"Out of the Frying Pan"- Book III: Fanning the Embers


Oh, nemm, if you don't see me on the boards, its because of the darkness I lurk in while reading threads.

I, like Trogdor, come in the night.

Great update.

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Session #41 (part I)

Session #41

Part One: The Descent Begins…

“Something happened,” Ratchis said, feeling the rope jerk and hearing the crunch of metal echo up from deep down in the pit. He had already lowered the lantern on the end of the rope over fifty feet and there was no bottom to be felt. He was able to notice however that thirty feet below the area expanded either into a room, or the shaft itself became wider.

The half-orc pulled what was left of the lantern up. The metal was twisted and the glass was broken, the lamp oil had all spilled out.

“There goes yet another lantern,” Martin sighed.

Ratchis looked over at him annoyed.

“We’ll make do,” the ranger grunted.

“There used to be some kind of something built over this shaft,” Helrahd said, and hawked something green and yellow down into it.

Martin cringed.

Blodnath snorted his agreement with the red-haired dwarven scout, and pointed to scuffs in the stone, “Something was bolted at three points over this shaft, probably a winch mechanism of some kind for lowering things…”

“Or bringing things up,” Martin suggested.

The balding white-haired dwarf glared at the watch-mage. He placed a stone sliver he carried behind his ear in his mouth, and moved it back and forth with his tongue.

“We can rig something up so one or more of us can get lowered down easy,” Blodnath continued. He looked to the silent brown-haired dwarf behind him. “Ain’t that right, Baervard?”

The dwarf did not nod.

“Yeah,” Helrahd spit again. “We’ll take care of it.”

“I’m going down first,” Ratchis demanded.

“I don’t think many folks are gonna argue with ya,” Blodnath sneered, and set to getting the ropes with Helrahd and Baervard.

Soon, Beorth, Derek and Kazrack returned from having searched the perimeter of the monolith and the nearby area for some other way in whatever structure lay beneath. They had no luck.

“There could be some other entrance miles away if it is some kind of cave system,” Derek said.

“This is the only one we have. This is the one we are going to use,” Beorth said.

“We will be so vulnerable getting down there,” Martin said. “Whoever is on the ropes is at the mercy of whatever might be down there.”

“That’s why I’m going down first,” Ratchis repeated for the benefit of the newly arrived companions.

Helrahd snickered from ten feet away.

“And I’m going with you,” Beorth said.

“And we will send one of our number who is a good climber,” Captain Adalar said, stepping into the conversation.

“Why do we have to go down there at all?” Jeremy asked. He had his arms around his body as a cold wind brushed past them and swirled up the ash around them into miniature black cyclones. “We don’t know what is down there and whether it has anything to do with the gnomes.”

“The wight came here and he was under the control of the gnomes,” Kazrack said. “This could be their secret lair or something. It is certainly foul enough.”

“The boy might be right, however,” Now it was Belear’s turn to chime in. “The wight was not in control of the necromancer gnome once he was killed, but he came here anyway. He wasn’t sent here for all we know. This could be a time consuming sidetrack while our true goal is back in Garvan.”

Captain Adalar who moments before was ready to go down and explore, now carefully considered the elder priest’s words, “That could be true. Perhaps a more direct approach would be better than a delve into a dangerous and potentially irrelevant place. We do have time constraints. We came to aid the gnomes, but we do want to return to our people and give the news of the drow and aid them against the bear-men beasts.”

“Quaggoths,” Martin said. All the dwarves but Belear and Kazrack turned and glared at the watch-mage, who looked down.

“On the other hand,” Kazrack said, rubbing his chin. “There may be a tool, weapon or information in this place we can use against the fiends if this place is theirs, or once was theirs.”

Beorth nodded.

“You speak wisely,” Belear intoned.

“We explore it some and then come to a decision if it is necessary for us to continue,” Ratchis offered.

“This a foul place, where the darkness of evil reigns. I cannot leave here without attempting to destroy it,” Beorth said. “I can sense it from the very stone. I can smell it emanating from the pit.”

“That’s called rot,” Jeremy said, and he turned away, to watch for anyone or anything approaching as Blodnath called them over to the pit’s edge.

Derek followed the Neergaardian, and patted him on the back warmly, but he did not say a word.

Blodnath talked them through getting the rope harnesses he rigged up on. At the end of the rope were one large loop and two smaller ones askew from it, allowing someone to slip the rope around the waist and then put each leg through a smaller loop. As a person was lowered down, they need only steady themselves with the rope, and did not have to hold on. Two of the ropes were tied and looped around the statues, and a third around the headstone type flat stone at the top of the shaft for the third, and using pitons hammered into the stone as levers on the rope.

Ratchis was sent first.

The half-orc descended into the darkness of the shaft. He could see with the vision granted him by his sub-human lineage, but the glare of the sun from above still put a strange sheen on his vision and he found himself squinting. He looked up to see Baervard being lowered quickly after him.

They had worked out a system of tugs on the rope that told those doing the lowering when to stop, go up or continue down. And as the ten-foot shaft opened on either side of Ratchis, he tugged once meaning stop, as he just came into view of the area. The shaft continued down further than he could see with his darkvision.

Just where the shaft opened there was kind of shelf all around him. It was a round level ringed with a low wall and holding four large stone sarcophagi. He could see some kind of masks hanging from the spaces between the sarcophagi on the wall.

Ratchis slowly turned and surveyed the first level of the shaft, as Baervard was lowered even with him.

Baervard grunted and pointed down, and Ratchis looked in time to see two strange figures floating up towards them in the darkness. They were like wavering slices of shadow only visible where they crossed the meager light gleaming down from above, and thin slits of red glowing eyes.

They split from one another and swooped at both Ratchis and Barevard, but perhaps they were playing with this bait being lowered two them, because they missed.

“Undead shades!” Ratchis hollered up the shaft as he swung his long sword with one hand and steadied himself on the rope with the other. The thing easily flew out of his range, but it flicked a shadowy finger as it passed again, and Ratchis felt its cold touch cut him to the bone. He could feel his muscles cramp up as if they were slowly atrophying.

Baervard stabbed at the one that dogged him with a short sword, but his blow was ineffective, slipping through the thing as if it were not there.

Above, Beorth leaped out of the harness he was being helped into and ran over to Ratchis’ rope which was being held by Golnar, Tolnar and Jolnar.

“Pull him up! Pull him up!” the paladin cried, grabbing the front of the rope and starting.

“But he didn’t tug the rope,” complained Jolnar.

Kazrack looked down the shaft and called to his gods, “Lords and Ladies, please come to me and allow me to emit your divine will to force these creatures to flee from your sight!”

The shadow attacking Baervard took off in a straight line down into the darkness of the shaft, but the lower one still dogged Ratchis, and reached out and touched him easily as he spun on the rope, trying to fend it off. Again, he felt that deep cold down to his bone and soul, and his muscles shriveled even more. The rope began to burn his hand.

“Pull him up now!” Beorth commanded, and Captain Adalar nodded with a guttural bark and pointed. The paladin and the three young dwarves began to pull them up.

The half-orc jerked upward as the creature took another swipe at him and it missed.

Jeremy and Kirla began to quickly and smoothly pull up Baervard.

“Nephthys! Send this dark thing from my sight until such time that I can free it from the curse of unlife!” Ratchis cried, clutching his belt of bent, scored and broken chain links. The shadow fled down into the darkness of the shaft.

The two spelunkers were pulled all the way back to the top.

“This is too dangerous,” Ratchis said. “We need a better plan to handle this and we are weak from our fight.”

“We should leave these dead lands and make a camp and rest some,” Martin suggested. “We are all injured and some of us are suffering deeper wounds.” The watch-mage looked from Kazrack to Derek.

“Why not just camp here?” Kazrack asked. No one seemed to pay him any attention.

“I am loathe to leave this place and its undead to walk the world of the living for even one more night,” Beorth said without emotion. “Even if it is at the bottom of some pit.”

“Are you sure you’ve lost your memory?” Jeremy asked.

Beorth sneered.

“We cannot hope to succeed in our current condition and without a way of handling those shadow-creatures,” Belear offered.

Ratchis snorted his agreement, and soon the Fearless Manticore Killers and their dwarven allies were marching back across the ash that roiled up and burned their lungs and eyes.

The sun was an orange sliver ahead of them, as they got back to the embankment and climbed up panting and faces black with soot. They made camp.

Watches were set and a cold night fell.


It was decided that the next day would be taken doing nothing but resting. As the day waned, both Derek and Kazrack felt the weakness of the life drained from them make their bones aches and the spirit wither. Each fought a battle with that darkness within them, but while Derek overcame his peril, Kazrack felt the bite of shadow deep within himself. The darkness did not leave him, and the worry of doubt took up a space in his mind and in his faith and spirit. (1) He walked off to pray alone.

Tholem, 11th of Prem, 565 H.E.

As the previous day had been hot and the night had been cold, so again was the next day unusually hot. The sun seemed to press down on them as if to smother them with palpable heat. The air was so dry, their eyes stung them even before they began to march out across the acrid ash again, amid the tall often conical stone pillars.

In an hour’s time they were back at the monolith that marked the entrance to whatever subterranean tomb they had stumbled upon. They rubbed their burning eyes and wheezed, preferring the shards of bone to walk upon to the black ash.

It was deathly quiet, and the rotting remains of already rotting undead baked in the uncharacteristic early morning heat for this early spring morning. The ropes remained undisturbed, still coiled neatly by each stone they were anchored to. Soon, Ratchis, Kazrack and Beorth were putting on the harnesses to be lowered down.

Jeremy handed the Right Blade of Arofel to Beorth.

“Take care of her,” the Neergaardian said with a melodramatic smile.

“It’s a she?” Beorth asked, quizzically, it seemed amnesia had the same affect on his curious and sheltered nature as having been raised in a monastery had.

“It’s a sword,” Jeremy replied.

Ratchis and Kazrack both called upon their gods to enchant their weapons, and Ratchis went one step further and cast light upon his longsword as well.

They had not been long hanging in the darkness of the shaft, when Ratchis’ keen eyes spotted one of those shadowy undead creature swooping towards Beorth.

The half-orc reacted quickly and pulled belt of scored, twisted and broken chain links from around his waist and spun with all his strength.

“Nephthys, let you divine light send this thing away so we may penetrate the mystery of this tainted place!”

The show of divine power was too much for the thing and it fled back down the shaft.

“That will give us some time,” Ratchis said, turning to the others.

When they again arrived at the point where the shaft opened and revealed the ledge, Karack was able to shift his weight and begin to swing. He grabbed the stone ledge and pulled himself over the low wall.

Beorth tried to emulate the dwarf, but his lack of physical grace caused him some troubles and soon he was swinging back and forth wildly and spinning out of control. Above, Jeremy, Helrahd and Derek cursed and the rope twisted and burned in the hands.

“All those years of training and I end up a damned pulley operator,” Jeremy quipped.

It took Ratchis two tries to grab the ledge, but soon he was over as well, holding out Kazrack’s light flail for Beorth to grab on to, as he straddled the low wall and held on to a narrow stone support. Feeling more embarrassed than dizzy, Beorth was soon on the ledge as well.

The walked around the ledge, trailing their ropes behind them and pulling for slack, while trying to be careful not to tangle themselves up too much.

The sarcophagi were large, and a thick stone lid covered in etched runes covered each one. They were so long, there was barely a foot of space on either side of them on the ledge, as they pointed from head to foot in towards the shaft.

Beorth examined the runes, but did not recognize them. Nor, did Kazrack.

The floor of the ledge and the tops of the sarcophagi were thick with dust. It did not look as if anyone had stepped here in years and years. Kazrack pointed out some masks he found hanging about five feet high on the wall. There were four of them and they hung between pair of sarcophagi. They were a deep rust color and lacquered, and they had snouts like a gnoll’s, each with a different expression. One was bearing its teeth and seemed to be angrily growling. One had down cast eyes, and the snout was turned to the left, as if the turned away from whomever it was facing with a look of docility and fear. The snout of the third was scrunched and twisted, and the face was one that suggested pain, while the fourth was expressionless.

Beorth covered his eyes with his right hand and reached out woth his left, stretching out his senses to detect the presence of evil from the masks or sarcophagi, but except for the palpable sense of evil he could feel all around them, the objects did not seem to be tainted with darkness.

Kazrack called to Lehrathonar to allow him to sense dweomers – but there were none to be seen, except for the glow of Ratchis’ boots and white prayer shawl draped over Beorth’s shoulders. (2)

They disentangled themselves and gave the sharp double yank, causing those above to pull up the slack and yank the spelunkers up over the ledge wall and to swing back and forth in the pit. They swung there for a few moments, and then gave the signal to continue their descent.

It was only twenty more feet before they came to another ledge. This one also had a low wall, and had sarcophagi, but these were rectangular, though made of the same stone. However, they could see the lids on some were cracked.

Again, Kazrack easily maneuvered himself into a swinging arc to grab the ledge and climb over. Beorth also had an easier time of it, but Ratchis spun wildly for several moments. Ratchis glared at his companions who seemed to be ignoring him every time he spun round and saw them. Beorth and Kazrack took to looking around. There were more lacquered gnoll-face masks. Beorth noticed the angry one was hung crookedly on the wall.

“Maybe I should fix it,” Beorth suggested to Kazrack, but the dwarf did not hear. He had just notice that three narrow stone stairs led down to a lower ledge, and there was some clinking of metal and footsteps coming up one that was nearby.

Ratchis was finally able to steady himself on the spinning rope as those above swore in the terrible sun, but Kazrack did not notice. The dwarf yelled out, “Look!”

A figure ascended the final step. It was a skeletal figure dressed in ring mail armor and dressed in torn and filthy burgundy tabard that had some heraldry ripped from it. It held a long sword in one bony hand, but as it rose it pointed and finger and spoke a muttered word. Arrows of black light exploded from the creature’s finger and went racing towards Kazrack in a blink’s time.

The dwarf cried out as he felt a deep cold reminiscent of the wight’s touch, but just a shadow of that shadow. He staggered forward, swinging his flail and smashing the thing in the shoulder. It did not cry out. It’s only sound was the clinking of its armor and the cracking and stretching of leathery tendons.

Beorth turned as he saw a second one emerge from another stairway, to point at him and send two the cold arrows rocketing into his chest.

Ratchis finally grabbed the lip of the ledge wall only to feel the sharp cut of a long sword blade across his forearm. He yanked his arm back and rolled over the wall an onto his feet cursing under his breath. He had his long sword in his hand.

“Anubis, using be as a vessel to fill with your divine might and send these creatures from here so we may better purge this place of evil,” Beorth cried, and a wave of positive energy erupted from him, and his white shawl began to glow, filling the ledge with pure white light.

The creature hanging over Ratchis turned and the half-orc took his opportunity to cleave into its hip bone. It wobbled, but continued to hurry away towards the staircase it had emerged from. The one that had attacked Beorth also fled and the paladin thrust his sword through its rib cage as it turned, but Kazrack found himself barely deflecting a sword blow from the first. The shock went down and numbed his arm for a moment. (3)

However, the dwarf did not despair, he swung his flail with all his might, slamming the thing in the thigh-bone. There was a cracking sound as it fell to its knees, awkwardly.

Ratchis slipped out of his harness and stuffed it into a crack on a sarcophagus lid. He hurried over to aid Kazrack, who was amazed that he missed as he swung at the skeleton’s head, but it leaned forward, essentially ducking as it came back up to its feet. Ratchis came up alongside his dwarven companion and thrust his sword into the thing, but there was no chip or crack of bone. He had pierced the armor, but there was no flesh underneath. (4)

The thing pulled away from him and turned to go down the stairs, but with a quick flick of his meaty wrist, Ratchis cracked the thing’s helmeted skull and it tumbled in a jumbled of bones and armor down the stone steps.

“We must go down and finish them,” Beorth said, sliding from his harness and frowning when he saw where Ratchis had put his.

“Wait, that last one wasn’t turned,” Ratchis said. “It was only trying to draw us down there.”

The half-orc lit a torch and handed it to Beorth.

Kazrack had a puzzled look of growing horror on his face.

“What is it?” Ratchis asked, the spell on his sword glaring in the half-orc’s face.

“Nothing. I…uh, thought I heard something…”

Ratchis put a finger to his lips and crept over to a stairway. He crouched down and looked and could see one of the minions at the bottom of the stair, cringing. By moving over to another stairway he could see the other doing a similar thing. Just to be same, he slunk over to the third staircase and looked down. There was something small and gray that seemed to crawl just out of his field of vision as he crouched.

The Friar of Nephthys went back to his companions and placed a finger to his thin brown lips again. He quietly prayed to his goddess for her healing blessing, closing the wound on his forearm.

He pointed to Beorth’s harness and grabbed his own and slipped it on. He gestured down to the pit, and moved to the ledge wall. Beorth slipped his back on and Kazrack walked over still looking pale. As they clambered over the wall hoping to swing down and surprise, Kazrack heard the sound again.

This time they all heard it. It was the muffled and cracking sound of a baby’s cry, echoing from deep down in the darkness of the pit.


(1) DM’s Note: Kazrack permanently lost two levels from the encounter with the gnoll-wight-witch-doctor. (See Session #40)

(2) The Shawl of Estes was a gift from the party’s sometime nemesis/sometime benefactor Richard the Red. Beorth does not know of its history or importance due his amnesia brought on by a pixie’s curse for killing one of their kind.

(3) DM’s Note: Not every hit a character takes for hit point need to be described as drawing blood. Bruises, twists, dizziness, fatigue and a whole other little details can be used to relay the loss of energy as one engages in melee. Of course, blood is good too.

(4) DM’s Note: Not every miss completely misses the target. I often describe armor absorbing damage or a foe parrying a blow or other similar things to keep combat lively and fresh.


First Post
wow, Nemm. Another great update. I really can't wait to see what happens as they descend. With your world being as deadly as it is, this cannot be good for the FMKs. I hope that it wasn't as deadly as I fear it was.



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Predictions. . .

First, the good news - expect another update sometime this weekend - maybe even tomorrow.

The bad news: Right now in the story there are 6 pcs and 9 npcs trying to gain access to this place. Not everyone is going to make it back out. . . Shall we start the predictions? :D

Also, this "adventure" is long done and gone (remember, I am 17 sessions behind) so feel free to make whatever speculation you like on what is happening, what this place is and what the FEARLESS MANTICORE KILLERS (or the FMK) might face?


No clue who won't make it out, but if I have to guess, and if that guess has to be a PC, I'm going with Kazrack.

Why? His player seems to have just gotten over his "death wish" phase, and there's nothing to bring the dice gods down on you like suddenly deciding that you want to live after all.


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end of session #41

Session #41

Part Two: An aborted Descent…

The trio of heroes swung down with anger, trying to ignore the disturbing cry below which now faded into their cries.

Ratchis brought his feet deftly down on the low wall that marked the lower ledge, and though he teetered for a moment, he kept his footing, slipping his chain belt from his waist to call on Nephthys’ power.

Beorth’s boots struck the low wall and the paladin went flying back, twisting and spinning wildly. Above, Jeremy, Helrahd and Derek cursed under their breaths as their hands burned with the twisting jerking rope.

Kazrack was dropped too far and he slid past the lower ledge, where the shaft continued downward. He looked back up at his companions as he passed them, crying out, “No! No! Too Low!”

Ratchis jumped down from the wall, spotting one of the skeletal guardians moving towards him from the left, while another mover around a sarcophagus to take aim at Beorth’s spinning form. This level like the previous had the rectangular stone coffins, but no masks.

“Nephthys, please heed me and send my foes away,” Ratchis cried, spinning his chain, but the guardian on the right fired two of those bolts of black light at the helpless paladin. Only the tiny figure on the floor moved away from the half-orc priest. He saw it move at the bottom of his vision, so he tipped his head to get a better look before it disappeared behind a sarcophagus.

It was a baby.

But its skin had gray tone with no luster, and its little big head was split open down the front and raw with gore, fragments of skull sticking out. It dragged one little broken leg, the bone sticking out the side of his chubby thigh behind it.

But its skin had gray tone with no luster, and its little big head was split open down the front and raw with gore, fragments of bone sticking out. It dragged on little broken leg, the bone sticking out the side of his chubby leg behind it.

Ratchis gagged, as noticed the already protruding jaw, the black coarse hair and the ridge of bone down its back. There was no doubt it had orcish blood.

Meanwhile, Kazrack took moment of hanging too low to help to look further down the shaft, as a shuffling and murmuring sound drew his attention. He could see that the shaft ended only twenty feet below this last ledge, but what was down there horrified him.

The bottom of the shaft was filled with the blank and rotten faces of babies struggling to look up at him. They crawled over each other’s sore-covered leathery flesh, their exaggerated jaws salivating; their little hands, most missing fingernails, some still having them twisted back and protruding from the dead flesh they punctured, reaching up to Kazrack as they took notice of him. The dead babies bubbled like a cauldron of pure horror. The dwarven rune-thrower could see that the babies were several feet deep, crawling over each other and pushing others down blindly in their vain attempt to reach him. A handful of emaciated rats crawled in and out of the pile of tiny bodies nibbling on filmy eyes and tiny tender ears and toes, squeaking delightedly.

Suddenly, one of the babies cried out that halting cry of hungry baby, and another took it up and then another, until they roiled and cried in a cacophony that rose up the shaft.

“What the hell is that?” Helrahd asked aloud.

Derek felt a chill wash over him and he shivered though he was covered in sweat.

Golnar, Tolnar and Jolnar were having trouble interpreting the jerks on their rope, which Kazrack hung from.

Captain Adalar walked over. “Play it safe. Pull him up.”

Below Kazrack began to scream, “By the gods! The babies are demons! Pull us up! Pull us all up!”

There was a final hard jerk and Kazrack dropped closer to the pit of zombie infants, but then he began to rise smoothly up.

He was in time to see the second skeleton guard, side-step to avoid Ratchis and fire two more of the dark bolts at Beorth.

The paladin tried to keep his calm, even as he was buffeted by the necromantic bolts, and he did not cry out. He reached out pathetically to press a hand against a support and steady himself, but he failed.

“You fools! Ascend! Flee!” Kazrack cried passing them on the way back up. He looked up to the top of the shaft and cupped his hands over his mouth. “Pull us all up!”

The armored skeleton turned back to Ratchis, and swung its sword at him only to have it blocked by the half-orc’s own sword, which threw off crazy shadows of the thing as he parried its blows.

“Beorth! D’naar! Fall back!” Kazrack was quickly being pulled into the darkness above.

Ratchis tried to move in such a way to put the sarcophagus between him and the undead guardian, but he over-extended him and the thing took the opportunity to swing, nicking the leaping priest in the thigh. The wound burned, and Ratchis could feel a sheet of blood rush down his leg as he grunted angrily.

But the dark-cloaked undead warrior did not concern the friar of Nephthys and woodsman. It was the enslaved remains of an infant, trying to crawl into the wall to get away from him. It repeatedly smashed its already split head into the wall, gurgling.

“Nephthys, forgive me,” Ratchis whispered. His vision was fractured for a moment by a swollen tear, but then he brought his sword down on its little head, cleaving it oven all the way down to its stomach, which exploded into hundreds of tiny insects that scurried into all directions.

Beorth was finally able to steady himself in time to see Ratchis dive off the ledge wall. He bounced twice, as Baervard, Blodnath and Kirla groaned. The half-orc jerked the rope twice, so the paladin did the same. In a moment, they were being pulled up. But the skeletal guards walked to the edge and pointing up murmured their arcane words and fired more of the black bolts at Beorth. He felt cold and weak, and bruises swelled up painfully wherever the things had struck him. (1)

Ratchis reached into his bag and pulled out a flask of oil he had prepared with a strip of oil-soaked cloth and he lit it off of Beorth’s torch and tossed it down.

It exploded and one of the guardians shuffled back and screeched.

He lit another and dropped it straight down on the zombie babies, for a moment there was a flash that allowed him to see the crawling bodies twist and roll as they were engulfed in the splattering burning oil. The wail rose in intensity, and the smell of burning flesh rose with it. The scorched babies were swallowed and smothered in the ceaseless and futile crawling of the others, the flames going out as they were sucked down.

And there was darkness again, from which the murmuring and crying emerged.

Soon, all three of the adventurers were back at the surface; the top of the black stone monolith with the others.

Kazrack was laying on his back on the black stone, covering his eyes with his hands, the rope harness still around his legs and waist.

Ratchis fell to one knee and began to pray quietly to Nephthys, while Beorth simply stood head bowed silently.

“Was it really that bad?” Jeremy asked, cautiously.

“Yes,” Kazrack replied. “There are horrors down there.”

“This is truly a terrible terrible place,” Beorth added.

“It doesn’t make any sense, how did all those… babies get down there?” Kazrack said, sitting up.

Martin blanched.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ratchis said, standing. “We’re going to put them all to rest and destroy this place.”

There was a long silence.

“It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with the gnomes or not,” the half-orc added with a barking tone. “Though I am sure it does.”

Beorth nodded in agreement.

“Let us just hope our delay here does not mean more gnomish lives will be lost,” Belear said.

“And what of Ephraim?” Derek asked. “We have to warn the gnomes that the Gothanians might mistakenly try to make war on them.” (2)

“It will take him some time to get to Twelve Trolls (3) and deliver his message, and even if the King decided to use force, Gothanius has not standing army. It will take time to gather and organize the militia,” Martin explained.

“It is a long walk back, and I am still weakened from our encounter with the shadow yesterday, as are we all wounded,’ Ratchis said. “Let’s us go back and camp for the night and return in the morning.”

“I am loathe to leave this place unrazed,” Beorth said, with a bit of visible frustration.

“And patience will all allow you to see it razed,” said Belear quietly. “The half-breed speaks wisely. Let us return to the edge of this dead land and camp again to regain our strength, now that we know the true horrors that await us below.”

So again they secured the ropes and hefted their gear and began the long march back to the dimpled scrubland that they camped at.

“And tomorrow, let’s figure out a better way of determining who holds which ropes,” Jeremy announced, but no one reacted to his comment.


The sun bobbed up and down out of view behind the lip of the huge crater this dead land was in as they walked towards it. The long shadows of the stone pillars crossed diagonally across their path, making it even darker.

The sound of their boots crunching in the black ash and the occasional cough were the only sounds. Derek found it unnerving and pulled his cloak closer around his shoulders and looked around. He hated that there were no animal sounds, no sound of wind in reeds or branches; it was unnatural.

Derek’s eye was struck by movement across a narrow band of light coming between two narrow pillars. He turned his head to see a humanoid figure made of shadow emerging from the blackness and swooping at him.

He ducked and cried out. The rest of the troop was ahead of him and they all stopped and turned in time to see it fly up and turn for another pass. Ratchis came charging from what had been the front of the group, and Golnar, Jolnar and Tolnar who were closest, pulled out their respective weapons.

“There might be more!” Derek warned, worried that everyone was now looking in his direction as opposed to looking for another attack.

Martin the Green turned to watch the front.

The shadow flew down without effort, drifting like a leaf and ran a cold finger across Derek’s face. The young man moaned as his muscles sagged and drooped as if meat had been sucked from his arms and legs. He felt the weight of pack and his armor much more heavily.

“Krauchaar, bless my weapon!” Captain Adalar cried out, hefting his great axe into the air, and for a moment the blade shone with divine light. (4)

Golnar charged at the incorporeal undead as it moved to drift past Derek. He was over-enthusiastic, however, and fumbled the warhammer as he hefted it over his head and it went flying back, landing at his brothers’ feet.

Martin cried out as another shadow swooped at him, emerging from around the base of a large pillar.

“Martin! What are you doing? Put your back to something!” Jeremy cried out, drawing the Right Blade of Arofel and running to the front of the group, placing himself between the watch-mage and the undead thing.

Tolnar fired his crossbow at the one dogging Derek, but the bolt flew right through it.

“We must retreat from these things!” the young dwarf cried out, fear in his voice.

Kiral harrumphed and charged as well, but the head of her flail also went through the thing. She looked at her weapon with puzzlement.

“Anubis! Send these things away so we may destroy them in your name when we have regained our strength!” Beorth cried out, clutching the silver jackal’s head around his neck. There was a wave of positive energy and the shadows screeched and took off straight into the air and the inkiness of the falling night.

They all let out deep breaths and then wordlessly fell back into formation and hustled back to the site of their former campsite.

They were all silent as they set up their tents and unpacked their bedrolls and lit small fires with what was left of the tinder they had brought with them. They spoke the fewest words possible to arrange watches, and soon the only sound was the snoring of the dwarves and Ratchis.

The night passed without event, but the next morning both Ratchis and Derek still felt the weakness in their limbs, and the priests in the group spread around their healing, along with Ratchis’ use of Lesser Restoration on Derek. The rest of the day was spent in rest and idle speculation of what might be found even deeper in the place they had uncovered.

“I just don’t understand how so many babies, half-orc babies could be in the same place at the same time,” Kazrack mused aloud.

“I cannot even begin to conceive of how such a thing is possible,” Ratchis replied solemnly.

“Soon their souls will be at rest,” Beorth commented.

“But for now, how about we rest some more?” Jeremy said, crawling into a tent.

The next morning they’d march back to the monolith.

End of Session #41


(1) DM’s Note: These were simply magic missiles with different flavor text to make them seem like the tools of an undead creature. These skeleton guards were simply adapted Baneguards from Monsters of Faerun.

(2) Ephraim was the only survivor of a mercenary expeditionary force sent to explore the area north of Greenreed Valley for further expansion of the Kingdom of Gothanius. He claimed tall of his companions were killed by gnomes that used magic and undead. (see session #39)

(3) Twelve Trolls is the capitol of the Kingdom of Gothanius, named so because it was built on the site of the Battle of the Twelve Trolls – where human and dwarven forces called a truce long enough to battle a fierce group of powerful trolls led by the Troll King Frojack.

(4) DM’s Note: Captain Adalar cast Magic Weapon
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First Post
"As the player of Kazrack all I can do is give a sigh of resignation over this perception of his actions."

If it makes you feel any better, other readers percieve Kazrack's decision's to be based around really really good roleplaying, and admire a player/group that can actively anti-metagame for the good of their character's development.

No really, I do admire what you've been doing! I encourage the same amongst my players.


First Post
Great update there. Nemmerle is not afraid to be gross. I like it.

Nemm, have there been any clues as to who is going to die? Probably not, since death in RPGs tends to be the result of individual encounters, as opposed to "fate". I like games with a bit of body count. They seem more realistic. Personally, If someone's going to die, I hope it's Beorth. He's already a bit screwed up since he lost his memory, so it might be nice for his player to start afresh. Or maybe Kazrack, since he's just lost two levels & I don't see when he'll get them back. Just don't kill Ratchis, Martin or Jeremy!

Two replies

First, to Martin Olarin - I agree that Kazrack's actions were good roleplaying, and enjoyed the results (such as the period during which Martin was surreptitiously casting defensive spells on Kazrack). My comment was tongue-in-cheek and I meant no offense.

Second, to Nemm - the babies were horrific. The concept is evil enough, but the rats and insects feeding on and living in the undead flesh really upped the ghoul factor.

Jon Potter

First Post
Re: eh?

nemmerle said:
I was certain that a friggin' writhing pile of infant zombie half-orcs would prevoke more of a response. . . :cool:

What do you mean? All of my games include undead babies. :D

If I was Ratchis, I'd be wondering what those gnolls have in mind for my forced progeny. But maybe I'm seeing conspiracies where none exist.


Moderator Emeritus
Session #42

Session #42

Session #42: In which the party finally makes progress at gaining a foothold in the Necropolis of Doom…

Teflem, the 13th of Prem – 564 H.E.

It was not until noon that they reach the monolith again. The Ra’s Glory hung at its apex, a chariot racing over a blue hill, and cast off heat without mercy. The march back and forth was several hours, and the ash was unrelenting. After days of breathing it in, they all felt a weight in their chests and their throats were raw and hurt when they swallowed. Jeremy had torn the bottom off his cloak and made a scarf that he kept wrapped around his nose and mouth. The torn ends billowed in the breeze.

The day before they had discussed strategies and argued about priorities…

“If we are to get a foothold in that place from which to explore the rest of it we must destroy the shadows first,” Beorth said, he had already expressed his belief that there was much more to the place that had not yet been discovered.

“I think it is obvious from our encounters thus far that we are incapable of destroying these shadows with the power of our gods, for we are too weak of vessels,” Belear intoned.

“Well, we can drive them away, but I do not think that will be enough,” Beorth said. “We cannot hope to uncover whatever it is about this place with those things dogging us and draining our very strength.

“Perhaps this will take too much time,” Captain Adalar started up on a topic he had brought up repeatedly since they had arrived at these dead lands. “Let us leave this until after we have dealt with the gnomes.”

“I do not think we can leave this,” Ratchis said. “What if something happens to us when we fight the gnomes? This is an evil place and needs to be dealt with.”

“I cannot let this lie,” added Beorth.

“And what if something happens to us here? Who will help the gnomes?” Martin asked.

No one had an answer. In the end the final decision was left to Kazrack as he represented a member of the opposed groups as to the course of action.

“We explore this place some more,” he said, after weighing it carefully for a few moments. “Lehrathonar sometimes hides his secret lore in strange places.”

Belear nodded gravely. Captain Adalar accepted the decision without a word.


And now Kazrack, Beorth and Ratchis were being lower into the shaft again. The ropes cracked and wheezed, as it was slowly uncoiled and fed down the chasm.

They had gone over the code of rope tugs to let those doing the lowering when to stop, continue descent or go back up.

Captain Adalar had wanted to change the code.

“I think we should use a system of long tugs and short tugs,” he said. “You know, as in short-short-long means go back up.”

Jeremy rolled his eyes and elbowed Derek.

“Let’s not,” the Neergaardian laughed obnoxiously.

“I’ll have you know that is the system used in dwarven mines,” Adalar was insulted. “You can spell out the entire dwarvish alphabet with short and long pulls.”

“That’s fascinating,” Jeremy replied sarcastically.

“Yeah, interesting,” added Derek. They laughed together; their similar attitude and age having made them bond over the last several days.

Beorth’s helm shone with the divine light of the dwarven gods, as Belear had cast the spell upon it as they were first lowered in. The light illuminated the cobwebby and dusty first ledge as they passed it, and they did not stop until they again reached the next split-level ledge where they had first encountered the skeletal armored guards.

Three sets of two tugs and they were all dangling there. Ratchis made it to the lip of the ledge with its low wall in his first try, but Kazrack swung twice before frantically grabbing the wall in a scramble and pulling himself over. Beorth however, was soon spinning wildly in dizzying figure eights.

Ratchis slipped out of his harness and yanked hard once, signaling for the others to pull it up. The plan called for more of them come down and face this menace.

Kazrack remained in his and leaned out with his halberd, to allow Beorth something to grab on to. The paladin clutched the pole-axe and the dwarf pulled him in, the way the light spell shone against the scales of his armor gave the dwarf the impression that he had just reeled in a shining fish.

Beorth sat on the low wall and took a deep breath.

“I am amazed the shadows have not attacked yet,” Beorth said.

“Because we wanted you to be comfortable,” a voice hissed, and two shadowy forms emerged from the darkness at two of the staircases. One was harder to see, being in the dimmer area that Ratchis stood in. It swooped at him, clawing with a cold insubstantial claw. The half-orc priest could feel his limbs whither as the cold passed through him. The second shadow dove towards the light of the shining helm like a black moth, turning effortlessly in the air and lazily leaning out a hand to pass through Kazrack. The dwarf shivered and he felt a great weight upon him, as his limbs protested.

The adventurers barely had time to register what had happened when the shadows swung about and did it again. Ratchis let out a weak growl, and Kazrack’s teeth chattered as his halberd sunk in his hands.

“Foul servants of light, you will join us!” one of the shadows hissed.

Ratchis leapt back and around putting a sarcophagus between him and the shadow.

“Nephthys, bring forth your wrath in the form of your favored weapon to destroy these foul creatures!” Ratchis called out to his goddess and translucent spear of golden light appeared on the other side of the shadow and thrust forward. Ratchis could see some the thing’s “shadow stuff” dissipate with the blow and he smiled.

Beorth stood upon the lip and took a hard swing over his head at the shadow that pestered Kazrack, calling on Anubis power to fill his blade. However, the shadow danced easily out of the way, hissing at him.

Kazrack leaned back and ducking his body about wildly was able to enchant his halberd with one of his gods’ miracles.

The shadow near Ratchis fled from the face of the spear and dove at Beorth, clawing him and drawing more strength from the paladin. Kazrack was still moving about wildly and was able to avoid another attack from the shadow he was facing. He swung his halberd through the shadow, but it passed through with no effect.

Ratchis however was having more success. His spiritual spear thrust into the shadow troubling Kazrack with a sizzle of divine energy. The thing let out an unearthly shriek that echoed up and out to the others.

“Maybe we should go help them now,” Martin suggested, but Ratchis’ rope was still being hauled up the long length of the shaft.

“I’m going down now,” Jeremy announced, and leapt onto the rope that was attached to Kazrack and began to slide down hand over hand with great proficiency, his swords dangling and slapping back and forth as he disappeared with a look of determination into the darkness.

Ratchis need not control his spiritual weapon, so he let it do its thing while he ducked behind the sarcophagus fished out some stones he had collected out at the scrubland. He waved his hand over them, and whispered, “Nephthys, bless these rocks so that they may contain some small measure of your righteousness in this bleak place.”

The stones glowed for a moment, and they were warm in his hand. Whenever Ratchis felt the divine power of his goddess pass through him it always reminded him of what he was fighting for.

“Anubis, I failed in my last attempt,” Beorth was having a conversation with his god at the top of his lungs as he fought, as if he needed encouragement to maintain the fervor he had forgotten with the rest of his life, and that he now desperately tried to reenact. “Please grant me some more of your divine wrath so that I may return this creature to the peace of death.”

There was an audible ‘whoosh’ as the sword missed cleanly.

The shadow mocked him, “Why not call upon your god’s power to send us away, so that we might come again and again and remind you that you and it are too weak to keep us at bay for long.”

“Soon, you will be one of us,” the other shadow hissed as it dodged back and forth to avoid the spiritual spear and Kazrack’s poleaxe.

“Natan-ahb, I fear these creatures will steal my last strength, but my strength is for you and you alone,” Kazrack intoned, clutching his pouch of runestones with his left hand. “Send these things away.”

“You are only delaying the inevitable,” the shadow before him hissed, as swirled like smoke to avoid Ratchis’ spear. The attempted turning had failed.

Beorth moaned softly as he felt the cold claw of one of the shadows again. He stumbled, but the rope and harness jerked him back up, and he returned to his senses.

The spiritual spear found its target again, as Ratchis threw one of his magic stones at the one harassing Beorth. The stone flew past them both and plummeted into the shaft bouncing about loudly.

“Anubis! I implore you! Bring forth your wrath even if you must strike me down as well for having failed you these two times. Please show forgiveness and show these creatures the coldness of death!” Beorth swung his sword with his little remain strength, calling the vengeance of his god to fill his blade and as it passed through the shadow, hr could feel the blade jerk as if it caught on something.

The shadow shrieked as a good portion of his essence seemed to ‘tear away’ from it as the sword left the other side. It melted into nothingness.

Kazrack by this time able to position himself beside the sarcophagus that Ratchis hid behind, looking to gain its cover as well. The shadow he faced let the dwarf go and flew into Beorth, who shuddered and wobbled again, as he lost even more of his strength.

Jeremy was hanging about ten feet above the ledge when he saw this happen by the light emanating from Beorth’s helmet. The young Neergaardian hesitated for a moment, but then shrugging his shoulders he swung on the rope and threw himself down towards the lip of the ledge.

Even he seemed surprised when he made it.

Ratchis spear danced about the remaining shadow, but failed to score another blow, as one of the half-orc’s stones flew right through it without effect.

Beorth missed again, the very last of his strength making his swing look feeble even with divine guidance.

“Jeremy! We’re weakened,’ Kazrack called out. “Finish that creature as quickly as possible!”

“I’m on it!” Jeremy cried leaping over a sarcophagus and getting between Beorth and the shadow, but it was too late. The thing was pulling off the paladin as the servant of Anubis collapsed under the weight of his armor and weapons. He was helpless.

“Get away from him!” Jeremy commanded the shadow, and it hissed.

The spiritual spear disappeared, and Ratchis stood and walked over to the melee casting magic weapon on his masterwork war hammer.

Kazrack hurried past Ratchis to try to flank the thing, while Beorth though lying on the ground tried one last tactic. He called on Anubis’ power to try to turn the thing and make it flee before one last hit made Beorth into one of those things.

“Anubis, I am weak,” Beorth implored softly. “But my faith in you grows stronger. Please drive off this creature that seeks to make a mockery of my living breath.”

The turn attempt failed.

The shadow ignored Beorth, however, as the paladin posed no threat, and it attacked Kazrack who barely ducked out of the way.

Jeremy’s blade went right through the thing with no effect.

Ratchis joined the pile up on the black floating abomination, but his hammer missed as well, as the shadow bobbed back and forth between the combatants.

Beorth would not give up. Again he called on his god’s divine energy and tried to force the shadow away. Once again his shawl glowed with a brightness of daylight, and this time the thing shrieked and took off at an angle up the shaft. Kazrack took one last swing at it, hitting, but the blade passed through. The thing disappeared into the darkness.

There was a moment of no sound except for the heavy breathing of the four adventurers, and then came the baby cries again.

Jeremy shuddered. “Gods! What a terrible sound!”

“Something is moving up the steps,” Kazrack warned. He turned to see more of the skeletal minions coming up the stone steps to this level of the ledge. “Everyone run! I’ll hold them off!”

The dwarf move to the closer stairs, calling on his gods to send off the skeletal guards, but the dark oppression of this place seemed to make channeling the divine energy more difficult.

Ratchis hefted Beorth up by his armpits, using the low wall for support and then tugged on the paladin’s rope four times (which was the signal for those above to pull someone up as quickly as possible without stopping) and yelled up cupping his hand to the side of his mouth. “And Send Belear down!”

Above no one heard the command, but they felt the rope tug and soon Beorth was making his way up. His head lolling from side to side as he barely had the strength to hold up the glowing helm.

Ratchis winced as he felt the cold blows of the black bolts sting his side. He turned to face the second guardian, which was at the top of a set of stairs fifteen feet away. Jeremy sheathed the Right Blade of Arofel and leaped at the thing with his long sword in two hands

Kazrack roared as he exchanged blows with the strange undead thing. He cut a large rent in its ring mail armor, but suffered a sword blow to the collar, that he barely was able to turn away from. The dwarf could feel his neck stiffen and swell and blood vessels burst.

Jeremy dealt a devastating blow to one of these Minions making it spin in place and amble around the sarcophagus towards Ratchis, who smacked it once with his hammer, crunching bone. But it still did not go down.

Meanwhile, Beorth was being hauled up and taking the light with him. Below Jeremy began to curse.

Beorth was barely able to look up to see that Martin the Green was being lowered down. He was tied up in the harness that Ratchis had sent back up. The shaggy red-haired mage, his fancy green robes stained with black ash in long streaks looked down worriedly.

“Beorth! What’s going on?”

“Our strength has been drained,” Beorth replied weakly.

“I’ll need your helmet,” the watch-mage said, and he grabbed the glowing helm off the paladin’s head as they passed each other and slipped it on his own.

Beorth shrugged, as he was pulled further up towards the light. Martin’s descent continued.

Below, the adventurers’ troubles were worsening. Kazrack’s halberd blade went right through his opponent’s neck… as if it were a ghost!

“What the…?” the dwarf was dumb-founded. He squinted his eyes and then opened them wide, and could now tell that these things were suddenly ‘blinking’ in and out of existence with great speed, giving them the ghostly feature.

“I need light!” Jeremy called, cautiously making his way towards the Minion that faced down Ratchis.

Ratchis stepped back and called to Nephthys. In a moment, his hammer was glowing with light as if it were a torch.

Jeremy moved and flanked the thing, but his sword went right through as Kazrack’s weapon had at the other.

“Gods dammit!” Jeremy cried out. “I hate these things!”

Kazrack let out a muffled cry, as the ghostly nature of his opponent did not stop it from sending two bolts of black energy at him.

As Martin was coming level with the fight he chanted, “Parma Magica”, casting his shield spell. Realizing that he had forgotten to give the “stop” signal on the rope, he began to tug wildly as he moved past the ledge.

The smell of mildew and rotting flesh was overwhelming down here, and he gagged, feeling unused bile come up to the back of his throat.

“I’m glad I haven’t eaten in weeks,” Martin said, when he finally stopped being lowered. He could hear the muted mewling of the babies below and shivered.

Again, Kazrack and Ratchis both tried to call on their ability to channel divine power to send these undead away, but it failed. Unlike the shadows, these foes were silent never speaking a word, and always coming straight on.

Kazrack felt more blood pouring down his body as the thing’s long sword slapped him in the ribs.

“Let’s try a different approach,” Jeremy said, swinging his sword downward in a wide arc, and feeling it cleave the thing’s helmet and skull. As it tumbled to the ground, into an awkward sitting position, the young swordsman felt the blade of his sword yank out of the skull. He slashed again, striking its shoulder, and now its left arm hung by some thin tendons.

The Minion awkwardly got to its feet weakly swinging at Jeremy, who easily avoided the blow.

As Martin tried to make it to the ledge to help out (managing only to swing about the shaft wildly, losing all control), Ratchis’ hammer was going right through the minion he and Jeremy were facing.

“I will prove that my gods have not abandoned me!” Kazrack cried out. “Natan-ahb! Send these creatures back to the tombs from which they came!”

Nothing happened.

“They must be illusions,” Kazrack speculating that the failure of his god’s power had to have some reasonable explanation.

As he stood there flabbergasted, his opponent found an opening and its sword went diving into the dwarf’s neck. The blow should have sent the dwarf’s head flying, but instead it passed through him in ghostly form.

Kazrack was even more shocked now, bewildered by these things.

Jeremy continued to whack the Minion before him with blows that would have long ago killed a man.

However, the Minion’s armor was scored, and gray brain matter bubbled and spurted from its cloven helmet. It moved to place a sarcophagus between itself and its combatants.

Jeremy took the opportunity to strike it again. He could hear ribs falling loosely behind the armor. Ratchis tried as well, but the thing spun around and jerked backward, lifting a hand to fire two more bolts into the half-orc.

Martin was finally able to stabilize his swinging, but he still hung in the middle of the shaft, helplessly watching the battle.

Kazrack struck his foe again.

”Kazrack, force it down the stairs!” Jeremy called to his companion. “You can do it!”

“Nephthys, turn your blessed compassion into this creature’s doom!” Ratchis begged his goddess, as he cast cure light wounds and reached out to simply touch the thing, but his hand went right through. The spell was not wasted, but no damage was done either.

Above, Beorth was dragged off the rope and Derek quickly grabbed it, and was beginning to be lowered down to join his companions.

Jeremy moved around behind Ratchis to aid Kazrack, causing a resounding ring as he struck it in the head with his long sword.

Ratchis ducked a long sword blow from the other, as Martin began to swing wildly again, unable to make it to the edge of the ledge. The half-orc reached up with his ensorcelled hand again, and felt the positive energy discharge. The Minion collapsed into a pile of bones and rusted armor.

“Thank you, Nephthys,” the priest said softly.

Kazrack thrust his halberd at the Minion, which was now at the top of the very top of the stairs to the lower level, but missing left himself open for a riposte, feeling the sword blade drag up his side, tearing a rent in his chain shirt. Jeremy cleaved it in the right arm, sending shard of bone and gore flying out in a shower, but the thing still did not fall.

Kazrack withdrew and swung his halberd to keep the thing at bay, as Ratchis ran up without fear of his own danger and calling on his goddess’ power again punch the thing in the skull. Again, he felt the positive energy discharge, and in a moment the thing was tumbling loudly down the stone steps.

Again, there was silence, except for the creaking of ropes. Even the zombie babies below were quiet.

Derek came level with the ledge everyone was one, as Kazrack leaned out with his halberd to help Martin steady himself.

“Go back up, Derek,” Ratchis said to the young tracker. “We have to all go back up.”

Derek nodded. Martin looked at Ratchis and understood that party was in no shape to continue. He tugged on the rope and soon he was being pulled back up as well.

“I will go up last,” Kazrack announced in typical fashion.

Jeremy rolled his eyes.

“Kazrack, that makes no sense,” Ratchis replied, frustration in his voice. “You are severely weakened.”

“I’ll leave it to you two to determine who is last,” Jeremy said, and leapt onto the rope Kazrack was still attached to and started climbing up hand over hand.

They waited for rope to be lowered to Ratchis, and thus were both pulled up at the same time.

“This place is more fraught with peril than we thought,” Belear commented.

“We’ve killed more of those things, however,” Ratchis replied. “And only one shadow remains to block our way.

No one replied.

“We should rest for the night and again the next day and then return,” Ratchis suggested. “Does everyone agree that the patient approach is the best?”

Belear nodded. The dwarves were silent, but some grumbled. Jeremy rolled his eyes.

“I will need my strength before I can do what Anubis asks of me,” Beorth croaked. “I will need to rest.”

“Yes, that is the best course of action,” Kazrack concurred.

“In the meantime…” Belear walked over to Kazrack and lay a hand on him calling out to Rivkanal, the dwarven god-mother. Kazrack felt some small measure of his strength return to him. Belear walked over the Beorth and did the same, and now the paladin could lift his own weight and walk.

The weight of the company’s gear was redistributed so that those who were weakened need not carry as much and the march back to the edge of this crater of dead land began again in earnest.

Anulem, the 14th of Prem – 564 H.E.

The next morning, dawn came up with a stiff wind that sent sheets of ash cascading down on the campsite. The previous night had been spent with nervous watches of five people at a time looking in all directions for the return of the last shadow, and going out in groups of three to collect what little wood they could from the patches of scrubby trees.

Belear was examining the spellbook that Martin had taken from the necromancer gnome, Frear several days before. (1) The watch-mage had asked the dwarven priest to prepare a miracle that might allow him to break the magical spell on the book, which Martin was convinced was a dangerous ward of some kind.

The elder dwarf was unable to break the enchantment.

“Are we going back into that nasty place?” Thomas chittered in Martin’s mind. He had a tone of disgust and anxiety.

“Yes, Thomas.”

“Why do we keep trying to get in there?” Thomas whined. “I want to go back to the gnomes. I like the gnomes.”

“We all do, Thomas,” Martin replied, patting his familiar’s head absently. “But we have to do this because Ratchis and the others think it’ll help them.”

“Do you think it will help them?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think.”

“You know, you should be the leader,” Thomas said, lovingly.

“No, I shouldn’t,” Martin replied. “But thanks for saying so anyway.”


Later in the day, a bored Jeremy began to pester Blodnath with questions again, when he saw the dwarf doing something with his ‘trap-box’. (2)

“Hey, Blodnath!” Jeremy plopped down with his back to the wind behind the tent, right beside the wiry white-haired dwarf. “D’you think you could show me how that toy of yours works?”

“It’s not a toy.”

“Uh, yeah… whatever it is…the training device. Can I see it?”

Blodnath eyed the blonde human, “Sure, “I’ll set it up for you.”

“I once saw someone use a bulb full of oil to help pick a lock,” Jeremy chattered. “Do you have one of those? Or is that too advanced for this type of game?”

“This is not a game,” Blodnath snapped with annoyance. He pulled the box off his lap. “I don’t think you’re really serious about this, boy.”

“No, no, I promise to take it seriously,” Jeremy protested. “I am a quick study.”

“Humans are really no good at this kind of stuff because it takes patience,” Blodnath said. “You’re not ready for the box. I’ll tell you about different kinds of locks instead.”

Jeremy sat and listened and soon his curiosity overcame his disappointment and he asked an annoyed Blodnath a question about everything the dwarf tried to explain. Derek sat around the corner of the tent. Listening to it all.


The rest of the day passed without event. Belear and Ratchis spread around the lesser restoration spells, to help out Kazrack and Beorth - along with a good deal of healing for the original trio to descend.

Ralem, the 15th of Prem – 564 H.E.

The next morning found the company marching across the ash once again towards the monolith and the shaft entrance. Ratchis had cast lesser restoration once again first thing, but the paladin (and Kazrack, as well) was not back up to his natural great strength.

As they marched they discussed their options for exploring the area below.

“I believe we should all go down and set up a base there to explore deeper if we must,” Captain Adalar suggested. “I think we are making a mistake dividing our strength as we have been doing.”

“It is too dangerous to just leave one or two people up there to guard the ropes, and that would counter the whole point to begin with, and if someone cuts the ropes from above we could be in trouble,” Ratchis said.

“You mean ‘trapped’,” Martin interjected.

“I would say, ‘in trouble’,” Ratchis replied to his companion, with an air of contempt.

“I would say, ‘trapped’,” Martin said.

“That’s because you’ve always been the optimist of the group, Martin,” Ratchis lashed out with his words.

Overhearing, Beorth wondered at Ratchis’ behavior. If the paladin of Anubis had still had his memory he might have been taken back with how much Ratchis had changed since they had first met him. (3) Once taciturn and impulsive, he was now very vocal about his opinions, and often used intimidation to enforce his desires over Martin’s and sometimes, even Jeremy’s, to push the party towards his way of wanting to do things. Ratchis had sharpened his tongue into as effective a weapon as any other the burly half-man carried, and wielded it with an indomitable will that only a Friar of Nephthys could have. Months exposed to soft-headed, but good-hearted men like Jeremy, or men with impeccable conviction, but no real direction, like Martin, or frightened and ignorant commoners, and officious and reputation conscious as the alderman of Ogre’s Bluff (4), or simply selfish and bullying men like the constable of Ogre’s Bluff or Devon (5) had all served to do what years of living among orcs, or alone in the woods, or as a student of elder Friars of Nephthys could not do. Ratchis had become arrogant.

Again, they arrived at the monolith.

A fourth rope was set up the best it could to allow Derek to join Ratchis, Beorth and Kazrack on the initial descent. It would also allow quicker descent for those coming after.

The foursome had barely made it to the first ledge, when a shadowy figured swooped into the light that was once again emanating from Beorth’s head, thanks to Belear.

“I will take you this time,” the shadow hissed, but Beorth shifted his weight on the rope, and the undead thing flew right past him with a cold shiver.

Everyone tugged on their ropes to stop their descent. Ratchis cast magic stone once again, and kept an eye open for the thing. It did not take long. It swooped at the paladin again, this time found his target with a cold black claw. However, even as he felt what was left of his strength wane again, he swung his sword with the divine vengeance of his god. Again, he felt the feeling as if the blade had caught on something.

The thing shrieked. Ratchis cast a stone at it, but it missed, clattering among the sarcophagi. He began to swing back and forth on the rope with the strength of his toss.

The shadow circled and swooped and bobbed like an insect. Again, Beorth felt its cold touch drain even more strength from him.

“You power is strong in me this day, Anubis,” Beorth called out. “Please grant me an extension of that power through my blade.” Unfortunately, the blow slipped through the shadow’s essence without effect.

Kazrack and Derek were too far away to aid Beorth. The dwarf waited, readying himself to attempt the turn the thing if it looked like it might kill Beorth. They had agreed ahead of time to try to destroy the thing before sending it away to be faced again.

“Nephthys! Guide my hand!” Ratchis bellowed as he let loose another magic stone. This one passed through the shadow as if it were not there.’

The shadow cackled and spinning clawed Beorth once again. The paladin shuddered, and his sword felt heavy his hands. The shadow launched itself upward into the darkness of the narrower portion of the shaft and disappeared.

“Let us keep going down,” Ratchis said. “I will restore some of your strength down there.”

They tugged their signal and made it down to the level with the steps unmolested. There, Ratchis was able to restore some of Beorth’s strength.

It was agreed that Derek, Beorth and Kazrack would wait there while Ratchis accompanied the ropes back up and determined who would come down next. It was important that each group going down was accompanied by someone who could turn undead incase the shadow returned.

Actually, they did not have to wait long.

As Ratchis was being pulled up, the thing came at him, but Ratchis was ready. He still had an enchanted stone remaining from his previous spell, and he let it go at the thing. It struck the shadow dead on, and its form shattered as if he had been made of black stained glass and then melted into nothingness. It did not even have time to hiss or shriek.

“I got it!” Ratchis called down to his companions who had no idea what he was talking about.

End of Session #42


(1) This was in session #39.

(2) Blodnath carries a box designed to be set into simulations of different kinds of traps and locks, which he used to keep his skills sharp and to train others.

(3) Ratchis joined the party outside of Tallow’s Post in session #5.

(4) Alderman William Ronald Silvestri was first encountered in session #19.

(5) Devon made his first appearance way back in session #3, but Ratchis did not meet him until session #6.
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First Post

I really enjoyed all of the combat during this session. I can imagine that it was quite tense around the table. As not everyone got to go down the ropes, were the other players upset about their lack of involvement? The part about Ratchis becoming arrogant was really nice writing (not that the rest wasn't).

I can't wait.



Moderator Emeritus
handforged said:

As not everyone got to go down the ropes, were the other players upset about their lack of involvement?

Well, lucky the players who were not as directly involved were the ones who are better are respectfully and and quietly letting other players get their chance in the spotlight.

handforged said:

The part about Ratchis becoming arrogant was really nice writing (not that the rest wasn't).

Thanks! :D

handforged said:

I can't wait.

Hopefully you won't have to wait long - I feel like I am on a roll lately - and have already begun my next installment.


Moderator Emeritus
session #43 (part one)

Session #43

Part One: Deeper into the dark…

“The last shadow has been destroyed,” Ratchis said, when he got back to the top of the shaft. “Everyone can come down and we can deal with the, …uh, dead things at the bottom.”

As the rest of the company of men and dwarves made their way down the shaft, Kazrack spent his time searching the lower level for secret doors. Derek made a half-hearted attempt to search as well, but the near-constant rustling and crying of the undead babies below made it hard for the young warrior to concentrate. He was sweating and feeling queasy. Beorth stood guard, vigilant for the arrival of some other undead menace.

In time they were all on the lowest level of the shaft, where they could look down by the light Beorth’s helmet (or using their darkvision) and see the writhing undead infants crawling over each other like mindless insects. On this level (from whence the skeletal warriors had emerged) were more square stone sarcophagi and no masks, but there was a wooden and painted statue of a gaunt man with a ram’s head.

Across from it was another statue, of a tall blue-headed gnoll with a morning star. It snarled with carved wood for teeth. It leaned over the low wall and its head stuck out into the shaft. Some sort of gray flesh was gooped on the top side, and dripped down into the babies.

There was a stark contrast between these primitive statues and the decor of the rest of this tomb.

Kazrack covered his mouth with the back of his hand as he looked down at the writhing infants.

“Perhaps we should call on out gods’ powers to end the suffering of these… infants, as it would be more merciful then plowing through them with weapons,” Kazrack suggested softly.

“I agree,” Ratchis replied.

Beorth’s helm blinked out, and the humans groaned. In a moment, Martin lit one of the party’s last remaining torches, and when it caught there was a sharp blue flare of the flame, with swirls of pink.

“Whoa!” Martin cried, flinching.

“Eh? That’s gas!” Kazrack was alarmed, and the dwarves all turned their heads to look at them.

“Is it dangerous? Should I put it out,” Martin looked even more bleached white than usual, the lack of sleep, the lack of desire for food; the circumstances of his first appointment by the Academy, it wearing heavily on him.

“If we enter a place with less ventilation you must be alert to the color of the flame changing,” Kazrack said.

“Feh. By then it’d be too late,” Helrahd croaked.

“If we know we are going to enter such an area we’ll put it out ahead of time and rely on the blessings of our gods,” said Kazrack.

“Hmph,” Helrahd spit. “And since we are going to the realm of sunshine and flowers we should expect to not have to worry about it.”

Kazrack’s jaw dropped. He was unused to being treated that way by a fellow dwarf. Helrahd walked away, passing Kirla, who twisted her beard-draped mouth and shrugged her shoulders, as if by way of apology for her brother. She was actually quite handsome by dwarven standards, but Kazrack turned back to the matter at hand.

“Too bad we don’t have a canary,” Kazrack said.

“What?” Martin was confused.

“A canary.”

“A what?” Now it was Beorth’s turn.

“If it drops dead you know there is poison gas, since it is smaller and its lungs are smaller,” Kazrack said. “Like when Thomas was paralyzed by the poison incense first when we were attacked by Mozek.”

Martin’s head drooped when the incident was mentioned. Beorth squinted and scratched his head and tried to remember what Jana has said about that encounter. (1)

“What we always said was, ‘bring a human in’,” Blodnath said, with a chuckle. “’Oops! The human died! We’d better get out of here in 3 or 4 hours it’ll effect us!’”

“I wonder how many dwarves died before you figured that out?” Jeremy said with ill humor.

“Eh? What is that supposed to mean?” Blodnath sneered at his sometime student.

“I say that if we had time,” Martin stepped between them and addressed everyone. “We should go back to town and get a few barrels of oil and burn this whole place down.”

“We don’t have time,” Ratchis said.

“Did anyone recognize the deities depicted in those statues above?” Beorth suddenly asked.

“One of them is obviously the gnoll god, Kesh,’ Martin said. “Or at least, I’d assume."

“The other is some meaningless human god,” Kazrack waved the question off.

“It seemed familiar,” Martin said, scratching his chin.

“A Ram! Duh!” Jeremy made a knocking motion at Martin’s head and pointed at Beorth.

“I think it is a good idea that we did not touch them,” Derek said nervously.

“Perhaps it is a gnoll good, too,” Kazrack combed his beard with his fingers, reconsidering his hypothesis. “I could see how they could worship a ram – some kind of god of prey.”

“It is Rahkefet,” Ratchis said. “Or at least, I think it is. He is supposed to be the son of Set, but I know little of him, as he was said to have passed during The Time Before.”

“The time before what?” Kazrack asked.

“Long ago, when the world was all a sea of sand,’ Ratchis replied.

“Oh, that’s an interesting story,” Kazrack said. “I remember something about that during that holiday we celebrated with you.” (2)

“Every race has its own story about what came before the known ages of history, but none can agree on what it was like,” Belear added.

“We are getting distracted from the gruesome task at hand,” Beorth said, waking over to the edge and looking down at the babies. They began to cry and cough again when they saw him.

Ratchis walked over to the edge and swung his holy symbol chain around, “Nephthys, I call on you to get rid of these horrid creatures that were put here to test our dedication to the cause of good by our enemies.”

There was horrible hissing sound and a burning smell that wafted up suddenly in the form of a wispy smoke. The babies were lit up and then they began to burn away as if they were paper dipped in oil and cast into a fire. The stench was terrible, but the sound was worse. The hissing filled all their ears, and then suddenly stopped. There was hardly a second of silence before the baby crying began again like a constant wail of pain and confusion.

Ratchis had succeeded in burning off a top layer of zombie baby with the divine might of his goddess, but there were still dozens left, crawling around and now screaming like frightened children. Everyone in the company cringed as their eyes revealed a horror, but their ears plucked at their heart’s strings, for what good-hearted person can stand to hear a child cry in that way?

“Oh gods!” Jeremy covered his ears. “ Somebody shut that up!” He was near tears.

“Lords and Lady, please end the suffering of these blighted creatures!” Kazrack intoned, as he walked over to the edge. Again, more of the zombie infants crumbled into dust with inhuman shrieks. Again, there were a few left crawling around at the bottom of the pit (another twelve feet deep) and crying out.

Ratchis hopped onto a rope and slid down halfway and called to his goddess again, “Nephthys, end these creatures’ suffering so we may move one and cleanse this den of evil.”

The sound of shrieking echoed up the shaft for a few more moments, and then died away.

Now that the zombie infants were gone, they all looked down to see the twisted remains of whatever apparatus once stood at the surface to raise things up and down. It looked as if it had once been a metal wheel, and a thick rope and a hook and bar of some kind. It was badly rusted and broken in pieces in many places. There were also a few rotten strands of straw of what might have been a basket things were lowered in.

They also noticed that the pit itself seemed to open into some kind of ramp that faced the front of the monolith above.

The ropes attached above reached all the way to the very bottom of the shaft, so Kazrack, Ratchis and Beorth grabbed ropes and made their way down. Once they were safely down, Blodnath, Derek and followed.

The smell was growing increasingly worse. Large waterbugs crawled in and out of cracks where the shining red eyes of rats could be seen cowering from the light. The ramp did not go far. It was a gentle slope that only went down about ten feet to a strange metal door with no visible hinges. It had two horizontal handles about six inches long on either side of it close to floor. The door was 10 feet high and ten feet wide.

Kazrack walked towards the doors.

“No! Wait! Don’t touch it!” Blodnath’s voices echoed up and down the shaft, and everyone was startled.

Kazrack stopped arm’s length from the door.

“Nephthys, grant me a portion of your all-seeing vision so I may see what might block our way in this awful place,” Ratchis intoned. In a second, he could see Jeremy’s short sword glowing faintly blue. Beorth’s shawl was iridescent and brighter. He looked at the door. There was a blazing sea-blue rune visible on the door at about five feet high.

“There is a rune on the door,” Ratchis said, and kneeling he traced it in the dust. (3)

“I don’t recognize it,’ Blodnath said, walking backward towards one of the ropes. “I’m not touching it.”

“I will open the door,” Kazrack said, turning to face the others. “My dwarven hardiness will allow me to shake off whatever ill-effect some foul and weak wizard might seek to cast upon me.”

“Whoa! Whoa, there!” Derek’s eyes narrowed, and his young face grew creased as if he aged twenty years in a moment, and then it was soft again. “Let’s not do anything hasty.”

Martin was called, and he examined the rune and began to think back to his classes at the Academy. The rune seemed to be based on the triangular warding runes of dwarven make, but the circles were all wrong. He scratched his head.

Kazrack tapped his foot.

Martin called for his bag to be lowered to him and rummaged in it for the black leather bound book that Richard the Red had given him as a gift for the Festival of Isis. (4) The mage flipped through the book for some time, eventually sitting down in the muck cross-legged, flipping through the pages and humming to himself. At times, he stopped looked at one page for a long time, but would inevitable flip the page with a snap and keep browsing.

Finally, he hopped up to his feet with an “A-ha!”

“You found something?” Kazrack’s face was hopeful.

“It is a glyph of a protective ward,” Martin announced proudly.

Ratchis’ shoulders dropped and he let out a big sigh.

“Uh, didn’t we know that already?” Blodnath snorted.

Derek and Jeremy began to laugh.

“It’s good to know that at the bottom of a shaft of some evil tomb, in a pit once filled with crawling zombie babies, facing a magically trapped door that could fry us all, you can all still make me laugh,” Jeremy coughed out and slapped his knee.

Derek seemed to have caught the giggles, too and placed a hand on the wall to support himself as he doubled over and grabbed his gut.

Everyone else just stared at them. Beorth imagined how satisfying it would be to grab the two young men by the scruff of the neck and bang their heads together. The image made the tickle of laughter nip at his threat – but he suppressed it.

“Well, there is more,” Martin finally said. “It is a sonic attack of some kind. It will likely deafen, perhaps even burst the eardrums with sounds. Of course, if Ratchis traced it wrong it could be a fear spell of some kind, but I don’t thing the triangles would be upside down then, and they’d have a pronounced flare to the left if following what is called the Abyssal school of Third Age Thricia, or curved like talons if of the eastern school of tribal rune-form.”


Kazrack turned back to the doors. “Okay, so sound. That’s good, Martin. Thanks. That’s helpful, really. I could plug up my ears, or something.”

Jeremy and Derek giggled again, and Ratchis shot them a withering look. They were silent.

“I will open the door,” Kazrack said. “We have no other choice. I am most likely to resist some attack, and no other means of circumventing this ward.

“Belear could try to dispel it,” Martin offered with a shrug.

But the elder dwarf was called down, and cast his spell and it did not break the magic.

“I will open the door,” Kazrack repeated. “The rest of you should climb back up to the previous ledge in case it is an area effect.”

The others grudgingly agreed, and those that had climbed down, began to climb back up one by one. Beorth was to be last.

“Kazrack, are you sure you have the strength to do the job?” the ghost-hunter asked the dwarf.

“Of course,” Kazrack was grim faced.

Kazrack stood over by the left handle and realized that poor leverage would likely not allow him to open the door alone.

“This door is too wide for one,” Kazrack called.

Beorth let go of the rope, as he was about to climb. “I will come help.”

The two of them got back in their rope harnesses after Blodnath looped the ropes around supports for easier leverage, in case they needed to be pulled back up quickly.

The paladin grabbed the handle on the right. Above everyone looked over the side, with their hands over their ears and eyes wide open.

They counted to three and pulled up evenly and slowly. Inch by inch it crept up with the sound of twining chain and nothing had happened.

Kazrack looked over to Beorth and smiled, as the door was just about three feet open, and there was a sudden high-pitched sound that blasted from the door and echoed painfully up the shaft. The door rolled open the rest of the way as if caught by some counterweight. The hooded lantern that was still at the bottom of the shaft shattered and the place was plunged into darkness. Those above reflexively turned away from the shaft and doubled over in pain.

But in less than a second it was past.

There was no sound from below.

“What’s happening?” Martin asked aloud in the dark.

Ratchis shushed him and crawled over the wall and looked over and down.

At the bottom, Kazrack was lying on his side, with his arms around his head and his knees to his chest. Beorth was doubled over, and stumbled forward a few steps and then leaned on the wall.

Blood trickled from their ears.

“I’m alright,” Kazrack said overly loudly.

“We have no lantern, Beorth croaked, and then cried out. He felt the familiar pain of those bolts of cold black light strike him from the direction of the now open door on his left.

“We are under attack!” Beorth said. “We need light!”


(1) After Beorth lost his memory to the Pixie Curse (See Session #33), he gained most of his information about the party, its members and their adventures from Jana, the young witch of questionable background that once belonged to the party.

(2) Ratchis and the rest of the Fearless Manticore Killers shared a meal for one of the “Malar Days” (a nine day holiday commemorating the nine day ordeal of first priest of Nephthys (in her role as goddess of freedom) as he fled the Minions of Set) in session #15

(3) The rune was:

(4) The book was Runes, Sigils & Wards: Their Roots and Variations by Master of Wards Methuselal of the Academy of Wizardry (see session #38). It is a handy, but rare tome.
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First Post
Thanks for the update, I really enjoy reading your story hour.
Is there some taint in the air in the Necropolis that causes negative emotions? There seemed to be more party friction than normal... or that might just be my lack of sleep :)

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