows nothing.

He agrees to take us to the spot he met these characters, and shows us to a run down two storey merchant house in the slums of the town. All the neighboring buildings are similar – boarded up and in complete disrepair. We return his belongings and he beats a fast retreat.

Traeven and I remain in the area to keep watch while the others return to the lodgings to collect their equipment, and then we decide to investigate the building in question. There are stables at the rear – so we check these for signs of recent use. There are none, but we are suddenly attacked by 3 Stirges. We kill them and move on to the main house.

The rear door seems to be barricaded shut but the centre door, though locked, presents no problem to Traeven’s skills. We find ourselves in a small room with a large green dagger emblem on the wall.

We begin to search the building, carefully opening various doors and checking the different rooms. t one point we find 2 large stone statues of a portly merchant. I commit his image firmly to my memory. We are suddenly attacked by an ugly monstrous dog-like creature – a krenshar – but we kill it without too much difficulty, but clearly our presence here is no longer a secret.

In one room we find 5 desperate souls, severely stricken with what I recognize to be Blinding Sickness. I promise them help if they will give us any information. They tell us their superior is an elf called Cyrathus – and they believe he is somewhere upstairs.

We are searching the rooms as we go, and find a few small items we can make use of. In another room is a human corpse who seems to have died of dehydration. Is there no-one to care for these unfortunates?

In another room we find a dining table and chairs – in another is a kitchen area. In another, a Halfling attacks Traeven as he opens the door, wounding him severely. Ezio kills him, but I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of taking on this quest.

Ezio’s boldness nearly costs him dearly when he barges into another room. He is almost hit by a massive weighted ball. It is clear why this room is so well protected – we find various weapons and useful goods. Traeven now has 2 excellent rapiers. Aramil has a good quality long sword. I take an excellent shield. We resolve to return here before we leave to pick up the remaining equipment – we should get good recompense when we return to the city.

Finally we find ourselves in a very ornate and beautiful room. Stairs lead to the second level. As we advance we are hit by a falling chandelier – causing significant damage to our party. A figure appears on the landing above, and as Ezio advances to do battle he falls through a trap in the stairs. In the ensuing battle Cirian and Ezio go down before the enemy is finally killed by Aramil.

My healing powers are all but exhausted after this battle. If I cannot rest soon I fear we will rue this day before the sun sets. Ezio is in serious trouble – I possess insufficient strength to restore him.

We quickly gather some gold together and Cirian races into town to buy potions to come to his aid. To my great relief we are able to bring him back to us – but his powers are as yet not fully restored. I am virtually completely spent – I have almost nothing left to assist aside from my trusty hammer. Cirian is in similar difficulty.

Traeven is clearly unimpressed with how things have transpired thus far. We have just spent 100 gold to restore Ezio – and our reward for this endeavor is only 50 gold, to be split between the 5 of us. Traeven expresses his wish to renegotiate our fee when we return to see Theldrat. I am inclined to agree with my friends assessment of things. I must ask the opinion of the others.

We continue our searching, and find a small room with several doors, one sealed with strips of cloth. What can this mean?? Perhaps the source of the infection which afflicts the people downstairs?

Behind another door we find a large map of the River Quarter of town plus 2 ledgers of some detailed information. There are accounts of the Gang’s activities, details of members afflicted by the sickness and monetary details including the deal with Irontusk. I am intrigued as to why they used him for this task rather than the very accomplished gang member we killed on the stairs.

Yet another door leads us to find a wardrobe with 4 outfits of disguise hanging there. Intriguing. A small chest offers 3 emeralds which we keep.

Finally we emerge onto a walkway between the 2 halves of the upper storey of the building. It is coated with pigeon droppings and filth, but clearly we must cross and see where it leads.
 

Session #3

As scribed by Roku Gimball

As we begin to walk carefully across, I take the opportunity to have a quiet word with Traeven. It concerns me that earlier he tried to steal some loot which he found in one of the rooms – and I question him as to whether he intended to share it with me later. His reply – “Maybe” – concerns me still further.

I remind him of my ability to heal him of his wounds – and pointedly suggest that the time may well occur in the future when I may be forced to decide which one of the ailing members of this party may receive my ministrations, and which may be left to suffer. He seems unimpressed with these words. It seems my point is not yet effectively made.

I have decided to put him to the test. He possesses a potion which has been identified by Cirian, which he clearly has no intention of sharing with the rest of us. I shall ask him to divulge to me the identity of this potion. If he refuses, it is clear his decision is made.

I find his attitude intriguing. When we first joined forces, I needed his expertise to teach me about surviving on the streets. He needed me to heal him after his various misadventures. But our circumstances have changed – I am now surrounded by a party of skilled companions who can come to my aid – and everyone of them needs me to assist them. In short – I don’t need him yet he still needs me.

If he refuses my request – I feel that a hard lesson may need to be learned. I feel no moral dilemma in this decision – one life is no more valuable than another and I must make my decisions based on how I will best survive this new life I find myself involved in.

We cross the walkway – go through the locked doors and find ourselves in an unusual small room filled with drapes hanging from the ceiling all around us. It is difficult to see – and we are attacked by two more halfling rogues, with Traeven falling through the floor and being hurt – before we are able to kill them, remove the drapes, and conduct a thorough search. We find a small door leading to a corridor ending in another locked door. We are now roughly above the stables we searched earlier.

Entering, we find a beautifully decorated ornate room featuring a golden throne with gems and silver inlay. Seated on it is the tall, lean, well dressed elf we have been looking for. Cyrathus. The floor is covered in oil, and he has a candle suspended in mid-air above the oil, held there by his powers. We are in a perilous position indeed, but my assessment of him is that we could kill him if we fight well together.

He accuses us of being the instigators of the disease which is killing his men. I am angered by this – accusing him in turn of failing to care for his gang and allowing at least one of them to die horribly. Eventually the story comes out – he says that some 2 weeks ago his men began to get sick and he was powerless to help. 2 days ago he was approached by a cleric of Boccob called Veltargo, who promised a cure if he was given the copper key. So Cyrathus hired Irontusk to do the job – but the potions he received from Veltargo in return have so far been ineffective.

He seems to know nothing about the use of the key – but describes Veltargo to us – an unclean looking individual with dirty nails and bad teeth. And he clearly has possession of the missing book from the town library. In spite of this convoluted story we are inclined to believe him – but what a complex manner for Veltago to use to acquire the key. Why would he not simply steal it himself??

We decide to leave immediately and look for Veltargo in the marketplace while we are cashing in our purloined goods. Then we go to the church of Boccob to see if they know anything of this bogus cleric. The church is surrounded by the men of the town guard. They are clearly incensed by the loss of their precious book and are questioning everyone rigorously.

Cirian – a devotee of Boccob – tries to get information and is eventually seen by a man called Altamaic the Calm. When asked about Veltargo, Altamaic pales visibly and admits that he was robbed of his clothing by such a man about a month previously. He managed to tear a pendant away from his attacker during the robbery and gets it for us to keep.

It is made from stone in the shape of a clenched fist squeezing a drop of blood. Apparently it is called a “Cairn Charm” and is typically hung in tombs in the Cairns Hills to our north. Each tomb has a different charm – and the tombs are often used by thugs and robbers as hideouts. We need to know more about which particular tomb this charm comes from so Cirian and Traeven head to the library to do some research while the rest of us sleep.

Next morning we find they were not allowed into the library so we decide to consult with Allustan for information as to how to proceed. Cirian informs Allustan of what we know – and Allustan tells us that the stolen book has great value. The book is centuries old, and over the years has resisted all attempts to open it. No-one knows what it contains. He feels that to have a valuable mysterious book which cannot be opened – and a key – both go missing at the same time by the same perpetrator, can hardly be a coincidence.

He tells us the pendant is from the Tomb of Blood Everflowing – a place some 2 days west of Diamond Lake. Roughly northeast of Greyhawk. He suggests there would likely be a substantial reward for the books return and assures us he will be safe without our help – so we decide to set off to the Cairn Hills.

On the travel, Cirian determines that my new shield has some magical qualities, but is unable to be clearer than that. This is excellent news for me.

On the afternoon of the third day we arrive at the tomb. It has been an uneventful journey. Two blood red obelisks mark the entrance. There is no sign of recent activity – though no plants or animals can be seen anywhere. We find a marble staircase heading inside.

We enter, with myself at the lead, and find a stone skull set in the ceiling with blood pouring from its mouth into a well. As the well overflows the blood runs along a channel in the floor. We continue into a strange shaped room with 10 sarcophagi, broken open and looted. The walls are covered with an ancient text which Cirian identifies as a long forgotten form of the language of the Suel. The walls are covered with names of Suel noblemen.

Traeven is acting very strangely – he is hanging back and is clearly very reluctant to enter this place. I have never seen him frightened before, even though we notice bloody foot marks on the floor.

We continue into an area with another bath-like pool of blood. On the wall are strange irregular indentations. It is noticed that the indents are the same shape as the pendant – and as Cirian inserts the pendant and twists, a secret door opens draining out the blood and showing the way forward.

We proceed – almost having to drag Traeven through, and head down more stairs. Suddenly we find 3 zombies and kill them after a hard fight where Traeven is nearly killed. I notice that Aramil becomes very animated during this fight. His eyes light up with battle lust and he wades in with no thought for his personal safety. An impressive sight from our secretive ranger!!

The zombies are all missing one hand and one eye. Clears signs of Vecna. And indeed there are more symbols of Vecna to be found as we continue. We find some abandoned clothing and some containers to search, but nothing useful. We have another fierce fight with 4 more zombies and again Aramil becomes wildly violent as he battles them. We find a very old sarcophagus – again looted – this time with symbols of Wee Jas engraved on it.

We are gradually heading downward – at one point finding ourselves in a room where we are attacked by a swarm of undead rats. A difficult battle but we are again triumphant. I can feel my abilities growing as we encounter new and different foes.

We eventually come to a large blood pool. There seems no way around. Thankfully its not too deep – perhaps 3 feet or so – and as we see a landing over the other side we agree to wade across. We throw a couple of the zombie bodies in to see if anything happens – and then we all enter.

We are halfway across when several skeletons rise from the blood all around us. Let us hope that Aramil is as keen to fight these as he is to fight zombies.
 

From the Journal of Traeven
I write this journal entry with some haste, as there are tasks I must attend to. We are not long returned from Cairn Hills and our adventures within the Tomb of Blood Everflowing, may the Gods curse that foul place.

I feel quite ashamed… my fears of dark, close places has been revealed to the party, as I was rooted to the spot at the mere thought of entering the tomb. It was only due to the strong ‘urging’ of Roku that I was able to force myself to enter. If only my newfound companions knew of my childhood, and the torment I endured, they might be more understanding.

Roku writes that he is concerned with my actions whilst in the halls of the Green Dagger guild, such that it was. I must confess that I am equally concerned by his change demeanour towards me. In all our travels in the past, he has never shown any concern as to the sleight of hand manner in which I have acquired the odd coin here and there. Whether he knows it or not, he has shared the benefit of my skills in this regard.

Maybe this is the truth of it, maybe he does not know how I have acquired coin in past times of need. Is his concern that I attempted to keep this small bounty secret from the party, or just from him?

He has hinted at the possibility of withholding healing from me should he not be able to fully trust me. Such suggestion hurt me deeply, however I hope I was able to hide this from him in my reaction. My first impulse was to suggest to him that I spend as much time behind him as I do in front, though he does not have eyes in the back of his head.

I resisted say such to him though, we have been through too much, and our friendship means too much to me for it to sour in this way. Again, maybe if Roku understood more about my upbringing in this unforgiving city, he would be more accepting of my actions.

Roku writes that he believes my need of him and his healing abilities is greater than his need of me and my skills. Although my skills have served us well in our past travels, I will admit that I have not covered myself in glory in recent days with regards to these skills. Whilst at the moment Roku’s belief may hold some truth, it is my hope that as my skills improve, my value to Roku and the group will also improve. All that I ask is that I am given the opportunity to prove this so.

There is so much that these people do not know about me, and it is this not knowing that I believe plants the seed of mistrust where there is no cause to be so. In my years growing up I spent much of my time caring for and protecting weaker children who were struggling to survive the streets much as I was.

But in order to care for them, I had to first care for myself – and if that meant withholding food or coin from them from time to time, so be it. What good would I be to them if I were to sacrifice myself for the few who had no hope of surviving even with my help?

This city holds so much pain for me, and my newfound companions have no idea of the true depth of it. And the pain of my childhood is but a drop in the bucket of misery that is… was… my life here. And the worst of my pain is the not knowing…
 

Session 4

As scribed by Roku Gimball

As the skeletons rise – I see a priest standing on the landing appearing to control them. He holds a scythe and a symbol of Weejas. He casts a spell on me, and I feel terror take control of my body and I turn and flee.

Fortunately the effect is short-lived and I return to the fight to find the skeletons all vanquished and my companions battling the cleric. He soon falls under our combined attacks.

We loot him of his equipment and, committing the first of many serious errors of this day. We pass through this room to doors at the far end, walking past more symbols of Vecna everywhere.

We open the doors to see a large, well-armoured human who seems to be casting spells as we enter. There is a large stone statue with a stand before it. On the stand sits an open book. Surely the book we seek!!

The human who, judging from his appearance, is clearly the mysterious Veltago, utters the words, “Arise, oh Blessed One!” and immediately the huge skeleton of an OwlBear rises from a pool in the room.

A spiritual weapon manifests right beside me and a massive and difficult battle ensues. We fight hard – taking many serious blows and injuries. We are extremely fortunate to prevail. The OwlBear is vanquished and Veltago killed – but I consider we are all very lucky to not be killed.

We take the book – and find a note saying, “Veltago, remain here and guard the temple. We’ll return as soon as we gather the necessary components as required by the book. Soon all the unholy secrets will be within our grasp”.

It is signed with the letters – F.O.

Cirian studies the book carefully – it seems many pages have been recently removed - but he can read the language of draconic in which it is written. The book is a study of the means whereby to create large and powerful undead creatures. This information is an affront to all I believe in and I am much disturbed by this knowledge.

We pass through more doors and passages without further confrontation – eventually emerging into the sunlight some short distance from the original entrance. We head back to town – intent on taking the book back to the library.

We now make our second major mistake of the day. We had not agreed on the best course of action when we arrive and, after asking to speak to someone in authority and being ushered into the presence of one of the librarians, Cirian, Ezio and myself all begin speaking about the book at once.

The librarian becomes very irritated and demands to know if we have the book in our possession. He refuses to allow us to speak to anyone of higher authority. I am most concerned by his questions.

How do we know if he is to be trusted? How do we know if we return the book to him, its contents will be kept safe?

Not knowing the books contents, he is only concerned that he get his property back – but I cannot risk this happening. My belief is that there is much more at stake here than mere concern for the return of stolen property to its rightful owner.

I decide to leave as quickly as I can to assure the books safety. I fully expect to be arrested and I am content if this occur. I can then explain myself fully to someone of authority and at least make as certain as I can that the book will be secure.

As we leave, Cirian has a good idea. He suggests that we take the book to the Church of Pelor. They are the experts in matters of this kind, and should be understanding of the need for secrecy and security.

We do this, speaking to an acolyte called Faelen, and leaving the book in his care. I ask him if he is capable of helping the poor wretches of the Green Dagger Gang. I remember to my shame that I promised them help many days ago and I have forgotten them since we left for the Cairn Hills.

When I tell him of the area where the gangs hideout is – he suddenly appears most surprised. He tells us that, 3 days ago, Pelor priests were called to this house and asked to remove these people. He says they found individuals whose bodies burst open with a flood of green worms before they died. This is becoming more and more disturbing as we learn more – and now I notice Aramil seems to be becoming unwell. One minute he seems fine, the next quite sickly.

On return to the church we find the Town Guard waiting for us. Faelen had taken the book back to the library and they had realised what had happened.

We are questioned as to why we had lied – and we honestly tell them of our concerns about the books contents. We are fortunate again, and after meeting with Iquander the head librarian, we find they are so happy to have their book returned that they actually offer us a generous reward.

We further find out that the sick members of Cyrathus’ gang seemed to suddenly be energized just before they died, and rose up from their beds to attack him, whereupon he fled for his life.

I do not know what to make of all this information, and am deeply troubled. Our troup must now decide what action to next take. Some discussiuon is had of returning to Diamond Lake. This is not for me – I shall be staying here and attempting to lend my help to try and alleviate the evils which seem about to transpire.

My world is being threatened, and I must do what I can to stop the message of this evil book from being perpetrated on us all. It is up to all the others to act as their conscience dictates.

These last 2 days have been terrible. I failed to bring my promise of help to the wretched members of the Green Dagger Gang. Even though they were clearly involved in some criminal ventures, they surely did not deserve this disgusting fate.

I failed during the fighting in the tomb – and we are all indeed fortunate to not have died yesterday. Then I further failed in my attempts to keep the book safe, and made an enemy of the keepers of the book in the process, even though I am comfortable with the reasons I behaved as I did.

I am very fortunate to not be dead, or at least in jail. And I am 250 gold pieces the richer. Truly Blerred looks after his own, and I am grateful. Now I must concentrate on finding and killing the writer of the note to Veltago.

The question I must now answer is – “Who is F.O.??”
 

Session 5

As scribed by Roku Gimball

As soon as possible we gather to discuss how best to proceed. We are all in agreement that we must act to prevent FO's plans from succeeding. We enquire around town as to whether anyone has any knowledge of his name but find no clues at all. No-one at the library or at the Church of Pelor has any information of any value.

Allustan has left us a message that he would appreciate our return to Diamond Lake to continue to help him, and based on his interest and valuable input last time we sought his assistance, we decide to return there to counsel with him. We quickly make the return journey, seek him out and tell him all we know.

He tells us the following:
- A group of adventurers from Greyhawk is in the area. They intend to investigate the ‘Stirgenest Cairn’, one of many cairns in the vicinity. Even though most of them have been well searched and looted, this group believes the Stirgenest Cairn still contains some important secrets. This group consists of Auric, the holder of the Champions belt of Greyhawk, a female elf called Tirra and is led by Khellek, a member of the “Seekers”, a group who thirst for ancient knowledge and use it for personal power and gain.
- Allustan is a member of the “Order of Arcane Mystery”, also a group interested in ancient knowledge but who use it for the good of all. So Allustan is particularly keen to see the Seekers fail in their activities.
- Allustan also knows of a second cairn – the “Whispering Cairn”, reported to be haunted, which he believes contains undiscovered secrets pertaining to the ancients originally from this region. He suggests we investigate this cairn first and try to beat the Seekers in their hunt.
- Allustan further tells us that 2 days previously, a fight at a local tavern, the Feral Dog, had left one man dead. This individual was new to the town, and had been found possessing a symbol of Vecna when his body was buried. Allustan suspects a connection between groups holding allegiance to Vecna in both Greyhawk and Diamond Lake – and believes we can find out more about FO by following up this tenuous lead.

He promises to reward us should we find items of value to return to him, so we hastily venture to the Whispering Cairn, only an hour or so from where we currently sit. Its a simple journey – and the entrance easy to find for one of Traeven's skills.

Dog-like tracks surround the entrance area. We enter a wide dark corridor with rough hewn walls, a dusty floor with more paw prints and clumsy unskilled etchings on the walls. There is an eerie soft wind howling all around us.

We find a few mouldy piles of rubbish, scattered clothing – and notice a faint flickering green light in the distance. The corridor opens out on both sides into a large oval alcove. We investigate – and on one side find a small marble platform supporting a strange arcane symbol which appears somewhat broken. It is surrounded by some damaged pieces of a shiny black stone-like material (possibly obsidian) and we collect some for Allustan.

Cirian examines the object and tells us it is covered with runes and glyphs telling of air elementals, written in their language, that of Vaati – an ancient form of Auran. He cannot read its specifics but there is word of "transportation". We take rubbings and copies – and move on.

The opposite alcove is hopelessly blocked by a great fall of rubble – so we proceed further northward down the main corridor. We are suddenly confronted by 3 wolves but have little trouble disposing of them.

We find their den filled with detritus – but discover an old leather bag containing a beautiful ornate lantern with indigo coloured glass panels, and also a marble finger broken from a statue, and a lovely carved leather armband sporting a repeating leaf motif, unmistakenly elven in form. We keep all three and move on.

On the other side of the corridor is a large, faded fresco painted on the walls. It shows a large room with 7 hallways exiting from it like spokes from a wheel. At the end of each hallway a chain hangs from the ceiling ending in a lantern exactly like the one I now have in my backpack.
The 7 lanterns are coloured, clockwise around the circle, in Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.

We continue, burning our way past a thick blockage of spiders webs, down a wide stairway and emerge in a huge chamber. The 7 hallways can be clearly seen. We are obviously in the room depicted by the fresco above.

The lanterns can be observed hanging some 5 feet from the floor – the other end of the chain disappears into the lofty heights of the room. The green lantern is emitting a faint flickering light from an everburning torch and the red and indigo lanterns are missing from their chains.

There is a large marble sarcophagus in the middle of this room with the bas relief of a very tall human-like figure on it. He is clothed in flowing cloth, is quite without any hair, of indeterminate gender, and has one of his fingers broken off. He wears a scarab amulet around his neck.
The sarcophagus sits on a raised platform carved like an arrow – pointing West down the Orange hallway.

We search the area carefully, very keen to find the missing red lantern. Nothing. Aramil looks in the sarcophagus, taking minor damage from a trap, but it is otherwise empty. As we search we notice that, under each of the lanterns positions, there is a 5 foot circle etched into the floor – but otherwise find nothing of use.

I am able to successfully reattach the broken finger to the figure on the sarcophagus, but again, this seems to achieve no response.

We return to the fresco on the wall and try to compare it to the room below – and notice that, in the picture, the sarcophagus is aligned differently. In the picture it is pointing to the North – 90 degrees from where it now sits.

We move back to the sarcophagus and try and force it to rotate on its base. As it moves we feel a clicking, a great rumbling underfoot and at the end of the Yellow hallway a 5 foot diameter metal cylinder rises out of the ground some 8 feet above the floor. 2 thin doors open in its surface revealing the cylinder to be hollow inside, but with a stone cap which perfectly matches the floor when it descends.

We decide to put one of the wolf carcasses inside and immediately the doors close and the cylinder descends. We attempt to return the sarcophagus to its former position, intrigued by what may have happened to the wolf’s body, but all our combined strength will not move it again.

So we now push it further in the opposite direction again – towards the Green position.
This time there is an agonising creaking of stone on stone. The floor buckles under the Green lantern and the stone circle cracks. No cylinder rises, but instead we hear the skittering noise of millions of tiny feet.

Then a living geyser of beetles bursts from the hole and we are attacked by the swarm. This is a hard battle indeed – made harder still when a large spider like creature joins them to fight us. Most of our weapons and powers are useless against them, but we prevail in the end.

Looking down the hole we see the damaged cylinder and decide to go down there – still keen to find the missing red lantern and complete the image of the room above. Ezio takes the everburing torch from the Green lantern and we all easily climb down.

Below, we are only able to move further to the north – other directions are blocked. Dozens of bas relief figures line the walls as we move down yet another corridor. We shortly come to a cross path. To the right we see a small low shelf covered with a thick orange coloured paste with many more small beetles appearing to feast on it.

Again they swarm and attack us – helped by their dam, a massive ugly beast which advances aggressively. Another difficult fight but we are again successful, killing the large beetle and burning the nest.

We discover, caught up in the orange paste of the nest, the skeletized remains of 3 humans. They wear the red leather armour and sport the 8 pointed star symbol of the Seekers. A careful search finds 3 potions, a pearl, and a beautiful ring.

We then go to the other arm of the 4 way cross in the pathway. We find ourselves in a room with 8 man-sized stone slabs spaced out in the room. Each is some 4 feet raised off the floor, and one supports the corpse of a warrior clad in the characteristic red leather armour we are now familiar with. He appears to have been terribly crushed and beaten by a massive weapon of some kind.

We are attacked by yet another large beetle but are able to kill it with relative ease, even though some of our party are being affected by this room. They are becoming sorely tired and incapable of much effective action.

We see a large statue in this room, of a great warrior armed with a huge stone club. The state of the corpse on the slab makes us suspect that this statue may indeed be a stone or clay gollum, and coupled with the tiring effects of this room, this knowledge makes us very unwilling to linger here any longer. We leave – and thankfully the fatiguing effects felt by Aramil and Traeven immediately lift.

We continue to the north – 30 feet forward we see more stone steps leading further downward. On we go. May Blerred protect me and my valiant companions.
 

Session 6 - The Whispering Cairn

As scribed by Roku Gimball

We continue forward – past 2 small alcoves in the walls which seem built to hold clothing hanging from pegs. There have been several similar findings to this since we began this strange journey. We carefully descend the steps ahead, to find our way barred by floodwater before we reach the stairs base.

A large wall blocks our view just a few feet ahead, so Aramil moves into the water to try and see around it. He is attacked by a small water elemental but kills it easily – and is able to report back to us that there appears to be a small opening in the side wall of the room – perhaps a way through. Traeven refuses to join us as we swim and walk clumsily through the 8 foot deep water. He is clearly terrified down here in these dark and sinister passages.

We find another small room with niches in the walls – it appears to be yet another area for the changing of ones vestments. There is another dead Seeker in here – long passed some half a century. And we also find the missing red lantern which I happily stash in my pack.

As we leave Aramil is attacked by a ghoul, and goes down before Ezio is able to kill it. We search the area thoroughly, finding some coins and a ‘Seeker’ ring.

We return to the ‘sarcophagus’ room, collecting Traeven as we go – and decide to investigate the Blue corridor more carefully. Earlier we had noticed a dead body at the end – with many fractured bones as if it had fallen some distance.

We collect dry fuel and light all the lanterns, but aside from a disorienting effect from the multi-coloured lights flashing, this elicits no change at all.

The ceiling appears somewhat higher over the end of the Blue corridor, where the broken body lies, so Ezio throws his grappling hook up to see if we can ascend. It holds- so we climb up to find a narrow passage some 70 feet long ending in a large human statue. The walkway appears to disappear into its silent screaming mouth.

Drag marks in the floor leading back over the edge to the Blue corridor below make us very wary of what lies ahead. Clearly we must be most careful not to follow in the path of the unfortunate corpse below us.

Traeven finds a pressure plate trap in the floor beneath our feet, some 10 or 20 feet before we reach the mouth of the statue. He uses all his considerable ability to disable it, but is still unsuccessful.

There seems no way forward – so we return down the rope. We move the sarcophagus around to all the points – cylinders rise at the Indigo corridor where we find a few more coins and a ruby gem stone, and at the Yellow corridor where we find the wolfs body untouched. We place it in the Indigo cylinder and the cylinder descends. We hear crunching noises, and rotate the sarcophagus fully again to check the wolfs body. It has been crushed and broken by a great force.

With no better idea as to how to proceed, we return to consult with Allustan. He is intrigued by the copies and rubbings from the small arcane symbol we found earlier and offers us some gold for them and the shards of broken black glass. He suggests the following – we should keep the lanterns. They may be ‘the key to unlocking another area’.

Allustan says he will investigate the Vaati, and tells us of other cairns in the area, the Cairns of the Wind Duke, known to be trickily built to hide the true tomb from raiders and looters. He he suggests the sarcophagus is likely to be a false tomb, and there are probably many false leads in these tombs.

Perhaps the area downstairs is the real tomb, perhaps the upper area. The sophisticated traps suggest we may be on the right track – but he counsels to be wary that a strong wind may emanate from the mouth of the statue, blowing intruders over the edge to their doom.

Allustan is also concerned about the growing number of ‘Seeker’ bodies. The Seekers have clearly been on this hunt for decades and they must surely be aware of the loss of a large number of their companions. There is no time to lose.

We must rest for the night however.

One of the rings we found earlier is identified as a “Ring of Feather Fall” – and we decide that Traeven is the logical member of the party to hold this precious item. We make haste early the next morning, buying torches and lamp oil and quickly returning to the sarcophagus room.

We spend a frustrating time lighting the lanterns, turning the sarcophagus to the correct orientation as depicted by the fresco – for no effect at all.

We return up the rope to the statues mouth – and this time Traeven is successful in disabling the trap – but still our way is barred. The statues mouth, which appeared to be a tunnel, is actually completely blocked and we can find no way through.

But finally, when we re-light the lanterns below and return, the blockage is gone and the way forward revealed.

A 3 foot wide beam stretches before us, spanning an open chasm. We can vaguely discern small fist-sized spheres below, but have no idea how far below us is the floor. The beam stretches some 50 feet across to a portal of some kind – and the walls on the sides are pocked with dozens of holes, suspiciously similar in size to the spheres we see below. This appears very like a fairground shooting gallery, and we the hapless targets.

Traeven's acute sense of danger warns him against traversing the beam too far – and we decide instead to lower him slowly down to see if he can find the floor. He sinks a foot or so into the spheres and finds a solid surface – but as he moves across the balls begin to fire out from the walls and he must shelter under the beam. Then he is attacked by a grick – a disgusting beast with flailing tentacles.

We pull Traeven out. The grick follows and we kill it after a brief, bloody battle.

Then, we suddenly hear an eerie voice, seeming to materialize from the air around us. The translucent body of a young teenage boy shimmers into existence in the room, saying “I thought you would all die just like the others”.

He has long black fingernails, tattered farmers clothing and a crazed demonic look in his eye.

He attempts to make a deal with us. He tells us his name is Alastor Land. He says he’s been here for decades, trapped by a curse and punished for abandoning his family in need.

He tells us that beyond the portal we see at the other end of the beam, is a ‘pillar of air’. The portal will only open from the other side – and he will open it for us if we will collect his bones from this place and return them to his family’s farm – to be interred there with the rest of his loved ones. This will free him from the curse.

He directs us to where his bones lie and as we search we find a few more coins and some useful armour. Apparently his family farm is only some 10 minutes walk from Diamond Lake.

We seem to be out of options. There is no other way through the portal we see ahead, and I have sympathy for this tormented soul. We agree – gather up his remains as best we can and make our way to the farm at our best speed.
 

Session 7 - To the farm

As scribed by Roku Gimball

The farmhouse is obviously long abandoned and in a state of total disrepair.

It stands in a small clearing on a bluff – and there are 5 grave sites just outside the yard, all showing signs of having been recently opened and their contents removed.

The headstones read:-
Anders Land : 531-564 CY.
Bernissa Land : 534-576 CY.
Coldaran Land : 550-576 CY.
Gertia Land : 563-576 CY.
Allastor Land : 552-

The year is now 595 CY – so the last 3 members of this family died some 19 years previously, and their graves show the 4 petal motif of the Red Death Plague.

Aramil notes 5 different booted footprints around the gravesites and heading up to the farm house. And 4 of them coming back again at a fast pace. And also wheelbarrow tracks mixed with the 4 boot prints heading back towards Diamond Lake.

We cautiously approach the house, and enter to find obvious evidence of a recent bloody fight. Puddles of blood and chunks of flesh several days old.

In one room is a wounded owlbear protecting a small owlbear cub. It attacks us and we have no option but to kill it. Its mate is already dead in the room. We find a human arm sporting the tattooed symbol of one Garavin Vest – a man well known to us. He was a greedy mine owner from some time back – he had a habit of branding all his employees, but was bankrupted by Balabar Smenk who took over his mines. He died a pauper a year or so ago.

Aramil captures the owlbear cub. It is worth much gold – and the alternative is to leave it here to die.

Finding nothing else of value we bury Alastor's remains in his grave. I say some appropriate words to send his soul to a peaceful rest and we hastily return to the Whispering Cairn to try and pass through the portal in the room where Alastor's restless spirit is trapped.

We explain to Alastor what has transpired in our absence. He is bewildered that he has not passed over. He thinks we have made some kind of error and haven’t kept our word and returned his remains to their resting place.

I try to convince him that he hasn’t passed over because he needs to open the portal for us first. I suggest that his spirit would not allow him to leave without first honouring his promise to us.

It is not my intention to deceive him – I would intend to figure out why he hasn’t passed over and make good my word. But I also want the portal opened.

He is not to be convinced – and on further discussion we realise that his remains need to be buried “with his family”. It is the absence of his loved ones remains, from their graves, that makes it impossible for him to join them.

He is somewhat mollified and tries to help us figure out why his family's bones would be robbed. He isn’t able to clarify things greatly.

His father died, his mother cared for the children before the plague struck. He feels like he failed them all somehow, and feels inexplicably drawn to the strange place he now haunts and is unable to leave.

We have but one lead to follow. The severed arm with the Garavin Vest tattoo. Clearly we must track down the other 4 individuals who robbed the graves.

We head back to town – get some much needed rest – sell the owlbear cub to a carnival owner – then set out to hunt these men down.

Cirian speaks to Allustan who promises to investigate and let us know what he finds.

Traeven puts the word out on the streets, and we soon get news of a group of ex-Garavin men who now work for Smenk. They are led by an albino half-orc called Kullen and frequent the Feral Dog – so we head there in the early evening to await their arrival.

We sit in separate groups, and attempt to get involved in the nights entertainment. Ezio places a few bets on a dog-fight. Aramil accepts the challenge of a female elf who is taking on all-comers in dagger throwing contests. It transpires that this is the same elf – Tirra – who is part of the group of 3 adventurers led by the Seeker known as Khellek.

In due course Kullen and his group arrive. He is a huge ugly brute sporting the mark of Garavin on his face.

The others are a varied lot – one is small and wiry with long black hair. Another is solidly built with a short brown crew cut. His face bears long red scars all down the left side. And the third is an unpleasant looking, bald, very thin man in long flowing robes.

We notice that the crowd, themselves a very rough and tough bunch, treat Kullen's group with great care and deference. They move quickly away to leave a table vacant, and many patrons greet Kullen in a very ingratiating manner.

We hover around to try and overhear any snippets of useful conversation – but with the din in this place it is useless. Eventually we take the initiative and I order a round of drinks and loudly propose a toast to Traeven as the “fearless slayer of the OwlBear”.

This gets their attention – and Kullen approaches us – feigning friendship with Traeven and offering to buy a round of drinks. The others stay back in what we hope is a subtle manner – but they are always ready to leap to our aid should things become difficult.

There then follows a tense conversation between Kullen and Traeven. Kullen bluntly asks what business we had in being at the farmhouse. Traeven is loath to divulge much and the atmosphere becomes heated. I feel that one wrong word will cause a fight to erupt – and this will not be to our advantage. Win or lose – we will not get what we came for, the whereabouts of the Land’s family's remains.

Knowing my friend as I do, I can see that he would be happy to challenge Kullen. So I decide to join in the party. This beaks the tension. But we are still getting nowhere in our quest for information.
In the end I put it to Kullen bluntly. “Tell us where the remains you stole from the graves are and we will pay you.”

A price of 200 gold is agreed upon and Kullen tells us the bones are at the Old Observatory, in the care of “a crazy old goat named Filge.”

He adds – “bring me back that thin bastard's eyes”.

Traeven agrees, and tell's Kullen they will cost him 200 gold!

This renews Kullen's anger and, as Ezio begins to move closer, I break up the gathering and get our band together outside.

Traeven expresses the wish to return later to retrieve our money from this thug. Perhaps we will, perhaps not. We shall see what the future holds.

So we next head to the Observatory. Its a mere 5 minutes walk away, to the North, on a bluff overlooking an abandoned mine.

It is dark and decrepit. We see narrow stairs leading up to a first floor landing. A light flickers in one window.

We have already decided to take whatever actions are required to retrieve the bones. It is unlikely that Filge is up to anything but some sinister involvement in the plot of the mysterious FO. For what other reason would one require the remains of the dead??

Traeven finds an unlocked wooden door hidden under the landing. We open it to enter – and are suddenly attacked by a tiny flying undead creature.
 

Session 8 – The Observatory

As scribed by Roku Gimball

Cirian informs us that the small creature is a Tomb Mite – and it is so fast that it manages to bite Traeven before Ezio can kill it.

We move up the stairs ahead and find ourselves on a wide landing facing 2 huge wooden doors covered in dark blue mould. An enormous round jabbering face is carved in their surface.

Traeven unlocks the door and I enter first – my ability to see well in these dark places has enabled me to spot 3 skeletons inside. They are hiding behind a rough barricade of debris and broken furniture in the room – but we advance and kill them quickly.

On close inspection of their bones it is obvious they have died of the Red Death. Perhaps they are the missing members of the Land family?

But, if so, there is still one member missing, whose remains we must find if we are to fulfil our promise to Alastor. We gather up their bones – but alas, Traeven is rapidly becoming very ill. The speed with which he lapses into a senseless stupor is startling.

On Cirians advice we decide to abandon our quest temporarily. Traeven is clearly in the throes of some insidious disease. We head back to town – hide the bones – and try and find a healer who can assist us.

Unfortunately it is the middle of the night – so we wait a short time while I prepare spells to help Traeven, and at first light I am able to remove the affliction from him. Then we return quickly to the Observatory.

We begin to check out the various rooms -finding some small items of value and dispensing of the odd skeleton as we go – but finding none showing evidence of Plague.

Eventually we find ourselves in a large dining room. A disgusting stench of rotting flesh assaults our nostrils. A large dining room set for 10 dominates the room. 9 places are set with large heaped plates of fresh food and filled wine glasses. But the 9 chairs are each occupied by decomposing bodies of various races and gender.

Noticing tiny movements in some of the bodies, we suspect they might be in some stage of animation – so I suggest killing them all without delay. It’s agreed, and we complete this grisly task with all speed.

A search finds nothing of value – so we continue to another large well-furnished room with lovely rugs, and a large comfortable bed in one corner. Against one wall stands a small form wrapped like a Mummy, and wearing a fancy waistcoat and a top hat. In its hands is a silver platter on which stands a severed head, the protruding purple tongue supporting a solitary platinum piece.

Against another wall is a massive white stone statue – almost angelic in appearance – with a beatific smile of great beauty on its face. Across the base of the statue is emblazoned the word – FILGE. Clearly the inhabitant of the bizarre place has a somewhat distorted image of themself.

We search the room thoroughly – finding papers with information pertaining to surgery, and undead. Others contain only the mad scribblings of a crazed mind.

We find a scroll – and 4 tubes containing liquid coloured blue, red, yellow, and white with black streaks. 2 more tubes are missing from this container. The work “Necroturgen” is hand written on them. What does this mean?

The liquid appears to be moving slightly in the tubes. There is a pelt of an adult Llamasu on the floor – a flying lion, and a most holy beast.

We also find a note –

“Filge,
I need you in Diamond Lake, my boy.
The cult situation has grown worse. Deep within Dourstone Mine they’re studying things brought in from the southern hills. Green worms and unkillable zombies. I nicked one of the worms for you to study.
I’ll put you up in the Old Observatory. Show this letter to the big white half-orc at the Feral Dog. He’ll help you get settled. I trust you’ll find these coins sufficient to cover your travel from the Free City.
S.”

It seems clear this note is written by Smenk.

We know that Kullen is in his employ and we know that Smenk’s men have been seen working to fit out the Observatory for habitation – this was reported in the newspapers.

But the tone of the note does not suggest that Smenk knows about the evil behaviour of the inhabitant of this place – presumably Filge. Perhaps Filge is deceiving Smenk??

We go up a final flight of stairs to the top floor. A large room confronts us – mirrors in all corners and a sunken area in the centre with an operating table set in the middle. 4 large glass tanks at each corner of that, each containing a slowly writhing humanoid figure covered with a pale yellow liquid. A dark figure stands in the operating area, a skeleton at his side. He is singing softly in a low hacking voice.

Noticing our arrival – he says in disgust “Seriously, can I not work in peace?? Why are you bothering me??” – Then he mumbles “Arise my beautiful monstrosities!!”

3 trogolodytes and a bugbear emerge from the tanks and the final battle of the Observatory begins.

We are far too strong for this force and kill them all with relative ease. Late in the fight Filge attempts to save his own life by offering us information. We spurn this suggestion, and Traeven sends him to Hell with no remorse.

I borrow Traevens dagger and remove Filges eyes, ignoring the concerns of my companions. I have plans for these items – and I am not yet ready to speak of them.

We search the room thoroughly – finding a number of useful items. A dagger, an amulet with a bird skull on a leather thong, a key, a spell book, various silver implements of value, and a glass tube containing a slim green worm – identified as part of an undead creature “The Spawn of Kyuss”.

The skeletons bones show clear signs of having died of the Red Death Plague – hopefully the final member of the Land family – so we gather them up and prepare a rapid return to town.
 

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