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


Moderator Emeritus
Look_a_Unicorn said:
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 :)

I think it was just frustration with the quest and their progress and their decision to sidetrack and deal with this place before going back to the gnomes.

I think that Ratchis', Beorth's and Kazrack's will won out in this case - while everyone else probably kept thinking, "what are we trying to accomplish here again?"

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Hey nemm, I just got back to the story hour after some hiatus. I haven't been able to read all the recent updates yet, but they look great. It'll be nice to have a big block of this story to read instead of just a few mouth watering pieces :) .



First Post
I was just wondering if you, Nemmerle, ever considered running an adventure on the EN world PbP boards. It would give us non-New Yorkers the opportunity to enter the world of a master. I'd be first in line for a player slot, needless to say.


Moderator Emeritus
Cyronax said:
Hey nemm, I just got back to the story hour after some hiatus. I haven't been able to read all the recent updates yet, but they look great. It'll be nice to have a big block of this story to read instead of just a few mouth watering pieces :) .


How far have you gotten?


Moderator Emeritus
Manzanita said:
I was just wondering if you, Nemmerle, ever considered running an adventure on the EN world PbP boards. It would give us non-New Yorkers the opportunity to enter the world of a master. I'd be first in line for a player slot, needless to say.

Actually, I started up a pbp game involving the secondary charaters in OOTFP - Finn, Carlos, Gwar, Frank and Josef - but time became prohibitive and I had to drop the idea (which I felt really guilty about). . .

Anyway, I think I've decided that PbEm and PBP games are not for me - that stuff is cool to supplement a face to face game - but otherwise it seems not as fun to me.

But thanks for the interest.

Speaking of Finn, anyone seen MaverickWeirdo?


Moderator Emeritus
conclusion of session #43

Session #43

Part Two: A Fierce Battle in the Central Chamber

“Hurry with the light!” Jeremy fumbled towards the lip of the ledge, feeling for the rope.

Beorth clenched his teeth. Invisible in the darkness, he felt two more of the black bolts strike his chest.

“Pull us up!” Kazrack cried, but Ratchis had already called to Nephthys and cast light upon one of his javelins. He dropped the weapon down into the pit.

Jeremy already had his hand on the rope, and he leapt over the wall and followed the light down to aid his friends.

Derek did not react in time. The ledge was shaded in darkness again, as the light did not reach very strongly from below, and he was forced to fumble for the remaining rope in the darkness.

“Should we start pulling?” Tolnar asked aloud.

“Should we start pulling?” Jolnar echoed.

“Wait for the signal!” Captain Adalar roared. He moved to look over the edge. Martin snapped his fingers and tiny colored lights danced off his fingers to leap about his heady happily. He looked over to see the fate of Beorth and Kazrack as well.

What they saw, was Beorth stumbling away from the open door and beseeching his god for healing ans he lay hands on his chest and felt the divine healing warmth.

Blodnoth leapt over the low wall into the pit without the aid of a rope. He clambered down, thrusting his fingers and booted toes into tiny cracks and fissures. However, the lower half of the climb proved too smooth. He faltered and tumbled down the last fifteen feet into the pit, with an ‘oof!’

The ensorcelled javelin did not provide enough light for Beorth to see past the very entrance to the area beyond, but he was able to get the sense that it was very large and vaulted. Kazrack could see with his gift of dwarven vision that the door opened onto a stone stairway that led down into a vaulted chamber. He thought he saw the outline of what looked like column. There was an armored skeletal thing, one of the Minions of whoever ruled this place waiting patiently, sword in hand. Kazrack noticed that floor seemed to be a checker of alternated colored stone tile. His jaw dropped open as he several of the tiles burst open, and necrotic corpses began to pull themselves out of the earth below. They crawled over the tile, dressed in shredded woolen clothing, and aprons.

Kazrack lifted a fist over his head and held his bag of runestones in the other hand. “Lords and Lady! Put the fear of dwarvenkind into these creatures and turn them away from us and our might.”

The dwarven priest felt the swell of divine energy release and wash out in all directions.

The undead kept coming.

“They are coming up from the ground!” Kazrack called to the others. He hefted his halberd.

Ratchis had heard the popping sound of the bursting stone tiles and was already coming down a rope as fast as he could. It was the rope that Derek did not see until the half-orc grabbed it. The young woodsman sneered and then sucked his teeth to hold back a wave of sudden anger. (1)

Derek moved over to help the three dwarven brothers instead, they still held the ropes attached to the harnesses worn by Beorth and Kazrack.

“Get ready to pull as soon as we get the signal,” Derek said to them.

“We already know that,” Tolnar snapped, rolling his steel blues eyes.

“We need reinforcements,” Beorth called, as he slipped the harness off.

“Ta-da!” Jeremy replied, leaping the last few feet to the bottom of the shaft. He drew his two swords with a flick of his wrists.

“Maybe we can draw them out,” Blodnath suggested, thrusting his chin towards the open door, while creeping behind the metal refuse half-buried in the dirt.

Kazrack moved to the door to get a better view of what was happening within. And Ratchis leapt down the final fifteen feet. Martin grabbed a rope and began to come down. Jeremy moved to stand at Kazrack’s right in the broad door. The human could not see far into the darkness, but Kazrack could see chains that were connected to counterweights and were strung along pulleys and hen disappeared into the wall above the doorway. There were cold braziers flanking the stairs. The room was greater than sixty feet across and nearly seventy feet long. There were four columns supported a vaulted ceiling, and the walls were decorated in a crumbling mosaic. The other end of the room was shrouded in darkness even to a dwarf’s keen eyes.

With a yell, Belear came tumbling down, slipping from the rope he had tried to use to come down. The elder dwarf landed atop of Blodnath, which cushioned his landing.

“Ugh,” Blodnath spit, and looked up. “Are you okay master?”

Belear leapt to his feet, as if embarrassed.

Beorth stepped out of the harness, and picked up his quarterstaff, which he had brought down with him earlier. He moved in to support Kazrack and Jeremy.

The battle that followed was chaotic and spread out.

By now a group of zombies were making their way up the dark stairs with purpose in their dead eyes. They marched with their hands stretched before them and emitted an almost mechanical droning moan.

Kazrack stepped into the room and called to his gods. Four of the zombies broke ranks and began to shamble away from the dwarf into the dark end of the room. The armored Minion’s skull-face could show no emotion, and it was disturbing how perfectly still it stood, pointing at the dwarf, while holding a sword in its other hand.

Ratchis pushed past Jeremy and Kazrack to charge into the room. He cut a huge chunk off a zombie’s shoulder, and sent it crashing down on to the steps, leaving a slimy trail of gore behind it. It still fumbled to stand. The half-orc winced, as he took a second to hold his ribs. He had run past two zombies hoping to reach the Minion, and they had hammered him with their calcified fists.

To Jeremy it appeared as if Ratchis plunged into total darkness.

“I need to bring the light with me,” he thought.

Martin stepped away from the rope and cast his shield spell, while Jeremy moved to the rear of the shaft to pick up the enchanted javelin.

“Derek, come down here!” Jeremy called up to his new friend. “We’re bringing the fight to these undead suckers!”

Derek deftly came down the cracked stone side of the pit and then leapt from the wall with a graceful flip. He landed on the balls of his feet and turned to the open door.

Beorth stepped into the room as well, the light of the javelin now in Jeremy’s hand only illuminated a bit more, but he could see that a zombie had made it up the stairs, ignoring Ratchis. The paladin slammed it in the neck with his staff.

The Minion ambled backwards now, trying to stay out Ratchis’ furious reach. More zombies burst from beneath here and there and blocked the way.

As Jeremy stuck the javelin into his pack so he could still use his swords and have light, Kazrack and Ratchis struggled with zombie limbs, exchanging blows. The Neergaardian re-drew his short sword and made it to the door, as Belear stepped up and called to the dwarven gods as Kazrack had. Five of the zombies suddenly shrieked and then vaporized. The sound of the dirt that had been on their bodies rained across the ground, even as their clothing flared up and burned away in a second. Jeremy, who could now see into the room (but was still too far away to see the Minion), gasped.

Beorth began to move down the stairs, and the Minion pointed up at him. Wordlessly, it sent two more bolts of black light slamming into the paladin’s chest.

Ratchis roared and ripped through these gray zombies dressed as servants, running towards the armored Minion. Kazrack also came running, but Beorth sped past the short-legged dwarf with an unusual burst of speed for the paladin. The dwarf still wore his harness, and he had jerked back as he had reached the end of it length. He cursed.

The ghost-hunter’s staff dented the thing’s armor and it shuddered. In a moment Derek and Ratchis were beside the paladin, an Jeremy was there as well. The Minion took a swinging chop at Beorth, that the paladin ducked, and then it jerked backward allowing Ratchis and Beorth an opportunity for a devastating blow. Beorth, however, was off-balance and his staff spun wildly. Ratchis’ long sword ripped a section of armor off its shoulder.

The Minion had stepped back between two of the large pillars that looked a dark dark blue in the bobbing light of the javelin. Ratchis stepped forward to press the attack, but as he stepped between them there was a barely audible zapping sound accompanied by a flash of black and blue light that shimmered back and forth between the pillars in an instant.

Ratchis a deep shock to his system, followed by cold, as the negative energy passed through him. He shuddered.

“Well, that’s not good,” Derek muttered.

Martin hurried behind Beorth whose shoulders were hunched in pain from the wounds to his chest. “Distortus, the watch-mage muttered, casting Blur on the paladin.

Derek and Jeremy stepped up to the edge of the space between the pillars afraid to pass through. Watching Ratchis as he still moved to attack the Minion, which was ready to parry. More of the room was visible now. There was a crude painted wooden statue of a gnoll with blue skin holding a feathered and hooked scepter or rod. It lay on it side was twelve feet long and two feet wide.

Beorth made his way around the other side of the pillar, running to join Ratchis in his battle, but essentially he was now running between this pillar and another equally spaced pillar also on the left side of the room. There was another sizzle and flash of black and blue light.

With a ‘yerk!’, Beorth dropped to the tiled floor, unconscious.

“Beorth!” Derek cried out.

The Minion swung its long sword at Ratchis, who pulled back parrying the blow with his own sword. Kazrack took that moment to move into a flanking position, but his halberd went through the thing as it was suddenly ghostly. Ratchis’ riposte also eerily swung through the thing’s body.

The smell of rotting and death seemed to waft up from the spot where the tiles had been smashed from below. The dirt below it was a rich red-brown, and full of dark stones, worms and maggots.

Derek chased after a zombie that threatened to make its way to Beorth. He cartwheeled over the large wooden statue, laying a hand on it for support, but as he flipped over it. He heard it creak and lurch as the floor below it gave. In less than a second the young warrior’s feet were on the floor on the other side of the statue, but he could see now that the tiles in this area were already all shattered, and the floor was not stable. He felt the floor give way beneath his feet, so he hopped awkwardly further into the room, and to the edge of the light. Here the floor was sturdier, and he chopped at a zombie with his battleaxe, which had never left his hand.

Martin hurried over to the fallen paladin. In the bobbing light he could see dull bronze glyphs etched into the columns facing each other. The watch-mage found that Beorth was still barely conscious. He flitted in and out of awareness. (2)

“Beorth, stay with me! You have to stay awake, Beorth,” Martin shook the blanch-faced man. “If you go to sleep you could die.”

Over the sound of Kazrack and Ratchis roaring at the elusive Minion, and Derek’s axe cutting deep into necrotic flesh and withered bone, could be heard more shuffling of undead sandaled feet, and that droning moan. It was coming from the hole in the floor beneath the statue (which was now a quarter of the way sunk into the floor at an odd angle). There were dozens more zombies milling around beneath them!

The sound of steel on steel rang out as Ratchis parried another of the tenacious undead warrior’s blows. There was another metallic cracking as Kazrack drove the point of his halberd into seam in the things arm and pried back. A rain of pulverized bone burst out and the thing sagged. Ratchis tried to take advantage of its hesitation, but again his sword went right through it.

Jeremy turned from the harmless, yet disturbing, still flailing limbs of a zombie he had butchered in time to see come around Martin to put himself between the watch-mage and the cowering zombies on the other side of the statue. What the Neergaardian had not noticed, were the minute cracks now spreading out along the tiles. The floor gave out beneath his booted feet and he yelped, twisting his body to jump back to where he had come from. Instead, he disappeared into the darkness below.

Martin and Derek both called the blonde warrior’s name, as the only light source tumbled with him.

Kazrack turned thinking that Jeremy had fallen to some wound, “The power of my gods will save him… Uh, where’s Jeremy?”

“He fell in the hole!” Martin screeched hysterically. “I heard things down there.”

Kazrack looked away again, seeing that the Minion he and Ratchis faced, turned to hurry away from them. He slashed his halberd through the thing’s side, sending it to the cracked floor in a rain of bones and armor.

Belear had finally made his way to Beorth, with Blodnath guarding his flank. The elder dwarf laid his hands on the human paladin and spoke to his gods, “Mistress Rivkanal, please give me your healing powers that I may heal this brave warrior of the human jackal-god that we may smite this undead menace.”

Beorth felt the warmth and discomfort of his wounds closing, and the burns on his skin from the black lightning lessening. He sat up.

“That you for reviving me,” he said to Belear. “The blessing of the dwarven fathers are much appreciated.”

Ratchis was handling the last of the zombies that were not cowering, while Kazrack walked over to aid Belear and the others with Beorth.

Derek carefully moved towards the dim light emanating from the hole in the floor. He looked over the edge of the hole and called down.

“Jeremy? Do you need back up? There are more of them down there!”

When Jeremy fell through the hole in the floor he felt the jarring pain of stones and dirt momentarily impeding him and then giving way, causing him to tumbled wildly and be knocked back and forth in the opening and ruinous shaft. He slammed past what seemed like limbs and roots that were protruding from the dirt sides of the hole and landed heavily.

Jeremy shook off the pain and was quickly on his feet. What he saw was a chamber with a ten foot high ceiling that reached into the dark in all directions, but he was able to note two things. First, the columns above seem to spring from the this lower chamber, and second that the ceiling of this chamber and the floor above were the same chunk of dirt and stone, with long wooden supports. Most importantly, the living dead were encased in this dirt and as far as he could see the legs, arms, torsos and heads of zombies that had been buried alive here stuck out of the ceiling. The instability of the floor above extended to the ceiling down here, and several zombies were shaken loose. Dressed in tattered and rotting workman’s clothes, they ambled towards the warrior, black wiry hair protruding from their nearly fleshless heads.

Jeremy had a sword in each hand. He heard Derek call from above.

“I know, I got four of them in front of me right now,” Jeremy called back. “I can take ‘em.”

He stepped forward and cut one across the forearm as it reached for him, but did not notice that in the hole above, a zombie had finally been able to pull itself free of the dirt and was climbing to the chamber above.

Kazrack crawled towards the hole on his belly, trying to distribute his weight to keep more of the floor from collapsing. He peeked over the side in time to see a zombie arm come reaching up to pull its body up and out of the hole.

Whack! Derek sunk his battleaxe into its skull, sending it plummeting back down the hole. Whack! Ratchis’ blade echoed the blow, as the half-orc moved about the room decapitating cowering zombies. They still shivered in mindless fear of the divine might of the gods of good.

Jeremy was bobbing and weaving and knocking dead flailing limbs away from him with his blades. There was the sound of shifting dirt and stone and in the cloud he made up two more forms coming out of the darkness. He looked to his right and there was another he hadn’t seen before. He was surrounded.

Jeremy sheathed his swords and in one smooth action leapt straight up driving his hands into the dirt and scrambling to gain purchase with his feet. The zombies grabbed at him as he leapt, but it was too sudden a move, and their slow undead bodies could not react in time. He hustled up the hole, holding himself on either side.

“Somebody give me a hand!” Jeremy reached up and found Kazrack there to haul him up. Derek and Ratchis finished the last of the zombies.

Ratchis lowered his sword and wiped sweat and gore from his ridged and swollen brow. He walked back towards the others and then started at some movement near the back of the chamber where they had entered.

“Is everyone alright?” Beorth was asking Kazrack, who had walked over to check on him.

“There’s another one here!” Ratchis cried out seeing what it was that had caught his eye. It was another of the black armored skeletal Minions lurking to the left of the entrance, shadowed there at the edge of the light.

Kazrack hurried about one of the pillars in time to join his companion in seeing the Minion take a hack at one of the chains attached to the counter-weights. There was a metallic snap and the chain flew back, and the metal door to chamber jerked and one side dropped considerably. The metal creaked and squealed in protest.

“Beorth, can you stand?” Jeremy threw out an arm and helped to haul the paladin to his feet.

“Jeremy, get me my staff,” the paladin asked, calmly.

Kazrack ran to towards the Minion, roaring, and chopping into it with his pole-axe.

Ratchis came running to join him, but at that same moment, the divine fear that had filled the remaining cowering zombies left their dead limbs, and one turned, slamming a fist into the half-orc’s face. Ratchis retaliated with a deep chop of his sword, which made blue-black embalming fluid begin to spurt from the thing’s neck, but still it did not let him by.

Martin moved to stand by the remaining, chain. He gulped, knowing that he could not do much to slow it if it got past Kazrack.

Derek hacked another zombie, as the armored Minion ignored Kazrack and moved past him towards the other chain.

“We can’t let it trap us in here!” Martin cried out. Kazrack swung his halberd backhand and chopped into the thing again, but it did not fall as the armor absorbed most of the blow. Belear hurried over and his warhammer slammed into the thing as well, but still it did not fall, nor did it even look at its foes. Whatever it had that passed for a mind was focused on the chain alone.

There was a loud ‘clang’ as the undead thing’s sword slammed into the second chain. Luckily, the link the blade hit was only scored and bent, but did not give.

Jeremy tossed Beorth his staff.

The Minion deftly parried more blows from both Belear and Kazrack. Martin suddenly remembered that he still had his shield spell up and stood so that his body touched the chain. Now the magic shield also block the chain. The Minion’s blade bounced off the invisible shield, but then was amazingly in position to ward off Derek’s axe, as the young woodsman had come running over.

Ratchis still struggled with the remaining zombie.

Jeremy drew his long sword and charged the thing, having to push past Derek to get his blow in, which crunched the thing’s skull easily. It crumbled to the ground. As if in echo, the great metal door groaned again as it settled more, but the remaining chain still held.

Beorth hobbled over to aid, Ratchis and slammed the thing in the head. It turned slightly, as if to regard this new danger, and Ratchis removed its head with his own sword.

The chamber was quiet for a moment.

“Hey there are door over here,” Blodnath called from the far end of the chamber.

“Are you alright down there?” Captain Adalar called from out in the shaft, he was finally getting to climb down into the pit.

“Yes,” Jeremy called back, but added sarcastically. “Thanks for asking.”

Below, more zombies shuffled mindlessly and droned their undead moan incessantly.

End of Session #43


(1) Derek’s species enemy is the orc.

(2) DM’s Note: Beorth was at exactly zero hit points.
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First Post
Re: conclusion of session #43

nemmerle said:

Derek turned from the harmless, yet disturbing, still flailing limbs of a zombie he had butchered in time to see come around Martin to put himself between the watch-mage and the cowering zombies on the other side of the statue. What the Neergaardian had not noticed, were the minute cracks now spreading out along the tiles. The floor gave out beneath his booted feet and he yelped, twisting his body to jump back to where he had come from. Instead, he disappeared into the darkness below.

I believe that it should be Jeremy instead of Derek.

Other than that, I loved this update! The FMK's finally got to kick butt in a big battle. They obviously had a tough time of it, but there were some very heroic moments. I loved Derek's tumble, Ratchis and Kazrack's rushing to defeat the Minons, Martin's ingenious use of the Shield spell, and Jeremy's jump and climb from the level below, which was very well written btw. It seemed as though Beorth didn't get to do quite as much, but took the most damage, which is heroic in its own way I suppose.

The imagery was awesome. I could really picture the inside of this room, and the thought of a suspended burial ground, rife with undead corpses was just amazing. Great job.



Moderator Emeritus
Re: Re: conclusion of session #43

handforged said:

I believe that it should be Jeremy instead of Derek.

Other than that, I loved this update! The FMK's finally got to kick butt in a big battle. They obviously had a tough time of it, but there were some very heroic moments. I loved Derek's tumble, Ratchis and Kazrack's rushing to defeat the Minons, Martin's ingenious use of the Shield spell, and Jeremy's jump and climb from the level below, which was very well written btw. It seemed as though Beorth didn't get to do quite as much, but took the most damage, which is heroic in its own way I suppose.

The imagery was awesome. I could really picture the inside of this room, and the thought of a suspended burial ground, rife with undead corpses was just amazing. Great job.


Yes, it was Jeremy. . . now fixed! :D

Now, this is the kind of reply I like. . . not only because it is complimetary ;) - but because it refers to specific stuff. . Hand-forged, you have a lot more ass-kicking to look forward to - trust me.

At the end of this adventure it was estimated that the FMK had destroyed something in the neighborhood of 300 zombies!

Baron Opal

First Post
Lost Book of Nemmerle


I came to the end of the Book II thread and the link leading to the episodes past #24 is broken. Could you update the link or redirect me? Thanks. I'm really enjoying the story and would like to finish Book II before starting on this thread.

Baron Opal


Moderator Emeritus
Session #44

Session #44

Part One: Slow and steady wins the race. . .

“There is magic here,” Kazrack said. He was holding three of his runestones in his open palm and looking from them to the right door at the rear of the chamber. “It is very strong. Stronger than I think any of us can cast.”

The door was made of bluish-black stone, and framed in a black stone. They broke the continuity of the mosaic that encompassed three of the chamber’s four walls.

Beorth was examining the mosaic and taking in the story it told of a man’s birth, life and then his journey into the afterlife.

Belear, Ratchis and Kazrack had dispensed the healing miracles of the their respective deities, and the group felt strong after their victory.

It was agreed that Captain Adalar would remain on the lowest level of the shaft with the three young brothers, Baervard, Helrahd and Kirla, in order to guard the exit. They were in a position where they could be called for support, or to prepare the escape. This was also where the others, Ratchis, Kazrack, Martin, Jeremy, Derek, Blodnath, Belear and Beorth, would return to camp when fatigue suggested that a day was done.

“I can attempt to break the enchantment on the morrow when I can prepare my orisons and prayers,” Belear said.

The other door was askew, as the stone above it was cracked and pressed down on it. The passage beyond was clearly collapsed. Kazrack and Blodnath began to examine it to insure that it did not speak ill of the integrity of the rest of the area.

“I think the hole in the floor pretty much shows us this place isn’t stable,” Derek quipped, winking at Jeremy, who chuckled.

Kazrack frowned at the party’s newest member.

It was agreed that they’d camp here for the night to guard the remaining chain and their way in and out to this portion of the subterranean structure that went deeper than any save Beorth expected. They were afraid something might emerge from the doors or the crack in the tiled floor and cut the remaining chain, blocking them from probing deeper without great effort of getting through the heavy plated metal door.

As they did not need to rest and prepare spells, Derek, Blodnath and Jeremy took turns watching while the others slept (except of course, for Martin).

Isilem, the 16th of Prem – 565 H.E.

It was hard to tell if the sun was shining above, but hours later they all awoke in the dark. Martin lit a torch, and commented that the party was running out of natural light sources now that both lanterns had been lost.

The watch-mage used his mending spells to fix the broken chain links of the door, while Jeremy held them together, and Beorth propped the door with Derek’s help. Ratchis, Kazrack and Belear prayed and prepared their spells, and soon Ratchis was using the lesser restoration prayer to restore some of Beorth’s strength and some of his own from the battle with the final shadow the previous day.

After sharing some rations, everyone gathered and waited while Belear tried his hand at breaking the enchantment on the right hand door. He chanted some words in dwarvish and reached forward as if to touch the door with his open palm, but stopped short and grunted.

Wiping sweat from his brow, he stepped back and sighed.

“I believe I successfully broke of the spells on the door, but I think there may have been more than one,” the elder priest said.

In a moment, Ratchis cast an orison and he could see the blue dweomer shimmering on the door. He nodded in agreement with the dwarven priest.

“I will open the door,” Kazrack said.

Ratchis shrugged and Jeremy rolled his eyes.

“I will cast some of my gods’ blessings upon me to help protect me when I do,” Kazrack added. He always seemed flustered at the party’s reactions to his willingness to risk his life.

Martin looked to Beorth nervously, but the paladin’s face was placid as always.

Kazrack got down on one knee before the door and prayed to his gods in his racial tongue. “Lords and Lady please watch over me. Forever guide me in the right direction and help me to resist all things that would take from that path whether they be dangers or temptations.” (1)

Kazrack stood and pushed at the door. It was very heavy, and he had to put his weight into it. The sound of stone scraping on stone filled the room, and the frame settled as the weight of the door came off of it. Suddenly, Kazrack felt the door move in a strange way and he flinched back. The door was open a crack, but the surface of it was changing, melding into the protruding face of gnome, with a large mole on its nose, and scaly skin.

“Found the lair of my father have you?” The stone moved as if fluid, moving the jaws and lips. The voice was shrill, like a gnome gargling shards of glass with his ale. “Well, let this be a lesson to ya!”

Everyone froze, and could feel every muscle in their body tense up. All except Kazrack, who quickly turned away from the door in horror of what was about to happen. Martin braced himself for whatever horrible spell was about to be released by the opening of the door.

But nothing happened.

It was silent for another moment, and then everyone let a breath out. Belear must have successfully dispelled the warding spell, but the magic mouth had still been there.

“There is something very satisfying about that,” Jeremy said.

Martin nodded.

Kazrack and Ratchis pushed the heavy stone door straight back. It fit into a nook opposite it, making the entrance lead right into a narrow hall that turned right, and led down a very narrow and very steep staircase of small steps.

Kazrack quickly wedged pitons into the crease around the stone block that served as a door to keep from it being pushed back in place from the other side, though how one might get to the other side was unclear to him. He snorted at the shoddy and unmaintained workmanship of this place, and thought of the secret dwarven carved chambers of his people back in Verdun (2), and of the dim memories of his youth in Llurgh-Splendar-Tor. His brief hammerfalls echoed through the narrow corridor, sand and grit poured from the creases between stones.

Ratchis ducked his head, as he lead the way, long sword in hand. The rest followed, Jeremy taking up the rear, both he and Martin carried among the last of the party’s torches.

“I’m the rear guard from Neergaard!” Jeremy guffawed. Derek snickered, and Martin rolled his eyes.

“Keep it quiet back there,” Ratchis hissed, looking back over his shoulder.

“What was that Ratchis?” Jeremy exaggerated the gesture of putting his free hand to his ear. “I can’t hear you over Beorth and Kazrack stamping around in their armor!”

Ratchis growled. Derek frowned at Jeremy, but had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing.

At the bottom of the steps, the narrow corridor turned left, and obviously opened into some kind of chamber. There was a wooden sarcophagus leaning upright in the corner. Ratchis noted the absence of many cobwebs across the narrow corridor. Someone had been here, and had been here often, but perhaps not that recently.

Ratchis stepped past the sarcophagus, and stepped to the right leaving room for Kazrack and others to come past. Beorth stopped at the sarcophagus, and spoke a quiet prayer. He then pulled it open to ensure its occupant was not animated. A cloud of bone dust erupted when it was open, and the clatter of the disturbed shards. He enlisted Kazrack’s help in lower in it down. The paladin spoke another prayer over it, and then pushed it to the side out of the way.

This was a small antechamber that was connected by a narrow hallway to a longer and wider room. It was mostly cloaked in darkness. They crept in to find an office or lab of sorts. On the right was a stone slab like a body might be laid out on. Above it, built into the corner of the wall was a book shelf. There were nine books. The third one was larger, squarer and thicker. Across from this on the left was a wooden desk covered in papers. There were shards of glass scattered atop them, and all over the floor. A rotting wooden chair lay on its side, among puddles of some deep blue liquid, and bright red liquid that poured from the desktop. Where the liquids met they did not mix, but the red flowed quickly over the blue, pooling on the other side. At the head of the room was an immense bronze statue of woman.

Kazrack moved forward never taking his eyes off the statue, but being careful not step in the strange liquid. Beorth came up behind him. Martin made his way forward and got down on all fours to examine the liquid.

The woman in the statue had four arms. The upper right and the lower left held curved bladed swords that looked like over-sized butcher knives. The upper left hand was making a clawing motion, while the lower right held a bronze depiction of a human head by its wire hair. Despite the fact that she had four breasts, and her expression was filled with rancor, full lips retracted to reveal sharpened teeth, she still had a menacing beauty about her. The statue was bolted to the wall from its bat-like wings in order to give her the appearance of coming through the wall, and leaping over her pedestal. She had tiny horns nearly hidden by her long flowing hair. Despite its content, Kazrack was flabbergasted by the workmanship. Immediately below the statue, flanked by cold bronze braziers was a stone sarcophagus atop a slab of stone. There were no markings on the sarcophagus of any kind, but there was a large metal padlock gleaming as it hung through metal rings sunk into the stone.

Ratchis began to carefully pull the books off the shelf and pass them down to Derek who laid them out on the stained stone slab. He noted that there were silver markings on the spines of the books, circles and vertical lines; as if numbering them. The markings seemed to have been added long after the books’ binding.

Martin had moved over to the desk, lifting the hem of his robes to keep them from dragging into the unidentifiable liquids. He shuffled through the papers. The tips of the crusty parchment crumbled to dust in his hands, and he began to turn them more carefully. They were written in some flowing script that reminded him of root dwarven runes from which the common script is based. (3) However, there was marginalia obviously written a lot more recently, and in the coded script of the gnomish people, called Binar.

Kazrack dropped three runestones into his hand spoke a prayer. Soon he was checking the room for magical auras. The lock on the sarcophagus shone brightly, only slightly less bright were aura around the second and fourth books that had been taken down from the shelf.

“We are running out of torches and thus light,” Beorth commented. Kazrack nodded. Ratchis and Martin, however, were too busy looking to the statue.

“Who is she?” Martin asked aloud, pointing to the statue.

“Obviously, she is a demon of some kind,” Ratchis replied.

“Mozek’s mother?” Kazrack asked.

“Could be,” Martin replied. “Though the warding on the door made reference to what we can only assume was Mozek’s father.”

“You think this place was his?” Beorth asked. He had to struggle to remember all the fractured details that Jana had given him about the gnomes, the fiends and the other troubles the party had been involved with, as his own memory of it all was blank.

“Even a gnome could build a place better than this,” Kazrack said, gesturing to the architecture.

“It seems too old,” Martin speculated. “Even gnomes do not live this long. My guess is he found it.” The watch-mage flipped through one of the books that did not detect as magical. Inside he found better-preserved pages in the same script, and more gnomish marginalia.

‘Do you think he wrote these books?” Beorth asked.

“I think he found them,” Martin replied. “He obviously translated them. The marginalia could be bits of translation, or if he knew the language well could be notes about whatever they say.”

“You can’t read them?” Kazrack asked.

“I don’t quite recognize the script,” Martin said. He began to flip through another book and saw many plates with anatomical drawings of types of undead. “It seems like some ancient form of common, or maybe a corrupt form of dwarvish.

Kazrack walked over and looked. He cocked his head and grunted. “I can’t make heads or tails of it.”

“Nor can I,” Belear said, he was flipping through another book.

“On the morrow I can cast a spell that will help me comprehend what is written here,” Martin said.

“Lehrethonar grants me a similar miracle,” Kazrack said. Martin nodded.

“In the meantime, let’s put them away,” Ratchis interjected.

The books were split up among the party. Jeremy carried the biggest and heaviest one – but each of the books covers seemed to be metal covered in some kind of black (or stained) reptilian hide. They were heavy.

“And what about light?” Beorth asked.

Ratchis looked down at the chair, and then over at the desk. After a ton of noise, these were smashed into makeshift torches. The extra lantern oil (now that they had no lanterns) was used to soak the large wooden sticks, and a winter blanket was shredded and also dipped in oil and wrapped around the heads of them. They would not be as good as torches made by an expert, but they would do for now. In all they were able to make two-dozen makeshift torches. These were divvied up as well.

Kazrack was looked around the room, and noticed a trap door in the floor to the left of the statue and behind a brazier. The brazier was moved. Blodnath came forward and looked for traps while Derek looked on from over his shoulder. Jeremy crowded the old dwarf as well, and he hissed and spit at them, gesturing for them to move away.

“But I know how to do that stuff,” Derek said.

“That’s nice kid,” Blodnath said. “Maybe if you keep distracting me I won’t find the trap and when I did you can take a turn, eh?”

Derek frowned, and he and Jeremy moved away. Almost immediately, Blodnath leapt up to his feet and shook his head, “It’s safe. There ain’t nothing here.”

He reached down and pulled it open. There was a shower of dust below. He moved out of the way to let the others by. Kazrack went down first, followed closely by Ratchis.

Below was a short metal ladder leading down to a very small passage that went off to the left, and it was so low Ratchis had to get down on his knees to get through it. Fortunately, it was not very long and after about twenty feet opened up in an area with another ladder going up. Ratchis opened the trap door above and immediately heard a shuffling sound and a very deep grinding moan.

“There are undead up here,” the half-orc called down and leapt up out of the trapdoor to leave room for Kazrack who quickly climbed up. Beorth and Jeremy were close behind him. Beorth held a torch.

Ratchis moved forward in the narrow passage with taller vaulted ceilings and little alcoves holding embalmed dead and skeletons on either side. Ahead the passage broadened into a room, Ratchis could see a pillar, but then his view was blocked. Towards him lurched a nine-foot tall muscular humanoid, but its leathery hide was blackened, and it wore a leather harness, as if it had once been used as a beast of burden. It forehead was swollen, and its eyes vacant.

“Ogre zombies!” Ratchis cried out and stepped forward to where the chamber widened to hold the entrance, holding his sword up to strike when they reached him. Unfortunately, Ratchis forgot that the things fists could reach him before the body would be in range of his blade. He felt the knotted fists of the thing slam him with incredible might on the neck and shoulders, and he crumbled to the ground. The other ogre zombie, reached down and slammed him again in the side of the head. Ratchis moaned and tried desperately to roll back to his feet, though the pain was excruciating.

Kazrack came leaping over his companion, light flail in hand to deal with the narrow space, but there was a resound crack as the undead ogres slammed their meaty fists in the dwarf’s face. Kazrack’s blow never connected, he found himself lying on his back beside Ratchis.

Beorth did not hesitate. While the ogre arms were still outstretched, and recoiling back to strike again, the paladin leapt within their reach and calling upon the divine vengeance of his god, cracked the closer one’s skull open. One of its milky eyeballs burst and dribbled down its face, as the other side of the staff slammed into its chin.

The paladin moved aside, allowing Derek and Jeremy to move in the narrow confines of the chamber and the corridor. Jeremy tore open one of its legs, while Derek’s battle-axe bit into its ribs. It fell over, pouring gray-blue embalming fluid across the sandy floor.

Derek slipped past the lumbering hulk, but was surprised to see two more of the thick forms shambling out of the rear of the passage which continued past this small chamber.

“There are more!” he warned, as Ratchis scrambled to his feet and asked Nephthys to bless some stone he picked up off the ground.

Jeremy ducked a blow by the remaining ogre zombie at the front of the chamber, while Derek scrabbled to avoid the blows of the two that came into the room from the other side.

“I could use a little help here,” Derek whined.

Jeremy parried the blow of the ogre before him, and using the force of the dead arm pressed down on the flat of his blade to swing his body towards Derek, and then drawing his short sword with his left hand he shoved it deeply into the gut of one of the zombies menacing Derek.

“That’s what you get for going ahead by yourself,” Jeremy quipped with a smile. “Who do you think you are, Kazrack?”

He followed this up with a slash across its chest; a piece of rib ricocheted back and forth across the room for a moment, but the thing would not fall. Derek finished it off with a chop of his axe.

Kazrack got his wind back and stood, slamming the head of his flail against the first ogre zombie. It did not fall.

Ratchis was able to get past it and threw one of his stone at the ogre at the rear of the chamber, that still reached dumbly for Derek. The stone smashed the thing’s yellowed teeth and lodged itself in the roof of its mouth. It did not react.

The ogre in front ignore Kazrack and turned around to swing at Jeremy, who just barely noticed in time. The thing’s dead fist slammed the stone wall instead, leaving a round impression of cracks in its surface. Derek was not so lucky and he felt his back strike the wall, as a zombie fist nearly caved in his chest.

Kazrack roared, feeling a fury enter him that he rarely felt. It was as if Krauchaar’s invigorating ales had been poured down his gullet. (4) He slammed the ogre before him in the shin, and it cracked. A long splinter of bone burst out of the thing’s thick skin and it fell over to the right, its head crunching as it slammed against the stone wall. It was now a huge obstacle of dead rotting meeting wedged between the walls of the narrow chamber. It was pinned there, askew and at an angle, partially blocking the view of Ratchis, Derek and Jeremy in the other part of the room.

Martin, Belear and Blodnath made it to the narrow chamber, but could not get past Kazrack and the two huge bodies right there.

Ratchis tossed another stone. This one caught the thing in the neck and its jugular vein snapped, spraying the caustic embalming fluid on Derek. The young woodsman moved back out of the spray, coughing and spitting, and rubbing his eyes with the butt of his left hand.

The ogre pushed past Derek and slammed a fist into Ratchis’ face, but Jeremy’s long sword struck it in temple at the same instant. And it stopped moving.

“No need to thank me,” Jeremy said to Ratchis, sheathing his swords.

Ratchis grunted.

“What do you think these things were doing here?” Kazrack asked, rubbing his neck where he had been struck.

“Work horses,” Ratchis replied. He pointed to the leather harnesses on the monsters. They were probably used to carry or cart heavy things. Those metal rings on the back of the harness were probably used to connect them to the stones and things used to make this place so they can could be dragged around.”

“Undeath is the worst form of slavery,” Beorth muttered.

“Not even an ogre deserves it,” Ratchis added.

“I think they were used to push the stone door back in place,” Derek said, slinking ahead to see a narrow alcove where a large block had been slide from the other side. “We are behind the door that led into this area.”

Some time was spent looking for hidden or disguised doors or passageways, but the stone gave away nothing – even to trained dwarven eyes.

“There is nowhere else left to go,” Martin said, as everyone came back out into the central chamber.

“There’s one place…” Jeremy pointed to the crack in the floor, where the statue had gone through, along with Jeremy.

“Yes, there are more undead down there,” Beorth added. “At the very least we have to deal with them, so we might as well explore.”

“I am not sure that there is much here worth staying for,’ Belear said, solemnly. “Do not forget the gnomes and do not forget that our people are endangered by the dark elves by your own admission.”

“The books might be the key to helping us defeating the fiendish gnomes,” Martin said. “And they obviously have something to do with this place.”

“This place is tainted,” Beorth said. “I must know more about it, and I must destroy all undead I come across. I may not remember taking my vows as a ghost-hunter of Anubis, but I know that I made them in my heart and in my spirit. I will not abandon them.”

“No one is asking you to abandon them, Beorth,” Ratchis said, softly, the rasp of his voice making him almost indecipherable. “And I agree that we have to search below. It will take time to translate the books and this is a foul place that needs to be cleansed in the meantime.”

Kazrack and Martin nodded.

Jeremy shrugged his shoulders.

“I am here to help Martin the Green and thus help you all,” Derek motioned to the rest of the Fearless Manticore Killers. “And if you need me here, I guess here is where I’ll be. That dragon doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.”

Martin shot the young man a look.

“We’re going down,” Kazrack said. “Blodnath, ready the ropes.”


(1) DM’s Note: Kazrack cast both Resistance and Guidance before opening the door.
(2) The small dwarven community of Verdun is very ghettoized living in an isolated area of the Residential District. They have secret tunnels and chambers beneath they city where they gather and worship.
(3) The modern common script is based on elvish letters, but the common tongue itself has is greatly influenced by dwarven, and early writings emulated that race’s runes.
(4) Among Krauchaar’s followers are the furious Tavern Brawlers, who can drink themselves into a rage where they feel no pain and swing their weapons with great strength.
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Moderator Emeritus
DM's Perspective

Disclaimer: These are just my opinions on the development and psychology of the members of the Fearless Manticore Killers - and have no real bearing on how the players themselves see their characters or how they play them - and no judgement as to these facets or "right" or "wrong" - they are just observations and opinions on the characters themselves - based on this point of the story.

I have to say at this point in the story it is the character developments and dynamics that interest me most. I found myself (as still find myself) intrigued with how Ratchis and Kazrack became the de facto leader by way of just being the loudest and most opinionated members of the party. However, Kazrack's fervor and faith which often times makes him appear as if he has a deathwish - can come off as kooky. It definitely comes off as kooky to his fellow adventurers and to the NPC dwarves - not because he is a funny character - but because of just he opposite - he is so serious about his choices and the things that come off as bizarre to others that it makes him seem even more kooky.

I ike that word: kooky.

Ratchis, as the story has mentioned has grown arrogant - I think it is because he is the kind of character who was used to acting and doing on his own - and thus the occasional indecisiveness on the part of his companions leads him to lead - to make decisions for everyone just to ensure something happens - he takes the weight of the world on his shoulders - the irony in my opinion is that Ratchis does not know how to treat people as equals - I think in his heart he beleives this and his conscious choices are made on this belief - but not all choices or behavior is conscious - Those familiar with Ratchis' origins will know that he spent time abused by his orc tribe, as a slave for humans and then later as a just a solitary woodsman helping people when he could, but bullying and intimidating hunters and others - Even though ostensibely he was the equal of the friars of Nephthys who took him from there to train him, he was their student and listened to them - essentially, he only know how to deal with people either as those who can tell him what to do and those that will listen to them when he tells or intimidates them into doing something - because he trusts himself and his choices and morals before anyone else's.

Jeremy and Derek's growing friendship is also of great interest to me - I think since his death and before Derek's arrival, Jeremy was with the party out of sense of duty as much as for the sense of adventure and the sense of doing the right thing by people (i think in that order of importance - but remember, these are just my perspective -the players (if they ever friggin' posted here) might have different opinions - but as he and Derek "got to know each other better" (i.e. the player former playing Jana now had a character Jeremy could relate to) he was able to recapture some of the character elements from earlier in the campaign and from the original idea where he and Malcolm (remember him?) would be inseparable friends - causing mischief and leading each other into trouble - perhaps Jeremy is a bit more wizened (he did go from a 7 wisdom to an 8 at 4th level) so he would not be as wild as the early days - but that part of his personality is still there,

Beorth is really the most interesting for me - because I think that his lack of memory has caused him to really grasp on to the ethos of his god even stronger than before - it is the only thing he knows he can count on and that feels 100% right all the time because he feels it in his spirit - even though he has forgotten some technical things -there are things the soul never forgets and his god has not forgotten him and that is a pretty powerful realization. However, it makes him more of an extreme character - living up to the perception of what a follower of Anubis is supposed to be - not what he knows it is supposed to be based on his training. This has led him to grow increasingly isolated from the rest of the party - because Jana (who is now dead) was the only one who ever really took the time to make sure he was filled in on lots of the details of what the party had been doing - and who knows what kind of spin she put on things for her own benefit.

Finally, there is Martin the Green - and I have to admit he is a mystery even to me - his confidence seem to either plateau or crumble without making any headway - though I think his player plays him well (might pay better attention to his notes, but whatcha gonna do?) - though in the more recent sessions he has been using his noodle more to help figure stuff out and has been more effective in combat - characterwise all I could see him developing at this point was an increased sense of inevitable doom. . . And maybe he is right - maybe the Fearless Manticore Killers are destined to die forgotten in some crypt somewhere - or in the threshold of Hurgun's Maze - the question is how will this "knowledge" effect how he acts. . . .?


First Post
You have a pretty good handle on all of the characters. This is good, given that you're the DM and all. :) The fact that all of the PCs have very extreme character traits makes for interesting roleplaying, but it also prevents the kind of group cohesion and friendship that often manifests in adventuring parties. Kazrack, Ratchis and Beorth are too focused on their respective dogmas to really unbend and connect with one another, while Martin is too obsessed with the group's inevitable doom. :)

Martin, unfortunately, is a relatively weak-willed individual caught up in the wake of a group of people much more aggressive than he, and this has prevented him from properly blossoming as an individual. He needs a certain amount of respect from others in order to develop confidence in his own abilities and decisions, and this group simply isn't going to give it to him. :(

- Eric


First Post
sorry for the quietude, Nemm.

It is most likely that people were so awed by your writing that they knew not what to say.

I for one can also claim that I have been unable to get online for a while. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the character development. It will be interesting to see if the party stays together. It seems that they have less and less of a reason to.



First Post
nemmerle said:

Eh? What gave you that impression?
Oh, maybe it's the seeming near-total lack of friendship and bonding between party members, with only Jeremy and Derek willing to give one another the time of day. ;) Yeah, the group is held together by a common cause, but by not much else. I can certainly see how a reader might wonder if, say, Kazrack will go off with the dwarves and leave the party after the Necropolis sequence.

- Eric


First Post
I, for one, am a truly rabid churchmouse.

There's a lot holding this party together, including the fact that they're contracted to rid the land of a dragon and they would be criminals if they neglect this duty. They also share a common conern for the gnomes and good in general. I'm impressed how "Good" this group is. The paladin doesn't stand out as more good than the rest, which is rare in my experience role-playing. It seems unlikely many members of this party would abandon this group with its potential to promote the cause of good so effectively.


First Post
Don't believe for one minute we aren't here just because you can't hear us, were here alright watching, waiting, more waiting and then reading with manic fervour.

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