"Out of the Frying Pan"- Book IV - Into the Fire [STORY HOUR COMPLETED - 12/25/06]

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First Post
nemmerle said:
Glad you guys are enjoying it. . . Soon we will be coming up on one of my favorite encounters ever, with a whole new level of gross factor you have come to expect from the "Out of the Frying Pan" campaign.
I don't even want to remember that one. Ew.


Moderator Emeritus
(part 1 of 2)

Session #65

Ra’s Glory was beginning to set when Shadarach led them further down river to a recess in the cliff face. Here the rock face was black and more jagged. A large brown boulder that had obviously been dragged from somewhere else was wedged in a crack at the end of the recess.

“It ish guh dit we guh back under duh muntun,” Kazrack said. He ran his fingers through his beard to comb out the drool that saturated it whenever he spoke.

“Do you trust this guy, Ratchis?” Dorn asked. He wiped the sweat from his brow and slipped his helmet over his curly brown hair.

“I think he is living a simple life and what he says is what he means,” Ratchis reasoned. “I think that if he meant us harm, he would say so and act that way.”

“Uh juss wun uh know ooh ease dwarves ‘at polluted the land were,” Kazrack said.

“They were probably just miners,” Ratchis said. “Dwarves like any other dwarves.”

“Uh think et is dwarves that betrayed uh ways of ur people,” Kazrack frowned. “Iss man seem tuh uh taken uh luckening tuh you. Would yuh mund delving intuh who these dwarves were?”

“I think you interpretation is strange,” Ratchis replied.

“Kazrack, it is not like dwarves are known for their concern for the wood and the wild,” Martin the Green said, butting in.

Again, Kazrack frowned.

Shadarach grunted cupped his large calloused hands around his mouth and bellowed. A few minutes later, the largest of the bears arrived, sniffing at the Fearless Manticore Killers as he came past them. Dorn stepped away nervously. The woodsman pulled a leather harness from a sack he carried and gently put it on the bear. It was attached to some ropes with metal claws tied to the ends and in that way the great boulder was pulled out of the crack.

He took the harness off the bear, and whacked it on the rump and it took off.

“If you have a spell that increases your strength, use it now,” Shadarach said to Ratchis. “I will need your aid to re-seal it. It must be kept seal so that orcs do not emerge.”

“There are orcs…in the tunnel?” Martin gulped.

“I will lead you to the spawning grounds. There are few there, and you may be lucky and not meet any, except perhaps some of their women,” Shadarach addressed all his comments to Ratchis as always. “The women of your folk are queens when compared to the black orcs that spawn here.”

There was a long silence.

“And there will be orc children there?” Beorth asked, as they moved through the crack one by one into the dark tunnel beyond.

“This lids tuh un intesting question,” Kazrack said. “If you have the chance tuh uradicate uh people, would you? They ur vile, yes, but cun we kill children?”

Ratchis looked at Kazrack but said nothing.

“The black orc spawn will be as thick as insects down there,” Shadarach said. “Their early years they do nothing but crawl in the filth of their people and fight for the meager scraps and even kill and eat each other so that only the strong survive. It is said that even as infants, some gain such a taste for their mother’s teat that they will tear the flesh from her and devour it.”

“That makes uh deshishun eashier,” Kazrack said.

The tunnel beyond the crack in the cliff face quickly narrowed. The others waited as Shadarach and Ratchis used the harness to drag the boulder back in place. The surrounding stone protested, and dust filled the crevasse making all but Kazrack and Shadarach cough.

In a moment they were in an oppressive darkness. The sound of dripping water echoed in the distance above them.

Beorth and Dorn lit torches. Shadarach led the way with Ratchis right behind him. The others were staggered out, though Ratchis warned several times for everyone to remain close. The half-ogre led them through the narrow tunnel past a maze of fissures and cracks. In places the ceiling was so long, the half-ogre had to get on his knees to pass, while at others the crack extended way above them out of the reach of the light of the torches. The walls were cold and wet, and the uneven ground was slick in many place weaving left and right, but moving consistently up, though many of the passages they passed seemed to go down into bottomless abysses.

“I hate these kinds of places,” Flora complained.

“Don’t worry, honey I’ll keep you safe,” Gunthar whispered.

They came to a wide tunnel that seemed to have been carved from the black stone as opposed to created by water and shifting rock like all the other they had passed or gone through. Shadarach signaled for them to wait and then hurried into it and up to the right, disappearing for several minutes. He returned and gestured for them to hurry and make no sound.

Forty feet up this worked tunnel they cut to the left again down another narrow crack. Ratchis waited at the opening and made sure every one made it past, and then squeezed his way back up to the front to catch up with the guide.

“Soon you will see the true measure of your people’s evil, Ratchis,” Shadarach whispered to him. “Lest the all your time among the men you serve has made you forget where you come from.”

“I do not serve men,” Ratchis replied coldly.

“Heh. You are poisoned by words,” Shadarach said. “You lead them from place to place and fight to protect their towns and books and walls, convinced by their many meanings and fancy words, even as they seek to stab at the bosom of nature. You can believe in the oaths of civilization, but civilization can do naught but devour… Poisoned by words, weakened… You are less yourself all the time. I have seen it before.”

Ratchis did not reply.

And on and on they went. The torches went out and were not re-lit, instead they bumbled through the darkness, hand in the shoulder of the person before them. Light would be too dangerous, Shadarach warned. At one point, they made they way up a narrow curved stair carved in a style that Kazrack recognized as uniquely dwarven, ‘the stair cut’ was one of the first cuts learned by an apprentice stone-cutter like himself, and was common to both dwarven mines and citadels. (1)

They had been marching nearly five hour without a break when they first heard the echo of harsh voices. There was momentary panic, and weapons were drawn.

“Not yet,” Shadarach said. “They are distant and do not hear us. But soon…”

Another hour had passed, when the narrow curving passage they travel down single file emptied into another broad hall that ran nearly perpendicular to the way they were traveling. Shadarach stepped out and moved across the hall and up a bit to the right. Ratchis followed, and Kazrack was close behind.

Suddenly, from down this thirty foot wide hall came snarling voices. Ratchis could just barely make out complaints about being left out of the surface hunts through the thick black orc accent. (2)

“Orc voices!” Ratchis hissed to Kazrack. “Pass it down. Make sure Gunthar keeps his voice to a whisper.”

“Nun-wurriers! Muv mack shash! Uh ill ‘old uh pussuge,” Kazrack said to Martin who was just emerging into the wide tunnel. The watch-mage turned around and herded Dorn and Bones back down the passage.

“If ya see something point it out,” Gunthar stumbled past the three of them to get through the opening and drew his swords. Beorth who had a hand on his shoulder followed.

“Hey! Stop pushing! I want to kill some orcs,” Bones complained, drawing his own short sword.

“Bones, be quiet!” Flora chastised, as she reached out to grab on to them and move away from the tunnel as well.

In the darkness there was the twang of bows, as Ratchis let loose with an arrow and Kazrack fired his crossbow at the surprised orcs that came around the bend.

Kazrack’s bolt buried itself deep in an orc’s neck and it fell, while Ratchis turned away to cast a spell, making his arrow go askew.

“Nephthys! Grant me light!” Ratchis called to his goddess and planted a hand on Beorth’s helmet; a bright light then emanated from it, revealing their horrid foes.

Before them were seven orcs unlike any in the group had eve seen before. They had ashen pock-marked and scarred skin, blackened at the neck and joints with large translucent eyes. They had the protruding jaw of high orcs, and broad shoulders, but were even more misshapen and walked with an uneven gait, as their bodies were lean. Their ears were pointed like elves, but look as if they had been violently chewed on since birth, and the hair on their heads was greasy black and then. The black orcs wore corroded scale mail of gray and black metal, and carried beaten bronze shields.

They shrieked and drew javelins from quivers on their back, but another fell from another arrow from Ratchis’ bow.

Without a sound, Sadarach move towards the orcs, and two fell for the bait, and then fell on the ground, their skulls cleaved open by his the great axe her wielded in one hand, never getting close enough to strike their own blows.

One of the orcs that had been at the rear of their group let his javelin fly and it bounced painfully off the half-orc’s hide armor. Another threw at Kazrack, but missed completely.

A third orc turned to flee, but another arrow from Ratchis drove it to the rough tunnel floor.

In less than a moment, Sadarach had killed the last two.

“Dammit! I never got to kill even one,” Gunthar swore. “I hope it isn’t gonna be like this the whole time.”

Sadarach stripped the bodies, while Ratchis looked to retrieve what arrow he could. Gunthar took some javelins.

“What should we do about the bodies?” Ratchis asked. “Other orcs might discover them and will be alerted to our presence.”

“It will be a long time before any more come here, and even then dead orcs are not rare among their own kind,” Shadarach explained.

“I need to do something with their corpses,” Beorth said. “What are their death rituals like?”

Shadarach just walked away to continue to lead and the paladin looked to his half-orc companion for direction.

“They have none,” Ratchis said. “They leave them to rot, or for scavengers to eat them. It is part of their beliefs.”

“Very well,” Beorth acquiesced. “But I will say a short prayer for their damned souls.”


Shadarach led them at unflagging pace for another two and a half hours. The tunnels were much wider and taller now, though those without darkvision had no way of knowing. Ratchis’ light spell had long run out, and Beorth had slipped his helm in a sack anyway. Kazrack noticed several dug out areas where he was certain scaffolds had once been built for mining, and one side passage had track laid for carts. Occasionally, they even came across the broken and rotting handle of a tool, or some moldering sacks and strips of leather.

They were all on the verge of exhaustion when Shadarch brought them to a rounded plateau nine feet above the tunnel floor. It was sixty feet across and had three passages leading beyond it. They all clambered up there.

“We go through the middle one, but first we rest,” Shadarach’s voice rumbled in the darkness. “Someone watch.”

“Shouldn’t we cump dun ‘un uh chunnels?” Kazrack said.

Shadarach began to roll out a fur to sleep on and did not respond.

“I think we need a choice of ways to go in case more orcs come,” Ratchis reasoned.

“I will use a spell to cover us,” Martin said. He cast silent image and made the area look as if it had been covered by a cave-in.

They risked some light to make a camp, and soon despite the danger, all but the watch-mage were sleeping, as exhaustion took them over.

Anulem, the 7th of Ter – 565 H.E.

Hours later, Shadarach waked them before Martin had had a chance to get his two hours of sleep. It was a truncated rest, and no one had time to replenish spells, if they even could; it was impossible to tell if it were night or day out.

The half-ogre led them down the center passage. Here the halls were carved and buttressed, though they showed signs of wear from the flow of water and moving of the earth. The halls were broken up by long wide steps by which they slowly ascended, though they could still feel the oppression of the tons and tons of rock above them.

A few hours later they came to a wide hall that looked like it was once reached by a stair-lined shaft on its right, beyond it was an archway that had thick cracked stone double doors ripped from its hinges long ago.

“Beyond here is spawning,” Shadarach said to Ratchis, while the others listened on. “Here Shadarach leaves you. It will be too long for me to get back to my lands otherwise. Here is a map.”

He pulled out a ragged piece of yellow stained cloth marked with charcoal and blood and handed it to Ratchis. It was folded up into a wad, and was moist to the touch.

Ratchis handed it to Martin.

“It smells,” he said as he unfolded it and examined the markings. “Where are we on it?”

Martin lit a torch to examine the map (3). It was marked with crude runes similar to those used by goblins, which he had learned to decipher at the Academy of Wizardry, though these were somewhat different.

Shadarach pointed to a point on the map. “This is the column room, you will find it directly ahead. Always stay to the left when faced when the passage splits off, but avoid any small cracks that just go that way.”

“And what is this?” asked Martin pointing to a green spot near the top of the map.

“That is slime column insect horde,” his big finger moved down the map. “This is spider wall.”

“And that?” asked Beorth looking over Martin shoulder and pointing to a crude skull rune.

“Death,” replied Shadarach.

“What are these pale men?” Martin asked, interpreting a rune on the top right of the map.

“Avoid them,” was all Shadarach said. “Now I leave you to rejoin the bears. Geb be with you.” (4)

There was long series of half-hearted good-byes to the half-ogre, as he walked past them to go back the way they came.

“Ratchis, may your heart and mind walk free of the shackles of men once more,” Shadarach grumbled, and then he was gone.

Martin made a few notes on the map of his interpretations of the runes based on what Shadarach had said.


Less than an hour later, still stumbling in the dark and now led by Ratchis with Martin right behind him, (and Kazrack keeping everyone penned in from the rear) they all heard the sounds of lapping water ahead.

“That must be the ‘passable water’ marked on the map,” Martin whispered.

Ratchis went to scout ahead. He hurried up a short broad stair silently, and came to an archway that once held stone double doors, long ago shattered off their hinges. Beyond was a great gallery flooded with black brackish water. The water level reached up to the jutting stone support the archway opened on to, but the vaulted ceiling was another thirty feet up from there. He guess the water might be as much as thirty feet deep.

While the place was crumbling and worn in many areas, it was certainly the most worked and had once been an impressive room indeed.

There were the remains of several columns, both jutting out of the water, and reaching down from the ceiling, that looked like they might allow someone skilled at jumping to leap from each to make their way across, but even Ratchis’ darkvision could not illuminate the other side of the long gallery to see if this was the case. The walls on the right and left were lined with many narrow steps and balconies that led to much smaller galleries and alcoves that seemed to stretch across the room as well. Everything was decorated with interwoven dwarven runes and images of hammers, anvils and hearths, though much of it looked like it had been intentionally scratched out. There did not seem an easy way to get over to either wall however.

Ratchis went back and reported this to the others.

“Leaping from column to column seems to dangerous,” Ratchis said as they made their way to the flooded gallery. “Especially since we don’t even know if some of those columns will hold us, and some of the jumps would be too far the weaker in the group.”

“That means you, snotling,” Gunthar said.

“Watch yourself,” Bones growled.

At gallery Martin cast levitation on Ratchis and raised him up so that he might pull himself across the ceiling and check the other side of the room. It took a while, but he finally returned.

“It looks all clear,” Ratchis reported. “Now one by one you will grab on to me, Martin will raise me up, I will pull us over to the right gallery wall and we’ll make our across to the other side.”

Ratchis cast light on his belt of chain links holy symbol.

Kazrack was first. He clutched on to his half-orc companion for dear life, eying the black water nervously.

“Dwarf sure likes to hump the pig-f*cker,” Gunthar laughed.

“Uh shay when we gut tuh Nikar, Uh guv um uh a lashin’,” Kazrack murmured to Ratchis as the half-orc grunted pulling them both across the small stretch of ceiling to the gallery wall like an ape. It was only a small stretch of about twenty feet.

Flora and Bones were brought over next, as Kazrack moved slowly along the gallery, pausing to look down a narrow hall that ended in small metal door, before passing it.

Suddenly, there was the distant sound of drums.

“They must know we’re here,” Martin the Green gulped.

“That big log of ogre-sh*te musta let them know we’re here!” Gunthar cursed loudly.

“Shut up, fool!” Ratchis admonished.

“Hurry Ratchis, Martin, keep doing what you are doing,” Beorth said, grabbing on to Ratchis to go next.

Flora followed Kazrack cautiously, while Bones could not resist creeping down the narrow hall to listen at the metal door. In a flash of light from Ratchis’ approach to the gallery wall, he could see it was broken and hung slightly off the top hinge.

Beorth was about to walk past an alcove, when he heard the suddenly sound of movement from within. He swung out with the masterwork quarterstaff he had taken from one of the monks down in the Pit of Bones, but the orc leapt over the blow and out on to a small adjacent balcony to give those orcs behind him room to come out on to the wall as well. It screeched and spun, dealing a deep blow to the paladin’s shoulder, and he stumbled back a bit as blood poured down his armor.

Several more orcs appeared from the mini-galleries further along, and began to rain arrows down at the group. These were smaller and more hunched than those they had faced before, but with the same ashen complexion and broad misshapen shoulders. Their black stringy hair hung from beneath their metal caps, and they wore armor of cured black leather.

“We need light!” Bones cried coming back out of the hall.

“Augh!” Gunthar cried out, as an arrow bit him in the dark. He, Dorn and Martin were still on the stone platform by the doorway in total darkness, as Ratchis made his way back. All they could hear was the twang of bow strings, and the grunts and cries of battle. “Where’d that come from, ya bitches? Gimme some damn light!”


(1) The dwarven stair cut is ten to fifteen times longer than it is high, creating long gradual climbs, allowing for wheeled carts to be rolled down them, or pulled up them with less effort than typical stairs, but giving more control of descent than ramps.

(2) Orcish is actually a very difficult language to learn, and it varies greatly by locality. While it has a very narrow base vocabulary, it uses inflection, context and body language to convey a wide variety of meaning to groups of words that would sound the same to the untrained ear. It also makes deciphering the crude goblin runes sometimes used to write it incredibly difficult.

(3) Click here to see the map (warning to those on dial-up: this is a big file)

(4) Geb is the God of Earth and Stone.


First Post
A very well written update nemmerle. It really conveyed the feeling of claustrophobia, stress and ancient ruins under the mountains. Kinda like Tolkiens Moria.

And could the timing of the ambush be any worse for the heroes :) . I think not.

Without really knowing it seems like you don’t dole out the standard amount of treasure and magic. I run my games the same way. But I’ve recently needed to introduce a level and class dependent AC bonus as we were reaching a point where attack bonus far surpassed AC.

Do you have similar problems.


Moderator Emeritus
monboesen said:
A very well written update nemmerle. It really conveyed the feeling of claustrophobia, stress and ancient ruins under the mountains. Kinda like Tolkiens Moria.

Thanks! :)

monboesen said:
Without really knowing it seems like you don’t dole out the standard amount of treasure and magic. I run my games the same way. But I’ve recently needed to introduce a level and class dependent AC bonus as we were reaching a point where attack bonus far surpassed AC.

Do you have similar problems.

Yes, I run what I consider a "moderate magic" game - though many would call it "low magic".

I have a Base Defense Bonus House rule where by class characters (and monsters) gain a bonus to AC that increases with level and stacks with armor (as long as you have proficiency in the armor you are wearing). However, when you are flat-footed or otherwise deprived of your Dex adjustment you lose the BDB as well.

You can see the progression in this thread at the Rat's Nest - But I don'y have the listing for monsters there, however. I can add it for you if you want to take a look.


First Post
But I don'y have the listing for monsters there, however. I can add it for you if you want to take a look.

Thx for the offer, but no need. I already have my own rules, yours are nice as well but I treat monsters very differently than the standard rules already. I don't think defense rules would mesh well (or be appreciated much by my players).


First Post
Ah the confusion of fighting in low light conditions. Just getting ready to pull that on my players.
Nice write-up.


First Post
Hey, that's an update a week lately. You're meeting my goal. Thanks. I know you say you can't keep it up, but it's fun for now.

And when are we finishing this chapter. It seems the FMK has completed the necropolis of doom some time ago. Are we close to chapter 3?

I'll be interested to see if Kazrack learns more about the dwarves who lived here.


Moderator Emeritus
Manzanita said:
And when are we finishing this chapter. It seems the FMK has completed the necropolis of doom some time ago. Are we close to chapter 3?

It will be a while. Not until after they return from Nikar. . .


Moderator Emeritus
Session #65 (part 2)

“Nephthys! Grant me light!” Ratchis called to his goddess as Martin lowered him once more to take the next person across. He touched Dorn’s helmet, and now light shone from there as well.

Kazrack hurried up one of the narrow steps that led up to one of the galleries where one of the orc bowman made ready another shot, and cut it open. It tumbled over unconscious and would soon bleed out.

Beorth smashed open the skull of the orc that stabbed him, and it tumbled into the brackish water, but more orcs spilled out above on the wall. Arrows and javelins rained down Beorth, but for once the paladin deftly dodged. Kazrack on the other hand grunted as an arrow found a spot between greaves.

Bones yelped and fired an arrow at an orc that came through the broken metal door. With the new light, he could see more behind it, as it fell clutching at its throat.

Flora’s voice filled the flooded chamber as she sung a rousing song of Ra’s Light overcoming the darkness of night and Set, and the Fearless Manticore Killers and their companions, felt a wash of pride and courage come over them against these horrid foes.

As Ratchis struggled to come back across, this time with Dorn in tow (leaving Gunthar to grumble about being left in the dark again), Martin chanted his arcane words and a wall of flame leapt up in front of Bones, blocking the progress of the orcs beyond.

“Whoa!” cried the halflings leaping after Flora across the wall. Martin’s illusion cracked and smelled like a real fire, and even gave off heat.

Kazrack continued to smash orcs with his flail, wading through them with the fury of his race, while more arrows rained around him and Beorth.

Gunthar cursed and leapt to one of the cracked pillars, leaving Martin alone to concentrate on keeping his illusory flame going.

“They are getting something!” Ratchis warned, interpreting their barks and snorts. “Watch out!”

He had dropped Dorn on the wall, and now made his way to get Gunthar.

Suddenly, two orcs came out of a narrow hall that Kazrack had already passed with a wooden board. They laid it out to one of the cracked columns and began to make their way across.

Dorn fired a crossbow bolt into an orc making its way down some stairs at Flora. It wielded a heavy bronze blade that was rounded at one end where it thickened. (1) Flora’s soprano voice echoed through the great chamber still filling them all with vigor, but the passionate singing did not keep her from thrusting her short sword into the charging orc’s chest. It fell over dead.

Beorth hurried past Kazrack and into the midst of three orcs that had been firing down on them all. He cut one down immediately, but was forced back by arrows from the two orcs out on the column, allowing the two others to reposition themselves above another of the smaller ante-galleries. The paladin over-extended himself, trying to hit the last one, and fell flat on his face. A moment later, Gunthar came leaping over him, as Ratchis had helped him over the last bit of the way across, swords swinging over his head.

“Get up, Baldie!” the Neergaardian chided, as he cut the leg from one of the stumpy orcs, smiling. “Fighting these things is like cutting butter with a warm knife! Ha! Like the butter I spread on the ass of my whores!”

Gunthar covered Beorth as the paladin got up, shielding him from arrow fire from the cracked column out on the water. Dorn, and Ratchis returned fire on those orcs, while Bones discreetly searched the orcs Beorth had left behind. The paladin charged up and down another set of the small steps parallel to the wall, but a particularly stocky orc turned brought its strange blade down on the paladin’s already wounded shoulder. More blood coated his armor.

Kazrack’s progress to aid Beorth was hindered, by another orc that stepped out of a hall. The dwarf tried to stop himself to quickly as he swung his golden flail and swept himself off his feet. The orc showed its cracked yellow teeth and brought its bronze blade up, but it struck a lip of stone from a gallery above this level and tumbled from his hands. (2)

Martin let his concentration on the illusory wall of fire slip as he fired his crossbow at one of the orcs on a column, and moment later it slipped into the water grabbing at the bolt in his chest.

“Anubis, please bring me a little of your light in this place of darkness,” Beorth prayed to his god, holding his right hand to his wounded shoulder, and felt the familiar and welcome ache of his wounds quickly closing.

Kazrack and Gunthar dispensed with the orcs that blocked their progress, but by the time Ratchis got over to grab Martin, the illusory wall was gone and fresh stream of orcs came out onto the gallery wall. Orcs with bows supported the bronze blade-wielding ones, but the Fearless Manticore Killers and their companions were ready for them, and cut them down with sword and bow.

Soon, they had made it to the opposite side of the grand gallery and pried the intact stone doors on the other side open. They marched into the dark hall beyond, Ratchis leading the way, and Bones smiling to himself his pouches a bit heavier with orcish coppers.

When they felt they had put a good distance between them and the gallery, they stopped and risked a torch so they might examine Shadarach’s map.

“Shadarach said that this middle area that looks like it is connected to several small rooms was the nursery,” Martin pointed to what looked like bad drawing of a spider to Kazrack. “If we go that way we may have to deal with the young. I am not sure how I feel about that.”

“This seems like an evil race,” Beorth said, solemnly, looking at the rocky ground and not the map. He ran a hand over his bald head to wipe the cold sweat, before putting his helmet back on. “We will do what needs to be done to escape here with our lives.”

“Why not go this way?” Gunthar suggested. He point to a passage leading to several on the right side of the map.

“There will be scores and scores of orcs there,” Martin said.

“Why don’t we just go through them? They don’t look too tough.”

“And they will have shamans and witch-doctors with magics…” Martin began.

“We go the way Shadarach said to go,” Ratchis decided for everyone and began to walk. “Put out the torch.”


They walked for several more hours in the dark. Here the tunnels were wide, but had low ceilings with large uneven sections of ceiling that made the humans all have to duck to get by. This area had man round tunnels at floor level no more than three feet in diameter that all seemed dive down deeper into the rock when examined. In a few places they found the tattered remains of spider webs waving in the cool air coming up from below.

Beyond this the ceiling climbed again, the tunnel widening evenly on both sides, but eighty feet ahead egress was blocked by a twenty foot wall, at the to of which the tunnel continued with ceiling no higher than six feet.

“I think this is the ‘spider wall’,” Martin said.

“Naw! Ya think?” Bones snapped, and then let out a long breath.

“I’ll scout ahead,” Ratchis said. Martin offered to make him invisible and Ratchis agreed. Soon, he was off.

Dorn lit a torch, and Martin took the map out again.

Suddenly, Flora screamed. She and Bones were in the rear of the group, but Kazrack had moved up to listen to Beorth and Martin discuss the route.

They all turned and Dorn raised the lantern. A huge purple and white spider was poised over her. There were puncture marks on her arm and shoulder, and indigo venom dripped from its fangs and from her body.

“Get back girl! I’ll save you.” Gunthar pulled Flora back and stepped forward, his sword not even drawn. The spider reached forward and sunk its fangs into him as well. “Augh!”

And then the spider was suddenly not there.

“Where’d it go?” Bones asked.

Gunthar could feel the burn of venom in his system, while Flora weakly dragged herself behind Kazrack.

“Ish invishibull!” Kazrack warned, and Gunthar swung where the spider had just been.

Bones readied his short sword, while Dorn loaded his crossbow.

“I don’t think it’s invisible,” martin said. “It slipped into the shadow realm.” (3)

Beorth turned back around, his staff held lightly in both hands, and tried very hard to listen.

It reappeared on the wall above Gunthar and Kazrack. The foul-mouthed Neergaardian leapt in front of the dwarf.

“There is is!” He cried, pointing with his sword. “Come and get me!”

Beorth reached up with his staff and smashed in its deep indigo eyes, smashing one that exploded. It screeched and disappeared again.

“Shtand in duh minnel uh nuh corriderr!” Kazrack commanded. “Sho et cun’t git ush from above.”

“Where is is?” Bones said, as they moved as a group. “Oh, I hate spiders.”

“Ooh, little snotling’s scared?” Gunthar taunted.

“Not of you!”

“Enough!” Beorth commanded, and all were silent waiting for the spider to re-appear.

Suddenly it was beside Kazrack and he swung as fast as he could, but it leapt above the blow, and came down with both his fangs into the dwarf’s stomach. The dwarf could see himself reflected in it large moist eyes. Martin gasped as he noticed the eyes were unharmed.

“It’s like Debo!” Gunthar cried. His long sword cracked one of its fore legs, and ichor began to pool beneath it. One of Bones’ arrow stuck out of the hairy maw.

“We need this creature’s attack to cease,” Flora sang. “So help us out with some grease!”

A slick patch of oil appeared beneath the spider, but its many legs gave it stability.

“Beware! There are two of them,” Martin warned by way of correcting Gunthar and fired his readied crossbow. The bolt was buried itself deep in the spider’s head and it stopped moving. “Stay alert!”

The first spider, the eye still wounded re-appeared behind Gunthar, who had taken that moment to turn and look to the other side of him. He wheezed as he felt even more venom pumped into him, as the fangs pierced his back and shoulder. He turned back around, coughing up blood, but it was already gone.

Everyone tensed waiting for to re-appear.

A few seconds turned into a minute and then several minutes. Flora collapsed, gasping for breath. She felt as if she were drowning.

“Hurr, jink thish,” Kazrack said, pouring water from a skin into his rune-stein. He intoned the ‘findar’ rune and she drank. (4)

“Is it gone?” Bones asked, craning his neck to look around more.

Martin walked over to the spider corpse and cut free a fang, taking a sample of both its venom and its blood.

They all tensed again as they heard something coming from up the hall. It was Ratchis, still invisible.

“Beyond this wall is a deeper drop. It is probably thirty, thirty-five feet down on the other side,” he explained to them. “It is wet down there, running water, and it much narrower.”

They followed his voice over to the wall. They could now see that the wall here had been made, rather than carved, as a sort of dam of the tunnel. The wall was made of boulders, logs, rusted metal, patches of dried and rolled spider’s webs, along with bones, hair, dung and mud.

Ratchis went up first and Kazrack was soon after him, grabbing blindly for the invisible half-orc’s hand.

The dwarf was yanked up atop the thick patchwork wall, when the purple and white spider appeared. Kazrack leapt to his feet, unknowingly getting between the spider and Ratchis, who had his sword ready. The spider bit deep in the dwarf once more, but felt a strong blow atop its head from Kazrack’s magic flail. Screeching, it disappeared once again.

“Is it dead?” Beorth called up.

“No,” replied Ratchis.

They waited a few more minutes, but it did not return. The others made it to the top of the wall, and soon after they were all at the narrow cavern on the side, Ratchis was visible again.

The ground beneath them here was soft dirt and the tunnel walls dripped and oozed with moisture. It was like a pocket of muck within the overwhelming black and gray stone everything else had been carved from. The ceiling varied in height from as low as five feet to as high as seven, and as they marched along, a fetid smell grew around them. The air was heavy with a mix of rotten meat and tavern outhouse. They could hear churning and running water ahead of them.

Up ahead the tunnel narrowed to a crack barely four feet wide. Just beyond the crack was a rough alcove, with another patchwork dam as its rear wall. The dam was only about ten feet high and not nearly as thick as the one they had already passed. It oozed a black and brown swirling gritty viscous liquid, and the stench was over-powering.

“We have to climb up through this,” Ratchis said, stepping through and looking up to examine the climb. Something dripped in his mouth and he gagged and spit. “Who goes first?”

“Send Gunthar. He likes this sort of thing,” Martin suggested, his face pinched in a permanent look of disgust. He covered his mouth and nose with his left hand.

“Not without light,” Gunthar protested.

“Nuh tuches!” Kazrack warned. “Dun cun beh guses dut combust dun hurr.”

Ratchis cast light upon Beorth’s helmet once again, and then hauled himself up to the top of the wall. He pulled up Beorth next, and then the two of them helped Kazrack get over the wall. The area beyond was a long rounded cavern. It the floor was flooded up to a foot and a half in gray scummy water in which floated chunks of orc feces that collected among the rocks in brown sludgy floating puddles. Sixty feet wide, the cavern was likely twice as long, but none could see the other side. Partially submerged great black stones that directed the filth one way or the other, making the place into a maze, blocked progress across this room though none of the stones touched the ceiling. There were several places where more filthy water splashed into room by means of narrow channels carved in the rock walls, but it also oozed and plopped from cracks in the ceiling.

“Filth! What is the flargin’ filth!” Gunthar swore as he splashed into the muck.

“This is the nursery,” Beorth replied.

The other came over one by one, though Bones stayed up on the wall until Dorn was over and then rode on his friend’s shoulders, as the raw sewage would have been above his waist.

Ratchis hustled forward to check the room, and found the footing to be very slippery, and fell down to his knees and leapt back up splashing sewage all around.

“Oh, I don’t feel well…What is that little thing?” asked Flora, spotting a small gray creature that seemed to be paddling towards Ratchis.

“Merciful Isis!” Martin gasped. “Ratchis watch out!”

The Friar of Nephthys spun around to see the small thing leap at him. It was tiny black orc, no more than a toddler, with fat baby limbs, and a bush of wiry black hair, and covering of pin-like hairs on it ashen body. It had a snarl of glee on its piggish face as it grabbed at him to bite into his shoulder.

Ratchis pushed it off and it let out a wail, and two more appeared from behind a rock. The first was no so easily discouraged. It came again.

Ratchis stood and drew his sword. He skewered it as tried to bite him again.

“Nephthys, forgive me,” he whispered.

“I have to get out of this place,” Flora cried, horrified.

“Continue tuh moof!” Kazrack said, his jaw in agony with each attempted syllable. “If we ur fallen upon en dish room we will beh cut dun!”

“Kazrack is right!” Beorth said. “We need to move as fast as we can through this room. The young will not be able to catch up with us.”

The two other orc infants waded through the sewage at them, mouths open. One of them wailed incessantly.

The paladin hustled around them towards the first set of tall rocks on the left, while everyone else moved more slowly, wary of slipping.

“Look!” Martin cried and fire his crossbow. On the left hand wall was the raised lip of a tunnel entrance that led to side chamber. Standing there, mouth agape was black orc wearing naught but a long ragged burlap shirt, and woolen pants that it was trying to tie off with a long strip of rag. It let out a grunt and turned.

Kazrack and Dorn let off shots as well, but both missed.

As Martin hurried to reload his crossbow, he also moved to the left of the tunnel entrance, however the orc reached out and swung his club awkwardly at the mage. Martin avoided the blow, throing his back to the wall in time to see a horrifying site.

Beorth hurried to get out of the way of tunnel opening, and hoping to find a path through the room before more orcs arrived moved to a narrow space between two of the maze stones. He could feel the floor give way under him and there was a whooshing sound, as the hole in that spot camouflaged by sewage and long clogged with feces, muck and bone gave way under the paladin’s weight.

Everyone’s mouths dropped open as the holy warrior of Anubis dropped out of sight and the hole opened up draining sewage at an alarming rate at first and then beginning to clog back up.

The light was gone, and Beorth gone with it.

There seemed to be silence for a moment despite the eternal dripping and the gurgling cries of the orc babies, and then there were drums sounding the in deep.

“He fell in the sh*te-hole!” Gunthar announced, and then without hesitating leapt towards the hole crawling flat through the sewage feeling for the hole and then reached his arm as far down as it could go.

“We need light now,” Dorn said to Bones, who was still sitting on his shoulders, and handed a torch up to him.

Not disturbed by the lack of light, Kazrack moved towards the side tunnel opening. The orc there swung his club half-heartedly at Martin one more time and then fled down the tunnel.

“You’re going down there!” Ratchis said to Gunthar reaching down and grabbing the now filthy warrior’s ankle.

“You better hold on to me Snuffles!” Gunthar warned, and then he nodded and Ratchis shoved him down the hole as far as he could, lying down in the sewage himself. He had to turn his head every few seconds to take a deep breath or aspirate the filth.

“This disgusting place just isn’t right let its shame be revealed by a bit of Ra’s light!” Flora sang and in a moment her short sword gave off the light of a torch, but steady and unflickering.

Kazrack waited at the tunnel entrance with is halberd at the ready certain the orc would re-emerge, perhaps with more of his kin, while Martin began a long chant, feigning drawing a circle before him with his right foot.

A figure appeared in the tunnel, and Kazrack immediately shoved his pole-axe into its gut. The figure screamed. It was an orc with a long muzzle of a face, and pale ashen skin, only blackened in spots. Most of its hair looked as if it had been pulled out violently, leaving bloody patches of missing scalp. It had wide round hips, and flaccid gray breasts with crusted black nipples and wore absolutely no clothes. It was an orc female.

She fell over dead; the look of fear frozen in her lifeless eyes.

The male orc was behind her, and threw a javelin at Kazrack, but it struck the corner of the wall and missed.

“Pass this down to Gunthar,” Flora said to Ratchis, when he came up for breath. Bones had lit a torch. The half-orc lifted the warrior halfway from the hole, allowing the bard to put the glowing short sword in his hand.

There was a blast of flame over in front of Martin as the muck before him bubbled and steamed, and from beneath came a stony worm whose segments burned orange-white with heat. Martin commanded it to go down the tunnel after the orc, and it obeyed. The muck hissed as it squirmed by. (5)

“My beast will take care of it,” Martin said. “Let’s keep going.”

“And leave Beorth?” Dorn asked, as he readied his crossbow at the tunnel entrance, just in case.

Kazrack looked over and saw that Ratchis was struggling to keep from slipping down the hole himself, and moved over to give a hand.

But suddenly the orcish drums drew louder and there was the bellow of horn from the other end of the filth-filled chamber. He could barely make out the silhouette of a tall and broad black orc wearing a bronze breastplate standing atop a raised entrance into the room, above the level of the maze stones. Behind him, the red glowing eyes of his minions moved about in anticipation.
“Something is coming,” Dorn said.

“Shumtin ish here,” Kazrack corrected.

End of Session #65


(1) a scimitar.

(2) DM’s Note: The orc fumbled and dropped his weapon.

(3) In the Aquerra cosmology, the ethereal plane is actually the Plane of Shadow.

(4) DM’s Note: Kazrack won an immediate action die for using a one-time use item (there are a limited number of runes that do not reappear for the same owner) on an NPC.

(5) This was a thoqqua.
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Moderator Emeritus
I have been feeling the love so strongly lately, I am doing my best to hang in there on the weekly updates.

I am five pages into the next installment and have even started updating the "Out of the Frying Pan" Rogue's Gallery Thread.

In the next installment you will see one or more of the following things:
  • Martin Raises the Dead!
  • Ratchis gets in touch with his savage side.
  • Kazrack mumbles incoherently
  • Gunthar takes up flower-arranging.


First Post
Well, let me be the first to keep the lovin’ flowing!

Gunthar and flower-arranging…….now there is a mental image.

nemmerle said:
Yes, I run what I consider a "moderate magic" game - though many would call it "low magic".
'Low Magic' probably isn't fair - if it were genuinely low-magic, you wouldn't have core clerics and wizards as PCs, you'd want to tone down spellcasting. I guess it's probably fair to say 'low wealth,' though, in that the PCs don't have as many or as powerful (nor as free a choice of) magic items as in a default 3E game... Martin's spellbook is probably embarrassingly thin, as well (not counting the evil book, that is). In fact, whenever I hear someone complaining about how 'overpowered' wizards are, I just think of Martin...


Moderator Emeritus
Session #66

“We have to get out of here,” Dorn said, stepping away from the tunnel entrance, and looking at the others with desperation.

“Nut wit-out Beort!” Kazrack said. The dwarf moved to Ratchis. “Duh ya wunt meh tuh ‘old er uncles?”

“There are orcs coming?” Ratchis asked, sitting up to get his breath and pulling Gunthar back up for air as well.

“Down! Down! He’s barely holding on by a pube just out of reach!” Gunthar spat, his face and hair were a smeared brown mess and his eyes were burning bright red with irritation.

Imago Crearé Majorus! Martin chanted, and a wall of flame shot up at the far entrance. The orcs howled in anger. “That should give you some time!”

Ratchis nodded and shoved Gunthar back in the hole, and Kazrack grabbed onto the half-orc’s legs. Ratchis was now in the hole near his ankles headfirst.

Screams echoed out of the tunnel Martin had sent the Thoqqua down.

“Beh ready fer those uks!” Kazrack commanded, drool bubbling over onto his beard. “Dun! Ull have tuh gud meh.”

Bones leapt from Dorn’s shoulder and atop of one the tall partially sunken rocks that made this maze of filth. He hopped deftly from rock to rock to get a good vantage of the orcs. He wedged the torch between two of the stones and drew his short bow.

“Aah!” Martin cried, as one of the forgotten orc babies had caught up to him and began to chew on his calf.

As he tried to kick it away they all heard raised orcish voices from behind the wall of fire. They seemed to be chanting in time, but above the chant was one desperate voice say “Nagh! Nagh! Nagh! Naaaaaaagh!” (1)

“Oh my corns and bunions!” Bones swore, watching the action from his perch. “Those crazy orcs are throwing themselves through the fire.”

The orc on the other side of the room, sat up dazed, spitting and shaking his head, before making his woozy way to his feet. Now safely on the other side of the fire, he mocked his companions as cowards.

The orcs wasted no time to throw another through, followed by one that leapt of his own volition.

“They are gonna start coming this way,” Bones warned.

“Duh ‘est uh you have tuh ock eh enneneh un pick dem oshf uz dem come truh,” Kazrack mumbled vehemently.

“Uh… what?” Flora asked, bewildered. “Which way do we go?”

“Yuh ned tuh brin duh shire-urm buck, Mutton!” Kazrack craned his neck to look at the green-robed mage.

“Uh, I need to keep the fire wall up, unless you want them to all come through at once,” Martin shot back, guessing at what Kazrack had said.

The three orcs that had made it through so far began to make their way towards the party, stopping occasionally to listen for splashing and voices. They kept close to the tall stones, often out of view of Bones.

The halfling crouched down, disappearing into the crease of two stones, as he spied two pass him moving from right to left, he spilled out a pouch of coins.

“Come and get me! Come and get some shinies!” Bones taunted, and the two orcs turned around. One sheathed his thick bronze blade and drew his bow, while the other tried to retrieve the coins.

Meanwhile the third orc had gone snuck past on the right and came around a large stone to appear beside Kazrack. The blade came down on the hollering dwarf. The blade struck heavily, but its cutting side was turned by the dwarf’s chain shirt. He slid to the left, splashing into the muck and felt Ratchi’s feet slipping through his gauntlets.

“Can’t…lit…Borth…dun…” he struggled, but to no avail. Ratchis slipped all the way down into the hole.

Ratchis felt himself slip a couple of feet, and instinctively drove his legs and arms into the sides of the hole to keep from slipping freely. The sides of the wall, crumbled beneath his great grip, and he had to continually re-adjust to keep from going. He could feel Gunthar scrambling desperately beneath him, clutching at his cloak and arm.

Dorn jerked out of shock and fired his crossbow at the orc that was about to cleave the scrambling Kazrack in twain. The orc fell with a grunt and a splash, thick green blood floating atop the curdling sewage. Kazrack immediately leapt back to the hole and threw his arm down to grab hold of Ratchis.

Bones leapt back towards the others atop the tall rocks, as he felt the nip of an orc arrow. The two orcs came around the stone and one fell upon Kazrack with his sword; once again the dwarf was wounded and had to withdraw. Ratchis cursed as he felt the dwarf’s grip loosen, and even more slid into his mouth.

Dorn fired his crossbow again, but though he missed, it caused the orc on Kazrack to hesitate. The dwarf grabbed a spear of the dropped orc and shoved into the hole, butt first for Ratchis to grab on to. He looked up in time to see the orc swing down on him again, but he was barely able to avoid the blow, when Flora fired her bow point blank at the orc, sending his blow astray. The arrow, however, still managed to miss.

“Argh!” Martin cried more from frustration than pain. One of the orc young managed to catch up to him again and this time the tiny sharp teeth made him lose his concentration. “I lost it! The wall of fire is going to come down momentarily.”

The orc by Kazrack turned to it left and charged at Dorn. The bushy haired warrior, swung around to get out of the way, but felt the heavy blade smack his shoulder. The orc that had collected some of Bones’ spilled money came around the stone, arrow ready to shoot Kazrack, but a bolt from Martin send it floating face down in the sewage.

Gunthar managed to climb out of the draining hole, using Ratchis as a makeshift rope, and then he and Kazrack dragged the half-orc onto the chamber floor. The three of them lay there prone for a moment, bubbling in filth as they took deep breaths to get their strength back.

“There are more coming around behind me the other way!” Bones warned. One came around the corner and met death on the end of arrow flying from Flora’s bow, while the one going after Dorn dropped with one of Martin’s quarrels in its back.

Hush orc babies! Flora cooed, and the orc infants fell into a slumber sinking into filth to drown. One of the approaching orcs took advantage of her distraction and forced her back with a whip of his blade across her face, bringing up a welt, another orc came around to support his companion.

“You will all drown in your own blood and filth this day!” Ratchis bellowed in orcish, and he cut the head from the orc attacking Flora.

“Beorth is gone,” Gunthar said, leaping to feet as well, trying to wipe his mouth the back of his hand, which was as filth-covered as the rest of him. “I’m gonna kill every last one of these pig-f*ckin’ pigs!” Gunthar’s sword had not stopped ringing from being drawn when it he pulld it back out of the gut of the dying orc that had just come around the corner.

Readying his flail, Kazrack put his back to one of the rocks and checked around the corner the orcs had come from.

He looked back and shook his head to indicate he saw no more orcs coming at the moment.

A handful of more orcs came around from the other side of the collection of stones in the center and with an arcane word, Martin the Green made them drop off to sleep as well. However, at that same moment he became engulfed in a mantle of green and black fire that threw tall shadows on the black rocks around him.

“Not again…”

“Mutton!” Kazrack began to step towards his companion, when another orc came around from the way that had been clear a moment before and let loose a javelin that struck him squarely in the back; only armor kept Kazrack from being skewered.

Gunthar hurried around the corner to support Kazrack, but as the dwarf turned suddenly to defend himself, he slipped in the muck under foot and went down.

“Get off your lard-ass, stumpy!” Gunthar chided.

Ratchis took some time to heal Bones (who had come back), while Flora used a song to close some of her own wounds. Martin and Dorn moved to follow Gunthar and Kazrack through the tall stones.

These four had made it to the other side of nursery chamber. They could see there were a total of three raised tunnel entrances like the one Martin had sent the thoqqua down on each side of the chamber. The stone on this side had sunken further, and many could be seen over, or easily squatted behind. The illusory wall of fire was done and the black-faced orc with splayed nostril, eyes like burning coals and broad shoulders made misshapen with bone spurs bellowed commands in orcish to his troop. They wore the gray scale mail of the other orcs they had faced so far, but it seemed in better shape, and their swords were not as badly dinged and beaten. He held a thick haft in both hands, each end holding a fan-shaped axe blade notched in several places, but still sharp enough.

Gunthar and Kazrack looked on from around ether side of a particularly large rock.

“Looks like a 2-for-1 pork special down at the market,” Gunthar smiled. Two orcs began to lead the way for their companion by way of the large rock and Kazrack was startled to find his guard down. He barely blocked the blade, and felt the weight of the blow send tremors down his arm.

“Come here, pork-chop!” Gunthar said, stepping out and cutting out the kidneys of one with his long sword.

“Yuh uhz nuh ope! We uhz uh duck demon from ‘ill un ur side!” Kazrack said, joining the fray to keep the orcs from advancing any further, hoping to intimidate them into hesitating or even retreating.

“What’s going on?” asked Martin, his mantle of fire looming tall in the chamber, sending glints of green light to reflect on the moisture beading up on the ceiling and down the running trickles of waste pouring down cracks in the rocks. He came around to view the open area. An orc toddler covered in fine gray hair came splashing at the mage. It had large open festering sores on his fat cheeks and chest. It let out a shriek that was instantly cut off as a bolt from Dorn’s crossbow went through its neck.

Ratchis ran through the narrow path between stones over where Gunthar and Kazrack had killed some orcs before moving on, to find that Bones had already snuck over there and was taking what valuables he could from them.

The halfling looked up at Ratchis and an expression of having been caught on his usually fresh face, now worn with dirt and fear, changed to a smile. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll cut you all in on the spoils.”

“Good, we’ll need it,” Ratchis said, and moved on. Flora followed close behind.

“More orcs over here!” Gunthar said, moving to the left side of the room where six orcs were trying to cut off the group by sneaking past some tall stones. “Here piggy! Piggy! Piggy!”

An orc shoved another frightened female at the Neergaardian. She shrieked and swung a club half-heartedly, her face looked freshly beaten and bloody. Gunthar cut her down and moved on to the one that did the pushing, and in a moment it was dead in the muck as well.

“Full buck, Gunter!” Kazrack called. There was another half dozen orc streaming off the platform, and coming in his direction and he could not keep them all from advancing.

One made it around the rock, and stabbed at Martin.

Martin cried out, his robes tearing where the blade hit his upraised forearm, but it was the shriek of the orc that was most startling. The green and black flames around Martin shot up the blade and seared the orc’s arm. It fell over, its arm distended and curling back where the flame has scorched it.

Ratchis healed Kazrack with a spell, as he came into the melee, and then thinking better of entering quite yet, stepped back and asked Nephthys for Bull’s Strength for himself, as well. Flora stepped out from behind a rock and screeched. Two orcs fell over, bleeding from the ears, while the others managed to cover their ears with their closed fists enough to resist the sound burst.

Ratchis took advantage of the distraction to break through the orc line and call to the leader who leapt off the raised stone lip of the other entrance.

“Come and face me leader of scum!” Ratchis challenged, as he spun around cleaving into the head of an orc, while leaning back to avoid the swing of another one causing it to slip in the muck and fall prone. It clambered quickly back on to its hands and feet, but a bolt from Dorn sent it back down.

The orcs lined up behind the tall rocks on the left hand side of the top of the room, unable to go further because Gunthar clogged the way in heated combat with a particularly fat orc wielding a morningstar and a shield, popped up and all chucked javelins at Ratchis, but he cut them out of the air with a roar.

Another fat orc with a shield and a morningstar came roaring out from behind a rock. Kazrack turned and slammed the head of his flail in the thing’s face. Ratchis swung right and cut the legs out from under it and followed up with a downward chop to the face. He was barely able to bring his sword up in time to deflect a blow of the leader’s double ace. Knocked out of alignment, the heavy haft cracked against Ratchis’ collarbone and then smacked him one the side of the head as it was brutishly pulled back.

The orc snorted and spat a big yellow and green hawker in Ratchis’ face. The half-orc searched it out with his tongue and swallowed it with a smile, and the fell into a frantic melee.

Gunthar finally finished his own fat orc and cut into the line behind it with glee. The orcs withdrew and tried to come around the tall rocks from the other side, meeting arrow fire from Flora, Bones, and Dorn.
Dorn looked back at Martin with a smile that quickly became look of horror. Martin’s eyes were rolled back into his head and he had his arms outstretched and a large black book clutched to his chest.

Ash nisarg eh sem necros porsh,” he chanted, and suddenly five of the dead orcs began to climb to their feet, their bodies twisted and rigid.

“Kill them all!” Martin the Green commanded.

“Ratchis! Zombies!” Dorn warned as the shambling dead stagger forward and slammed their former companions with their undead strength.


The orcs seemed equally mortified. One shrieked and let off attacking Kazrack to go after one of the zombies, but Ratchis and Kazrack ignored them, concentrating blows on the plate-armored orc leader. The orc captain winced as his armor crunched beneath one of Kazrack’s blows, but he was successful at keeping Ratchis’ repeated blows at bay.

Manus il spectro! Martin chanted, and a translucent hand appeared before him, and sent it after one of the orcs; that one shrieked as well.

Three orcs seeking to flee the zombies, decide the best way to go was through Kazrack. They rushed him, sword up raised, but the dwarf side-stepped and knocked one blade into another to send them both off line. The last blade fell just short of his barrel chest. Kazrack swung his flail over his head and brought it around for a skull-crushing blow, but it clipped one of the nearby stones and the dwarf stumbled into the approaching Gunthar. The flat of the Neergaardian’s longsword slapped him in the face and he fell back stunned. (2)

Gunthar jerked back so hard trying to avoid killing Kazrack, that he fell backward onto his ass. (3)


“Martin!” Ratchis roared again.

“Huh? Wha…?” Martin shook his head, and saw he was holding the Book of Black Circles in his hands. “Oh no!”

He quickly put the book back in his pack. The spectral hand dissipated before it touched anyone, and the mantle of green and black flame faded, but the zombies kept grabbing at their former kin.

“Where’d the zombies come from?” Martin asked as he re-loaded his crossbow, not meeting anyone’s eye.

Gunthar pushed himself up to his knees, and was about to shove himself to his feet, when one of the broad-bladed orc swords came down on the side of his head. He dropped both his swords and fell back down clutching the side of his face as hot blood streamed out between his fingers.

“My ear!” Gunthar cried. “Where the f*ck is my ear!”

Bones, who had managed to sneak all the way around the orcs in the dark, let loose an arrow that dropped the orc that was now chopping at the crawling Gunthar.

Ratchis strained his one eye to see where Kazrack was in the muck and left his defenses open, suffering deep chop to the hip from the orc leaders war-axe. The Friar of Nephthys stumbled, but blocked the follow-up blow and slammed the orc’s helmet off as re-payment. The orc’s face was swelling with bruises, and he had several cuts on his arm.

“Ow!” Dorn accidentally hit the trigger on his crossbow before raising it to fire and shot himself in the foot. (4)

Again, Ratchis was distracted, and he had to struggle to keep another orc from flanking him, allowing the leader another solid hit.

Ratchis roared again, and ignored he new orc, chopping at the orc leader with great ferocity. He cut through its forearm and into its face and then chopped it twice more as it fell.

The approaching orc hesitated as Ratchis turned back to him face him, but fell from one of Bones’ arrows to the neck before he could decide to fight or fly.

Two of the zombies was no longer animate, one had just bee chopped down by an orc that looked up to see the rest of his companions had been killed by either the party or the orcs. He turned to flee, but another of the zombie orcs smashed him in the face with both fists, knocking him into one of the tall stones. It slid down it length leaving a smear of blood and did not get back up.

The other zombie turned and surprised Ratchis by slamming him in the gut just as hard. The half-orc coughed blood and fell over, unconscious.

“Ratchis!” Martin cried and dropping his crossbow drew a dagger and charged at the zombie. The orc zombie put up its hand and the dagger pierced the palm to no apparent effect. The undead thing swung at Martin, who hopped back. Dorn hobbled over and chopped one of its arms off, and as it wobbled off balance he cut open its neck and send it crashing into the muck.

Kazrack got up and smashed the last zombie, and then stopped to wring the sewage out of his beard.

Martin and Flora moved to tend to Ratchis’ wounds.

“Where’s my f*ckin’ ear?” Gunthar said again, splashing back towards the other, still looking down with the glowing short sword.

“Huh?” Kazrack cupped his ear towards the warrior mockingly.

Gunthar stood straight up with a snarl none had seen on his face even during his most desperate fight “I said, ‘Where’s my f*ckin’ ear!’” He punched Kazrack full on in the face.

The dwarf stumbled back, but was immediately in a fighting pose. “Nuh ish nut uh tahm,” he said.

“Ah, forget it! Who can understand what Stumpy says anyway? I should be happy I can’t hear him anyway,” he said, dismissing the dwarf. He winced as he picked at the torn place where his ear had been. “It’s just that now I have a bad side.”

“This is a bad place to stay,” Martin said. “We have to move Ratchis somehow.”

Kazrack nodded and knelt beside his friend. He proceeded to attempt to cast healing spell afer healing spell, but every single one failed. (5)

“Leave it to me,” Flora said, and sat in the muck with Ratchis’ head in her lap and began to softly sing to him. A few moments later, he stirred, coughing and then wincing in pain.

“Who died?” he croaked.

“You almost did,” Flora replied. “Now please do me a favor and lead us out of here.”

Ratchis slowly got to his feet, and turned to Martin. “Why did you raise those orcs?”

“I am losing my battle with the Book,” Martin sighed.

“Does that ever happen when you are not casting a spell?”

“Only the time that Beorth said he awoke with my standing over him.”

“From now on don’t cast any spells, unless it is absolutely necessary,” Ratchis decided.

Martin paused, and the nodded.

“Yeah!” Gunthar walked over, he was combing his hair down over his missing ear. “I don’t hold with the making of the undead. That’s just not right.”

Ratchis began to dole out healing, while the others prepared their things for leaving the room.

Gunthar was last.

“And lastly, great Nephthys, fill this wayward soul with your healing light,” Ratchis intoned.

“Yeah, fill me up like I fill up the lovely ladies,” Gunthar smirked.

Ratchis snarled at him.

“You will not mock the power of my goddess,” Ratchis barked.

“Oh yeah? What are you gonna do, deprive me of my freedom? I think she’d like that even less than some bawdy jokes at her expense, not that statues of her are hard on the eyes, but I’m sure a big boy like you know exactly what I’m taking about, right? Rowr.”

“If you continue to speak of my goddess, or any of the gods in this fashion I will withhold the healing and benefits of Nephthys from you,” Ratchis threatened.

“End Uh ‘ill uz well,” Kazrack spoke as slowly as he could. “Fur Uh dun tink you respect muh Lords n’ Leddy, eeder.”

Gunthar laughed.

“You do as your conscience dictates, holy boys,” Gunthar smiled. “I’m sure you’ll do the right thing, unless you are only pay lip service to the service of Good, only licking its boot like a good dog during the day, so you can widdle out your territory at night. Bah!”

Kazrack’s hands tightened into fists.

“Let’s move on,” Ratchis said. “It is only Bes that has kept more orcs from arriving.”


They marched for another three hours. Twice more they heard drums, but no more orcs came. Eventually, on the brink of exhaustion (and Ratchis already there), they climbed into a narrow shelf-like crack high up on one wall of the wedge-shaped tunnel they now traveled through.

Martin used a prestidigitation spell to clean everyone off.

As the others made camp, Kazrack brought Martin aside and spoke very slowly.

“Uh wunt you tuh know Uh dun hold any uf this book stuff aginst you,” the dwarf managed. “Uh believe you cun overcome this.”

“Thank you, Kazrack,” Martin replied. The dwarf clamped a big hand on the mage’s shoulder and squeezed.

“Uh ‘ill udd you tuh my pears,” Kazrack said.

Ratchis walked over.

“Do you think Beorth is dead?” Martin asked them.

“That filth and water has to go somewhere,” Ratchis said. “Didn’t the map say something about an underground river?”

Martin pulled out the map and looked, and then nodded. “So we are going to go look for him?”

“No,” Ratchis replied. “We have no way of tracking him. We have to just have faith that he was washed far from any orcs and will find his way to the surface and Nikar, eventually.

Balem, the 5th of Ter – 565 H.E.

Three days later found them still deep underground. The cold black stone had given way to warmer softer rock, and they passed several passages that had caved in with thick black mud. After long hours of marching, Ratchis would find them the most out of the way spot he could find, and they hid and slept. Once they heard orcs pass by very close, but they were not discovered.

The path Ratchis led them along did seem to slowly rise over time. Kazrack would breathe in deeply and announce how deep they all were a few times a day and the average kept going down by about sixty feet per day.

There was a lot less sign of these tunnels ever having been worked. In fact, something about them nagged at him because it did not seem like it was made by flowing water.

Up ahead, the tunnel turned severely to the left.

“Thut’s et!” Kazrack exclaimed. “Diz tunnas dug buh bih insuhs!”

“What?” Ratchis asked.

“Bih Insuhs! Insucks! Insucks!”

“I think he is saying ‘big insects’,” Martin said.

“More spiders?” Bones asked.

“Actually spiders are not categorized as insects at all,” Martin replied.

Everyone began to make for the end of the tunnel. As they approached the top of the turn, they could see that the tunnel dropped as nearly as quickly as it turned, making a corkscrew path. Down and down they went, as the tunnel narrowed to a mere twenty feet wide compared to the tunnel above that had led to it.

In the distance they heard a repeated rhythmic bursts of clickity-clack! Clickety-Clack!


(1) Translation: “No! No! No! Noooooooo!”

(2) DM’s Note: Kazrack fumbled. He was required to make a Reflex save (DC 15) or fall and be stunned for 1d4 rounds.

(3) DM’s Note: Gunthar fumbled. He failed a simple Reflex save (DC 12) or fall.

(4) DM’s Note: Dorn fumbled and got the “Hit Self – Full damage” result.

(5) DM’s Note: Kazrack has an 85% chance of spell failure with spells with verbal components because of his shattered jaw.
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First Post
Wow. Beorth bit it, eh? Or did he? His PC was separated from the pack once before, when they first met the Quaggoths. I'd be curious how his player handled these. Did the player need to be absent for a while?

I did enjoy this one. The battle was very cool, and martin's evolution w/the book is quite spooky. I hope he pulls through.


Moderator Emeritus
Manzanita said:
Wow. Beorth bit it, eh? Or did he? His PC was separated from the pack once before, when they first met the Quaggoths. I'd be curious how his player handled these. Did the player need to be absent for a while?


Beorth is gone for good.

Brian, who played him, moved to Italy. He did not have any idea how I was going to separate him from the group because he wanted to play right up to the end. Lucky for me, my timing and my idea on how to get rid of him, worked out perfectly.


First Post
Wow. I still remember reading your introduction to Out of the Frying Pan and thinking it was a cool set-up. Now Kazrack is the only original PC left. And he can barely even talk about it.

Excellent set of updates. Great characterization and tension, and the end of session 65 had that LotR:FotR feel. "Drums, drums in the deep! ...."

I'm not sure what would happen if 3 of my players had to leave in such a short period of time. But then, I've had the same gang for 10 years. Have your games had this much turn-over before?


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