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

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
RedShirtNo5 said:
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?

-RedShirt


Sure, my greatest disappointment with this campaign was the loss of Ken, Helene and Brian (Jeremy, Anarie, and Beorth, respectively). Their having to leave it really the only thing that keeps this campaign from being as close to perfect as one could hope for.

The campaign struggled to find its legs for a little while after this, and the story hour may show that as things got a little disjointed and the notes weren't kept up and there was a lot of downtime once they get to Nikar, and we struggled to incorporate a couple of new characters (but I guess you will see all of that in time).

As for past campaigns, they all had some turnover, but the turnover was not as big a deal because of the more open format of those campaigns (i.e it was not relegated to a relatively small area of one part of the world and such a short amount of time. . .remember, it has not even been a year since Kazrack left Verdun).
 

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Manzanita

First Post
That's so sad that Beorth died. I guess he could have survived, but he's not likely to be stealthy or knowledgable enough to sneak out of the orc caverns. Oh. well. I"m looking forward to meeting the new PCs.
 

mofos21

First Post
Wow. A great (if not disgusting) use of an environment. I think my favorite part was where Martin animated the dead orcs and then commanded them to "kill them all". :lol:

Out of curiosity, do you take over Martin when things turn evil or do you give Martin's player a note on what to do? Or better yet, does Martin's player roleplay it all himself and determine when to use the evil book (although unbeknownst to Martin)?

Oh, and I, too, am interested to see how the new PCs are incorporated in this campaign. Can't wait to read the next installment!
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
mofos21 said:
Out of curiosity, do you take over Martin when things turn evil or do you give Martin's player a note on what to do? Or better yet, does Martin's player roleplay it all himself and determine when to use the evil book (although unbeknownst to Martin)?

I usually ask him what he wants to do and then tell him what he actually does. :]
 

mmu1

First Post
mofos21 said:
Oh, and I, too, am interested to see how the new PCs are incorporated in this campaign. Can't wait to read the next installment!

Very, very slowly. ;)

Hey... Speaking of characters, how's Logan doing? Still around? Still alive?
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #66 (part ii)

Round and down they went. Ratchis and Kazrack took the lead while Gunthar took the rear. They risked torches being fairly certain they had left orcs far behind. The clickity-clack sound started and stopped several times, but every time it started again it seemed louder and closer, though once the sound seem to be answered by one further away. It echoed up from below bouncing on the curves walls of the tunnel spiral.

They had gone around about seven or eight times, when the tunnel widened about thirty feet ahead, opening in a cavernous chamber beyond that was devoured by darkness.

Around the corner came a hulking humanoid figure. Kazrack and Ratchis could see it immediately. It was nearly nine feet tall, and had a chitinous insect-like exo-skeleton that vibrated making the clacking noise they had heard before. It had a spindly neck protected by raised areas of the plates that covered it chest and shoulders, atop of which was a drawn and harrowed bird-like head with a cruel-looking curved bony beak. It had no wings, and its two muscled arms ended in bony hooks .

It came slowly towards then, clicking and clacking.

“Whu isha ‘ul uish ‘at!?” Kazrack exclaimed. It came into the light and Gunthar drew his swords, and moved up to support the dwarf and the half-orc. They could now all see the yellowed curved hooks and the pale translucent quality of the armor plates.

Ratchis did not hesitate. Sword in hand he ran right at the thing, ducking one of its horrific hooks, and cracking the shell over its chest. The tone of its click and clacking become lower and was muted, as pink and yellow ichor dribbled from the crack.

It swayed off balance and reached down awkwardly to hook Ratchis, but the half-orc duck and the hooked horror toppled over, ichor pooling beneath it. (1)

Unfortunately, Ratchis backed off right into another of the monsters that appeared from the right. He took a glancing blow to the head, but Kazrack was there to distract the thing, smashing it with his flail. It clicked and clacked angrily, as Ratchis was able to spin into a defensive fighting stance and deliver a blow to one of its muscular legs with his sword. The creatures seemed less armored there.

Martin and Dorn began to load their crossbows, while Gunthar and Bones moved to support the dwarf and half-orc, but it was for naught, as a second resounding blow from Kazrack and the second hooked horror fell. It twitched for half a moment.

“Wow! These friggin’ bug things look worse than the actually are,” Gunthar said, too loudly, kicking at head of one of the dying monsters.

“Hush!” Ratchis chastised. The echo of more clicking and clacking called to them from the darkness of the great chamber.

Ratchis gestured for the others to wait, while he snuck out into the great dark cavern. He could see that it went off behind were the corkscrew tunnel let out way beyond what he could see. From this vantage point, he could see that the curling tunnel was within a huge tapering of earth and stone that touched the ceiling forty-five feet above the cavern floor. Obviously, the mound was in the top left corner of a cavern that he could only compare in size to that on the lowest level of the Necropolis of Doom. (2) Though, unlike that cavern, this one’s ceiling was supported by scattered columns and fused stalactites and stalagmites. He could see the walls of the cavern before him and to the right. While they looked like treacherous climbs, he could tell there were many jagged nooks and outcroppings that would make for good hiding spots.

The wall directly across the opening from the mound had opening about fifteen feet off the cavern floor, accessible by a crude stone ramp. It was a little more than ten feet wide and close to fifteen feet high.

Ratchis hurried back and explained what he had seen. “We should go up the ramp. I don’t want to spend to much time in that big cavern, too easy that we’d be ambushed by something and as far as we know we can be very far from another exit.”

The others agreed, though some grudgingly, but before continuing Ratchis beseeched Nephthys for Bull’s Strength for himself and for Kazrack.

They made their way across the cavern, marching close two by two and keeping alert as the clicking and clacking echoed around them. The light of Gunthar’s lantern threw crazy shadows all around them, especially against the towering columns.

Just as Ratchis and Kazrack, who were both in front reached the bottom of the ramp, they could see another hulking hooked horror appear at the opening at the top. There was at least two more behind it, trying to push their way down.

The monster in front ran down and swung its long arms at Kazrack, but the dwarf knocked the bony hook away and retaliated with two mighty blows of his own. Cracks cascaded up the thing’s exo-skeletal plates.

The thing lurched away from Kazrack and swung both claws at the bigger target, while pecking with its treacherous beak. Ratchis easily avoided all the blows, but landed a few of his own. Kazrack slammed it again and it fell.

However, one of the other hooked horrors had leapt down about halfway down the ramp and had made its way around and clawing at Flora, who took slight blow to the head. Ratchis leapt over to here and with two mighty blows the hooked thing drop to the cavern floor dead.

“Huh?” In the rear guard, Gunthar spun around and raised his lantern in time to see two more of the monsters charging out of the darkness from their right. “There’s more bugs back here! I friggin’ hate bugs!”

He put down the lantern and drew his short sword to accompany his other blade.

Flora, Dorn, Bones and Martin all got their missile weapons ready, as two more hooked horrors appeared at the opening and hurried down, as Kazrack and Ratchis positioned themselves to block their path. Again one came barreling down at Kazrack, as bolts and arrows bounced off it, a few finding tender spots between plates. The dwarf ducked and spun around out the way to his left, but did not see that the second horror had used the other as a screen and had come down unseen. Kazrack grunted as his armor did little to dull the blow. Kazrack swung his flail furiously, sending bony chips flying. Ratchis took up the spot Kazrack had been in and went head to head with the first hooked horror, grunting with each satisfying crunching blow of his long sword into the thing.

Gunthar did his best from keeping the two hooked horrors that approached from the rear, but one distracted him with a fierce blow to the chest, while the other batted the curved end of its hook across Martin’s chin.

“Isis help me!” the watch-mage cried and withdrew, fumbling to reload his crossbow.

Flora turned and fired an arrow into a weak point near its groin, to keep it from persuing.

Gunthar put himself between the two hulking monstrosities and flicked his swords in both directions trying to draw them off from the others.

”By Horus’ huge swollen hawk-headed c*ck! U could use some help over here!” he said, as the two hooked horrors spun and flanked him. His arms stung as he parried the blows and he felt himself go numb for a second and he collapsed to the ground.

Ratchis also felt the weight of a blow that drove him down onto his rear, but he sprung back up and cracked the thing’s chest shell and it fell backward, and tumbled off the ramp.

The hooked horror that had attacked Martin now saw Dorn open and swung wildly at the brown-haired warrior. He withdrew and fired at it point blank, but the bolt shattered harmlessly against its chest. Flora and Martin’s missiles reacted similarly.

“Fuhwuh meh!” Kazrack cried, crushing the skull of the falling hooked horror before him and charging up the ramp. “Wuh uh fuh muh comin’ ish aeh!”

Ratchis sighed, and turned away from the ramp charging at the one lumbering towards Dorn and the others. It swung out, catching him across the table, cleaving into its hip. It let out a long trill of clicks.

Gunthar scrambled to his feet and spun as the hooked horror hovered over him, about to come down with all three of its attacks. Instead, it stumbled and its right foot rolled. Gunthar hopped back, and the hooked horror hobbled after him, leaving itself open to a cruel blow from his long sword across the face.

It reared and came down on him again, and against he slashed across its face with the long sword and this time followed it with a jab from his short sword. It fell over.

Gunthar slipped away his short sword an scooped up the lantern.

Ratchis suffered cuts to his face from the hooked horror’s blows, but managed to slam it backward into the on-coming Kazrack, who had charged back down the ramp when he saw that no one had followed him. It slammed him as it fell to his blows.
More were now coming down the ramp, even as more emerged from the darkness beyond the mound behind them.

Gunthar walked over to Bones and put the lantern down by him.

”Carry this, snotling!” Gunthar said and kicked the halfling in the rear, knocking him down. Bones spun and around and tried to punch Gunthar in the groin, but he had already moved on to meet the approached hooked horrors.

Two came rushing at him, clicking madly as bolts flew from both Dorn and Martin. Ratchis stepped up to form a line, but one of the hooked horrors went around clawing at Bones. The halfing let an arrow loose straight into its head, but it did not slow. The other clawed at Ratchis, but met the flat of his blade instead, and was driven back by a thrust into a space between plates that spurted the pinkish ichor. Kazrack slammed it as well.

One of the hooked horrors coming down the ram leapt a Bones, who barely got off the way and then scurried away from the melee. The first hooked horror seemed obsessed with the halfling and clawed after him, sending the halfling flying to the cold cavern floor.

Dorn shot it with his crossbow.

Kazrack turned to the monsters that had come down the ramp while Gunthar and Ratchis beat the one between then down, cracking its plates and smashing one of its legs clear in half. The dwarf spun with all his might and knocked one on its side, bashing a huge ichor-oozing scrap in its thigh, and crushed its skull with a follow up blow.

Martin picked up the lantern and moved clear of the fight, closing ranks with Dorn. Bones scrambled to his feet and ran behind Dorn as the warrior provided cover. The hooked horror came running at Dorn as if still determined to get at the halfling behind him. Dorn cried out as the heavy hook clubbed him on the side of the head, knocking him from his feet.

Gunthar spun around and charged at the last hook horror to come down the ramp. He ducked the wide swinging hook and slammed the pommel of his sword between the thing’s legs and then thrusting upward to strike it under the beak. He fought in close to avoid the hooks.

He shoved his short sword into the gaping wound and thrust with all his might, moving it around, as Ratchis grunted with satisfaction as he cut down the hooked horror attacking Dorn.

The last hook horror fell.

“Do you think perhaps that more and more of these things keep coming from that opening might mean we shouldn’t go that way?’ Martin inquired, sarcastically.

“Duh yah think dish lids tuh air lur?” Kazrack asked eagerly.

“Whatever. Who cares? Let’s go kill all of them,” Gunthar nodded.

“Fer once Uh agruh,” Kazrack replied. He combed the drool from his beard with his fingers.

End of Session #66



------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) DM’s Note: Ratchis scored a critical hit on his charge, dropping the hook horror to zero hit point with one shot. By attacking while disabled, the monster dropped to negative hit points.

(2) See Session #45
 

Felikeries

First Post
Sounds like you're playesr take their levels at satisfaction,i never see
any deliges about 'if i get stronger with this next kill' or 'another battle
and a commune shall bring a new spell...let's go'

....or you left that 'player' crap rapping from the story for a better effect
 

Manzanita

First Post
I noticed in your other thread that you said you were wrapping up this campaign. Does that meanin real time, the FMK saga is coming to a close? Do you have another DMing project in the works? I sure look forward to reading how this all works out, but I'd miss it if it were over...
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Manzanita said:
I noticed in your other thread that you said you were wrapping up this campaign. Does that meanin real time, the FMK saga is coming to a close? Do you have another DMing project in the works? I sure look forward to reading how this all works out, but I'd miss it if it were over...

In real time, we are about 6 to 10 sessions from the end of the campaign (i.e. 3 to 5 months), but I am over a year behind in the story hour, so the story hour will be going along for some time more.

I will either be running a Mutants & Masterminds game when OOTFP is over, or another Aquerra campaign. I have not decided.
 

Ciaran

First Post
nemmerle said:
In real time, we are about 6 to 10 sessions from the end of the campaign (i.e. 3 to 5 months)
Are you serious? It may take us 6 to 10 sessions just to get to, you know, that place. Are you expecting things to go really quickly there, or are you just anticipating our short life expectancy? ;)
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Well, even though we won't get to it for a long long time in the story hour, today the party had their climactic battle with Mozek, in a 40 round titantic brawl of epic proportion in its suffering and confusion. I won't tell you how it turned out, but let me say this, is was pretty friggin' great.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
When I am done the next installment you will have not only all of session #67 in one fell swoop, but it will also mark the end of this "book" - The Fearless Manticore Killers and the Necropolis of Doom (which also included the journey into the Pit of Bones) and the next installment will be the beginning of

Out of the Frying Pan - Book IV: Into the Fire


I had wanted to start it later, at a point that worked visually with fire, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense to make the break now so new characters come right in from the beginning of this section instead of being introduced and then jumping to the next session.

Anyway, this last installment should be done this weekend some time.
 


Manzanita

First Post
I'm looking forward to the next installment as well. And especially the climactic battle against Mozek. The FMK have really come a long way since they sat helplessly as Mozek ripped poor Chance's head off. What level are they at the climax, or would that be asking too much? They're about 8th now in the story aren't they?
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #67

“Should weh tuck a momen tuh cull upun tuh blesshings uh ur guds?” Kazrack asked.

“Yeah, heal me up, Stumpy!” Gunthar poked the dwarf in the side of the head with an elbow.

Kazrack’s frown became a grimace of pain, which shocked his face into more convulsions, until he could only hold the fractured remains of his lower face and shudder. He tried to cast two curative spells, but both failed.

“Let’s just go have a look,” Ratchis said. “We won’t go too far into the opening.”

He and Kazrack led the way, with Gunthar close behind. Dorn and Bones took up the rear, as Martin and Flora followed the warriors hesitantly.

Not more than twenty feet into this tunnel it widened and forked, turning sharply to the left and sinking one way and turned and climbing more gradually to the right.

Another of the hooked horrors came charging up from the left, clicking and clacking frantically as it swung its hooks over its head. Gunthar leapt forward and sliced its leg open, and Ratchis swung around and struck it in the same place. He chopped its head open as it fell to the ground.

“Muh!” Kazrack warned. They all looked up and saw four more of the monsters coming. Two from each side.

Ratchis stepped up and braced himself to block the two on the left, while the two on the right came charging at Kazrack. The dwarf deftly ducked the attacks, though one did scrape his helmet.

The half-orc traded blows with one of the bird-insect monsters, but his heavy blows brought it down. Meanwhile Gunthar struggled with the other one on the left side, but Ratchis was able to help flank the creature and soon it was pouring out ichor and shuddering on the cave floor.

Twang! Flora fired arrows to keep the remaining two from overrunning Kazrack, who grunted with every blow he dealt and received. The dwarf was beginning to look badly beaten and bloody in many places. One blow from a hooked horror knocked him off his feet. Again, and again it slammed him on the ground with its hooks ignoring the flurry of arrows and bolts from Martin, Flora, Bones and Dorn.

Ratchis and Gunthar struggled with one of the remaining ones, as it moved to block access to its companion that threatened to hook Kazrack like a squirming worm used to fish. Gunthar was able to get in a blow as the monster shifted over, but it did not fall.

“Kazrack? Do you have it?” Ratchis called to his friend, his view obscured by the hulking horrors.

“Uh um shorly oondid!” Kazrack drooled as he rolled to his feet and slammed the monster with his fading strength. The central carapace cracked, sending pinkish ichor to splatter across the tunnel. The hooked horror fell.

The dwarf stepped up to flank the other, but it spun around to hit him. However, its hooks slammed the tunnel ceil and it lost balance slamming its head against the wall as it fell , stunned. (1)

In a moment, Kazrack, Ratchis and Gunthar had destroyed it.

“We need to pulls back out of this area and back up that corkscrew passage in order to hide and rest,” Ratchis said.

Martin mumbled under his breath that he had already suggested something like that.

The Fearless Manticore Killers and their companions climbed back up the rounding ramp, alert to the echoing of more clicking and clacking behind them. Near the top they found a flat recess they could camp in and perhaps avoid anyone or anything that went by in the dark.

They risked a little light as they set up their gear and rolled out their bedrolls. Martin took some time to use several mending spells to make repairs in Kazrack and Gunthar’s armor. (2)

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Beorth is gone,” Gunthar said as they were all settling in. Kazrack was mumbling angrily to himself as three of his cure spells failed due to his shattered jaw. “None of you have said a word about him since he hell down the sh*te-hole… And you call me heartless.”

“Beorth is alive,” Ratchis replied.

“That would ease your conscience, wouldn’t it,” Gunthar said with a smirk.

“Shut up, Gunthar,” Ratchis growled.

“Oh, please feel free to dampen my own freedom, mister friar of Nephthys Snuffles, sir,” Gunthar mocked.

“Bayorsh ish lukly dud,” Kazrack said.


Balem, the 12th of Ter – 565 H.E.

In what they hoped was morning, the priests prepared their spells, and Ratchis used a great deal of his goddess’ power to heal everyone’s wounds. Soon after, they all found themselves making their way back down to the great chamber below by means of the spiraling tunnel. This time at the egress that went to the right behind the great hollowed mound.

They were amazed to find that the corpses of all the monsters they had slain had been dragged away.

The area behind where the corkscrew tunnel let out was pock marked with conical dirt mounds that seemed to have small scoop taken out of the top. All the mounds were spread put nearly evenly around a bizarre feature of the cavern; a translucent green and sickly yellow conical column of some kind of hardened material. It was as tall as the cavern and seemed to have been spit out over time from a hole above. It was twenty feet at the base and rose up steeply to a narrow point at the top.

“What is that?” Dorn whispered with awe. Gunthar’s lantern reflected against the shiny green thing and sparkled up and down it.

“The insect birds must have made it,” Martin said. “Perhaps to preserve eggs or valuables.”

“I hope valuables,” Bones said. “Because these things don’t have pockets, so their ain’t much profit in killing them.”

The party was startled as a loud clacking came around the column of hardened slime. Two of the plated monsters came around form the right side of it, clacking and beating their hooks against their chests in challenge. They took up spots on either side of the column and did not approach.

“Why aren’t they attacking?” Martin the Green asked Ratchis.

“I think they’re defending their eggs and calling to others,” Ratchis surmised. He rushed towards them and Kazrack followed. Dorn hesitated and then followed as well.

Gunthar stayed back with the others who were more cautious, and looking around to see if more were coming.

Bones let loose and arrow that bounced against the head of the first one that moved forward to meet Kazrack.

Dorn grunted as he took a blow to the shoulder as he and Ratchis moved to flank the other hooked horror.

Sighing, Gunthar advanced to aid Kazrack. The dwarf was doing a good job avoiding blows, but he could not seem to land a solid one until the Neergaardian arrived to provide distraction. Ratchis and Dorn managed to defeat the one they took on with help from arrows from Flora and Martin.

The half-orc then hurried over and cut the leg from the other and Gunthar removed its head while it struggled on the ground.

The echo of their battle died out as it rung across the great chasm and returned as a vague hum bouncing against the columns and spires of stone.

They all approached the slime column and could see spot of luminescence deep inside of it and way up above. Ratchis, Bones and Martin examined it. They could see the shape of humanoids trapped inside of it frozen in space. One was a human hanging upside down and missing a leg. The other, only about seven feet up was a dwarf with his back to the party. He had a torn pack and seem to have been climbing a rope when the slime slid over him suddenly.

Ratchis used the masterwork hammer he had taken off of one of Mozek’s brothers to smash through the hardened slime and was able to retrieve two of the bodies; the dwarf and a human. The two bodies appeared to be that of adventurers, clearly dead by remarkably preserved. The dwarf’s pack was full of gems, jewelry, coins and some clay jugs wrapped in some kind of prayer rug. Martin cast detect magic and discovered the rug and the just gave off a dweomer.

Kazrack was given the pack to carry after the two bodies were buried under stone cairns and words were spoken.

-----------------------------------

A couple of hours later the party had moved on to the far end of the huge cavern and picked their way up the wall towards a group of tunnels they spotted that they hoped would lead them out. The map Shadarach had given them was of very limited use from this point on, and many times Kazrack and Ratchis conferred about the most likely routes to the surface, with Martin chiming in occasionally with his plethora of maps.

These narrow tunnels climbed up and up. In many places they crawled up on their hands and knees through slick black mud and silt, nearly digging their way upward through the earth. Mud-covered, they finally pulled themselves into and intersecting cavern with slick cold rounded walls. After another quick look around by Ratchis and a consultation with Kazrack (3), they took off in one direction following carved steps in lime that reached another series of narrow tunnels. The air was fresher here, and Ratchis smiled as he led the way.

In places, this sloping tunnel had crude worked stairs that Kazrack cursed as “goblin work”. They were now far from the dwarven mines and chambers they had entered with Shadarach. In time they came to a room that connected with three other passages, but more importantly, there was a tiny shaft on the left had side through which came a shaft of moonlight.

“Isis smiles upon us,” Martin said. (4)

Ratchis examined the shaft and could see that was scores of feet to where the moonlight breached the rock. The shaft was no wider than four inches.

“The moon must be full,” he said.

“Look!” Bones called attention to the corpses of three squat orcs in torn hide armor. They had no weapons and looked as if those curved blades the black orcs had been using before had killed them. (5)

Ratchis held up a hand and looked around using Gunthar’s lantern.

“These orcs were dragged here from somewhere else,” Ratchis surmised. “Maybe they were killed near the surface and others dragged them here.”

“These look different in dress than the ones we face before, and they are more squat,” Martin observed.

“We should press on,” Ratchis said, and Kazrack nodded.

The half-orc walked over to each of the exits in turn, and then called over Kazrack and Martin to consult with them. The faint sound of drums came from the right hand passage. The passage climbed very steeply and turned off to the right very sharply. The middle passage smelled freshest and had a gentle grade upward, while the left hand passage plummeted awkwardly. There was a damp smell to the air that came up from down there.

“The middle it is,” Ratchis said, and led the way.

Fatigue began to crawl into their muscles by the time they were able to see moonlight again. The tunnels had led to a network of passages that honeycombed the side of a gorge overlooking a river far below.

Bones was sent out to sneak ahead and check it out, he returned with the all’s clear. There was enough solid rock directly below to allow them all to climb down and then find a way across the river further up or down stream. However, it was only thirty feet to the cliff above while a more treacherous eighty feet to the bottom of the gorge.

Ropes were hastily set up and Kazrack began to make his way down slowly on one rope, as Gunthar and Bones slid down the other.

The Neergaardian was the furthest down the cliff-side, about halfway, when he was startled by an arrow clattering against the stone beside him.

“What! Friggin’ pigs! Pigs!” he cried and point and swung wildly. Bones cursed, holding on desperately to the jerking rope as Gunthar slid all the way down to the bottom.

Kazrack turned his head and saw two squat orcs with short bows hunches in a tiny shielded outcropping that was reached by some other tunnel in the cliff-side.

Still inside Martin and the other began to hear drums.

Bones slide down the rope and in a moment his bow was in his hand. He stopped to shoot at the well-covered orcs as he ran out to the edge of the tall grass that lined the river here, hoping to get a better angle and some cover of his own.

Kazrack was still clumsily making his way down, lowered by Ratchis, and he felt the bite of orc arrows, slowed, but still punching through his armor.

Gunthar, meanwhile, began to climb back up the cliff-side to get at the orcs.

Dorn and Martin loaded their crossbow and stepped out to the ledge, looking down at the orcs as they popped out to take shots. They both let loose, but Dorn’s caught a lip of stone. Martin’s bolt went clean through the back of the orc’s neck as it peered over the stone at Gunthar and over it went! The orc corpse slammed into Gunthar with incredible force, and yet he still managed to hold on, feeling bruises begin to swell up on his face and shoulder.

“Agh!” Ratchis cried out. He had leaned forward to get Kazrack past some rocks and a heavy stone had slammed into the back of his head. He looked up, and in the bright moonlight could see humanoid silhouettes moving back and forth at the top of the cliff. “They are also above us!” he warned.

Gunthar felt a stone slam into him as well, but he remained resolute and slowly made his way back up towards the orc archers.

Kazrack was finally down, and he drew his crossbow as well and began to fire at the orcs.

Bones sent arrows clattering up into the shadows, but he could not tell if he hit anything.

Flora began to sing a loud song in elvish and three small balls of light appeared before her and hurried down to harass the archers.

Ratchis pulled up the rope, as Dorn began his descent on the other.

Gunthar by this time had gotten to the orc hole, and barely missed having his head cleaved open by a battle-axe. He leapt into the hole, drawing his sword, and disappeared into the darkness with a cry of joy.

More rocks fell from above, forcing Martin to retreat a bit and sending his bolts off target. Flora had her lights fly up to the top of the cliff, but then ducked away as more rocks came down.

Dorn joined Bones and Kazrack at the bottom of the cliff and lent his crossbow to the difficult task of picking off the well-covered orcs.

Ratchis coiled the rope at his feet and then pulled out his great bow and took aim where he had seen one of the orcs above. The next time it looked over to drop a rock, it fell back with an arrow through its eye. The stone scraped past the half-orc’s head.

Below Kazrack did his best to yell suggestions to Ratchis between shots, but over the distance and with his excitement, it sounded like the desperate groans of a mute.

Gunthar emerged from the orc hole covered in gore and holding a black bow and a leather quiver of arrows. He began to make his way back down the cliff.

With a lucky shot, Bones took out one of the orcs way above and it tumbled down the cliff, its body emitting two satisfying crunching sounds.

Martin and Flora took this opportunity to begin to climb down, as the others waited with bows drawn for more orc forms to appear at the top of the cliff; except for Kazrack he continued to mumble encouragement.

Soon the whole party was down and crossing the river where it was wide and very shallow. They climbed up a much lower and gradual rock face and headed towards a thick wood to the southwest.

At the treeline, they stopped to drink water and patch up their wounds. Flora sung for Ratchis, closing a bit of the Friar’s wounds.

“I think we should go through the dwarf’s bag now and split the booty,” Bones suggested.

“Ut cun wait,” Kazrack said.

“What if we get separated, or you fall over a cliff into a river or something?” Bones said. “It makes sense to do it now.”

“Snotling’s got a point,” Gunthar, smiling. “I deserve my cut now for all the fighting I had to do to cover for you guys.” He gestured to Kazrack and Ratchis.

Kazrack looked to Ratchis, and the half-orc nodded.

A few minutes later the coins were divided and several different people were holding pieces of jewelry. Gunthar was not one of them, but he was promised a cut when they were sold.

“I can’t wait until we get to an inn,” he said. “I’m gonna get me a whore. Hell, with all this booty I can get a helluva lot of booty.”

“You’re disgusting,” Flora said.

“Can’t ya just eat me up?” Gunthar winked.

“Whuh would juh buh mer buddy?” Kazrack asked.

Dorn, Bones, Gunthar and even Flora laughed.

At Ratchis’ insistence they marched through the darkness of night in order to put as much distance between themselves and the orc tunnels.

“We should march until as close to daybreak as possible,” he said.


Several hours later exhausted they collapsed into a wooded knoll that Ratchis found for them. The dawn was an angry red blur that rose up from behind the mountains the party had emerged from.


Teflem, the 13th of Ter – 565 H.E.

Before them stretched seemingly endless miles of thickly wooded hills that climbed as they stretched south and westward until meeting the distant shadow of even taller mountains.

The weather was perfect. A cool breeze slipped around the hills and small fluffy clouds crawled away to the east.


Anulem, the 14th of Ter – 565 H.E.

By mid-day of the next day, they were moving at a brisk face though broken rocky plateaus covered in places by winding scrabbled gray vines, some of which had begun to sprout bright yellow and green flowers.

At many place they had to climb down tall plateaus, and cross deep cracks where subterranean streams split the rocks down below. Every now and then they’d pass a small copses of trees, some had the tiniest buds of apples growing on them.

After crossing one long stretch of barren white stone riddled with veins of black and dull green, there was a narrow band of trees behind which they could see the outline of some buildings and a low wall.

“This is the cemetery,” Ratchis said. “We are nearly there. There is a monastery dedicated to Anubis here, so we have to be alert for monks.” (6)

He led them to the stained white stone wall of the cemetery. The tall peaks of tombs and statues were visible over the twelve-foot wall.

“There is no gate on this side,” Ratchis said.

“Whur ish thish tun?” Kazrack asked.

The half-orc ranger led the party and their companions along the eastern wall of the cemetery. The ground declined beneath them as the wall became gradually taller.

“Dish ish dwarven conshrukshun,” Kazrack commented.

The ground gave way very steeply before them, and the wall went beyond it, reinforced and buttressed to support some kind of stone platform above. Ratchis pointed out narrow alley in the wall that led to stone steps up to the cemetery level. They passed a rusted open gate. The narrow hall turned left and then another set of steeper steps led to a courtyard before a squat black building. The courtyard looked as if it had not been cleared for some time. There were piles of dirt blown by the wind into the corners, and dead leaves and mud streaks. The statue of Anubis, jackal-headed with his arms folded across his chest, holding a key in one hand and a hooked scepter in the other, was stained with pink and white bird-droppings.

“Like everywhere else in Aquerra… The monks are all gone,” Flora said.

“They’re on their way back,” Martin said. “I wish Beorth were here. He would do something about this neglect while here.”

Gunthar snorted, and Ratchis glared at him.

Beyond the courtyard to the right they saw scores of tombstones amide tall grass and a few trees. To the left, there was a stone balcony of sorts connected to stone steps leading down the side of the cliff face this was built upon. It led to the plateau below.

Ratchis led them this way. Kazrack was awed by the construction.

Down the steps they went. They were made of stone and carved into the side of the cliff turning in a neat rectangular pattern, with an open side, which gave view to rolling hills beyond to the south. The steps led to a wide plateau fashioned into a road. Large stones marked the far edge of the road showing where the edge of the plateau was and the sudden plummet beyond. The road curved around and out of sight to the east, and to the east it led through a dark tunnel cleaving through the mountainside.

“Nikar is just beyond this tunnel,” Ratchis explained. “Just a warning. The guards here are serious about enforcing the law and they’ve had bad experiences with adventurers here so be careful what you do and don’t get caught doing it.”

He glared at Gunthar, but let his vision pause on Bones an extra second as well.

As they approached the tunnel, they could see that it was built up on either side with windowless stone towers from which could emerge a heavy black metal gate, which could completely block the way. Kazrack took a moment to look to see if he could get a glimpse at the mechanism used to do this, but Ratchis hurried him along.

“The gate is closed at sundown from the far end of the tunnel,” the half-orc said. “We will have to hurry to make it in time.”

The tunnel was twenty-five feet high at the center, and curved down on either side in a perfect arc. The ground was paved with rounded stones, and gutters had been carved on either end to allow water to drain.

It was nearly a quarter-mile to the other end of the tunnel, and there they saw the lights of several lanterns reflecting off another gate. This one was closed, but a small doorway through was open and adjacent to a guardhouse and tower. The top of the tunnel here was lined with murderholes through which came torchlight.

As they approached the gate, Flora used a prestidigitation spell to clean everyone off, except Gunthar.

A dwarven form appeared at the entrance through the gate. As they approached they saw a dwarf in chainmail holding a battle-axe. He had a full red beard and a helmet that covered the top part of his face. There was a horn at his side. Behind him were two more dwarves with loaded heavy crossbows.

“Hail! Who seeks to enter Nikar at this late hour?” the dwarf called out.

“Greshungs, muh brushers! Weh uf travushed fur tuh git hur,” Kazrack raised a hand as he came forward to speak.

“Well met, brother! Come forward into the light. I am having a hard time understanding you,” the dwarf said.

Kazrack approached and the shattered remains of his lower face made the dwarven guard grimace.

“Ugh! That is some grievous wound you have,” the dwarf said. “Please speak your names and your business in town.”

“Uh em Kashrack Devver. I hail from Lurgh-Schplendar-Turr,” Kazrack said. “Theesh ur my companionsh. Uh em uh rune-thrower and sheek to pray and shtudy ut uh temple hur. One of my companionsh hess from thish tun.”

Ratchis came forward, and one of the dwarves with the crossbows murmured something to the other. There was a look of recognition in the eyes of the guard at the gate.

“I am Ratchis of Nephthys, friend of Jetta and Narcil of Nephthys who reside in this town,” the half-orc ranger said.

“I know who they are,” the dwarf said brusquely. “And I know who you are, you best be watching yourself while you are back here and rest assured that the captain will be told of your arrival.”

“Ish thur uh problem?” Kazrack asked, wiping drool from his chin.

“No disrespect to you honored rune-thrower,” the dwarf said, swallowing down his disdain to take on a tone of deference. “But I am surprised that you would call one of the foul breed a companion, especially one that is a known rapist.”

“Couldn’t take no for an answer, huh Snuffles?” Gunthar laughed, coming forward.

“I was cleared of that charge,” Ratchis said.

“A technicality that gains you entrance,” the dwarf said. “But there better not be any vengeance getting while you are here, and as you are clearly an adventuring group I hope whatever business you have while off on your adventures is done with and does not come following you here. We do not take kindly to your kind brawling and killing both in town and in its jurisdiction.”

“We understand,” said Martin, coming forward. “I am Martin the Green of the Academy of Wizardry. Could you point me in the direction of the local watch-mage’s abode when we are done here?”

“There is no watch-mage here,” the dwarf said. He began to take down the names.

“I am Gunthar Northrop of Neergaard, adventurer and hero,” Gunthar said. “And don’t let my companions be too humble they are the cold-blooded and Fearless Manticore Killers.”

“Uh-huh,” the dwarf said making a note and smirking. “Come through one by one and step to the right so I can explain to you some of our local laws before you make your way to the inn or wherever, Fearless Manticore Killers.”

“Maybe we should change our name,” Martin whispered to Ratchis.

End of Session #67

----------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) DM’s Note: The hook horror fumbled. It needed to make a Reflex check against DC 18 or fall and be stunned for 1d3 rounds.

(2) DM’s Note: A mending spell will repair one point of damage to armor. Armor has as many damage points as 10 times its base amount of protection. Thus, a chain shirt has 40 damage points. Each hit reduces armor damage points by 1, though some critical hits do more.

(3) Kazrack was using his inherent intuit depth ability.

(4) Isis is the goddess of the moon, magic and motherhood, and a patron of witches.

(5) Scimitars.

(6) See The Story of Ratchis to learn of his time in Nikar.
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Manzanita said:
end of book two. Nice update. Looking forward to book III

Naw, FMK & The Necropolis of Doom!! is goingto count as Book III - so "Into the Fire" will be Book IV.

Of course, over on the Rat Bastard Boards I am numbering them differently, just to be difficult. :D
 

handforged

First Post
I really enjoyed this update Nemm. I don't know why specifically. The environments were nice, the fighting was interesting. Good character interaction. Overall just very enjoyable. A nice wrap-up for the third book.

~hf
 

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