The Black Company. . .for now. . .til they change their name. :)


So we started Return To The Temple of Elemental Evil a couple of weeks ago, really got into it last Thursday. The meatgrinder. . .er, the moat house has claimed its first victim. This first one is kinda long 'cause we played for a while several months ago, but everything from the Count meeting the company at the edge of the forest has happened over the last three weeks.

The Players............Their characters
Ross Isaacs...........Albin ibn something ibn something. 4th level Khinasi Rogue
Hyrum Savage.......Armando de la Rua. 4th level Ranger/Fighter
Doug Sun..............Gavin - 4th level Ranger
Owen Seyler.........Firdun, dwarf, 1st level cleric, 3rd level fighter.
John Wick..............Moergin Tarien - 1st level Rogue, 3rd level Bard
Christian Moore.....Etherion - 4th level .5 elven wizard
George Vasilakos...Artemis - 4th level Psion

Big party. We recently converted everyone to Birthright so there are some gaps in my memory between who they were and who they are and I had to retcon some things so they’d make sense in Birthright. Ross and Doug rolled up totally new characters, Christian just half elfed his elf, since Elves are. . .not good in Birthright (at least in Anuire).

Things you need to know. Dwarves and humans rarely trade. Dwarves stay underground. 10 years ago, the dwarven empire of Thurazor sent an emissary to the Overland to treat with the humans of Anuire. He was successful though the Empire of Thurazor was conquered three years later by the Dark Slavers of the Nange, a race of dark-dwarves.

But there are other dwarven kingdoms. 50 years ago The kingdom of Khundrakhar foolishly extended a trade agreement to the elves of Rhobhe. They betrayed the dwarves and sold the secrets of the dwarven fortress to the orcs. The invading orcish hordes penetrated the secret defenses of Khundrakhar and the dwarves were driven into exile. Now, throughout the western coast of Anuire, the dwarves live scattered about, one or two in each town. Sometimes they rally together in groups of 5 or 10 and try to take back Khundrakhar. This is astonishingly foolish since it would take an army to get Khundrakhar back, but the dwarves dream epic dreams of 5 against thousands and their heritage demands they make the attempt, no matter the odds. The thane of Khundrakar, Kadras Thunderthol was killed 50 years ago when the orcs came and the fortress fell. His eldest son Thingol Thunderthol is now Thane in exile.

The party meets in the small thorpe of Gravesford. There they fight a bunch of undead and orcs and goblins ravaging the town. The orcs and goblins were driven out of the nearby forest by the sudden presence of the undead.

The undead were being spontaneously created by the armor of the Lord of Thorns. The Lord of Thorns was one member of a secret society trying to take over Anuire known as the Curtain of Night (used to be the Pillar of Autumn, but then HALO came out and the GM had to change it. :)) 30 years ago he raised an army and tried to take over Boeruine. The Archduke's armies pushed him back into the forest north of Gravesford, but his body was never found.

So the party goes into the forest, looking for whatever's creating Undead. Turns out its an Ogre wearing the armor of the Lord of Thorns (it's intelligent armor) it possesses the Ogre and makes him bad-ass. He gathers a few units of undead and goblins, orcs, and hobgoblins around him. The party ambushes his army, kills him and leaves the forest.

Exiting the Forest they meet Lord Nestor of Tariene. Lord Nestor, Count of Tariene, had taken a small contingent of troops to the forest in the hopes of stopping whatever was happening in there. Finding the PCs emerging triumphant from their battle with the Armor of the Lord of Thorns, he greets them. Armando is obviously a nobleman, and he asks Armando “Are these your men?” Armando looks at the rest of the group and responds; “Yes.” The PCs have done a great service for the count and he is grateful. He invites them to dine with him in his manor house on the ‘morrows eve.

Together the Count, his army, and the PCs ride back to the county seat of Tariene. The count talks with Armando and asks what the name of his Company is. Owen, out of character, jokes; ‘The Black Company.’ Hyrum looks straight at the GM and, in all seriousness as well as in character, says ‘The Black Company,’ and the deed is done. The Count notices that Firdun is riding closely behind them. “Tell your man it is unseemly for him to ride so close to us,” the count says. Owen says; ‘Ok, I officially hate this guy” while his character stays where he is. “The dwarf is highly esteemed in the eyes of his people, much like you or I,” Armando replies. “All dwarves hold themselves in high esteem,” the count responds. Noticing the dwarf is not retreating to a ‘respectful’ distance, the count disdains direct confrontation by saying ‘I will attribute your footman’s behavior to the noted ineptness dwarves have with horses.’

They get to the county seat. Artemis goes out and buys some expensive inks to scribe his psionic tattoos. The rest of the party try to buy some nice clothes for their dinner with the count the following night. The tailor is extremely busy and cannot take any consignments for at least three days. The PCs explain their need; they are guests of the count. “Nevertheless” the tailor says, “no consignments for three days.” The PCs are forced to buy clothes from one of the trading guilds.

Meanwhile Firdun takes the horses to the local stablemaster, a dwarf. The dwarf recognizes Firdun, rushes to retrieve an axe, many years unused, and returns. “Lord Firdun!” he says. “You have come for me, and I am ready! You and I, we shall go!” Firdun stays the excited old dwarf. “Ah yes, we should get others,” the stablemaster says. “There is another dwarf in town, he will join us!” Firdun dispels this notion. “Now is not the time,” he says. “What news of my brother?”

The older dwarf relates the tale he heard of Firdun’s brother gathering a band of 15 dwarves, one of the largest in recent memory, to try and take back Khundrakhar. “That was 8 months ago. They may be there now, waiting for us!” Firdun is worried, but optimistic. His brother was a strong and resourceful dwarf.

That night at the Stag and Arrow the PCs gather to relax. A young girl comes in and rushes to a tall, dark man in chainmail, asking him to go look for her father. The PCs watch as the companion of the man in chainmail, a druid of Aerik, convinces his friend Daene that the girl’s father, the city’s potion-maker is certainly out on another one of his week-long scavenging quests to find more ingredients. Daene is convinced, but the little girl is not. The PCs watch and Daene and the druid, Gunnar, leave together. The girl stays, confused, alone.

Gavin strikes up a conversation with her, but she’s reticent to talk to strangers. As Gavin relates what he’s heard to the rest of the group, the doors burst open and something. . .some twisted assembly of intestine and bone wielding a bone-weapon stands in the doorway. Something near its heart glows a fiery red. It opens something resembling a mouth and a horrific moan escapes as it points at the little girl.

It moves forward and the PCs spring into action. Arrows fly, rapiers are drawn, and the thing is engaged in combat. Armando is struck and loses two levels, but does not die. More arrows and more strikes from Armando’s rapier and the thing dies, the red ball of flashing energy at its core speeds off into the night. The entire battle took no more than 10 seconds. The girl, however, has disappeared. As the group looks for her, she suddenly reappears on a barstool. Perhaps she’d been hiding, the group cannot be sure.

The next day, at dinner with the Count, Lord Nestor introduces the group (minus Firdun who thinks the Count’s an :):):):):):):)) to his son, Moergin, recently returned from the Imperial City having finished his education at one of the prestigious Heraldic Colleges. He is dressed in the finest clothes, newly made. The count evinces knowledge of the battle at the Stag and Arrow that surprises the PCs. He formally thanks them for their aid both in protecting the patrons of the Stag & Arrow, and their aid in defeating the Armor of the Lord of Thorns. He tells them about the Curtain of Night and the attempt, 30 years ago, of one of their leaders, the Lord of Thorns, to raise an army and conquer Boeruine. The Lord of Thorns built a moat house a few miles northeast of the city of Tariene. The Count’s Captain of the Guard, Daene, rid the moat house of the evil therein and The Archduke’s army pushed the Lord of Thorns into the forest where his body was never found. The Ogre they found must have found the bones of the Lord of Thorns, and his armor.

The Archduke recently told the Count that his intelligence led him to suspect the Curtain of Night, having laid low these past 30 years, was rising again. Perhaps one of the other 4 leaders of this secret society devoted to the worship of the dead god Azrai was trying to succeed where the Lord of Thorns failed.

Count Nestor looks at his son, then back at the PCs and says; ‘I have it on good authority that the thing you fought last night in the Stag & Arrow was a Reaver. The Lord of Thorns was the Captain of the Company of Autumn, a group of 13 evil paladins. When the Lord of the Thorns fled into the forest 30 years ago, his paladins bought him time by sacrificing their lives against the army of the Archduke. The Archduke’s clerics banished the souls of the Company of Autumn to hell. Something brought the souls of those paladins back from hell. Now insane, the Reavers have no body. They assemble a ‘body’ from the remains of their victim, twisting muscle, sinew, bone and intestine into a form that roughly resembles the bodies they had in life.”

Gavin asks the Count about the young girl and her missing father. He explains that, while he of course has no personal knowledge of the girl’s father’s whereabouts, he understands the man often goes away for days at a time, leaving his daughter in the charge of his assistant, as he searches the countryside, sometimes as far away as the moat house for potion ingredients.

The group asks “Is the moat house safe?” The Count assures them the Captain of the Watch, Daene, goes back to the moat house every month or so to make sure nothing moves in. The party isn’t convinced and decides to check it out themselves. The Count tells the group that his liege, the Archduke, believes the Curtain of Night is operating in Tariene. The Count and Daene agreed that if they could find a way to investigate this without the Curtain knowing they were doing it, they’d be more likely to succeed. Daene doesn’t want the Curtain to hole up and hide. He wants them up and about, all the easier to catch. Count Nestor asks if The Black Company would be willing to take the assignment of rooting out the insurgency. At this point Owen said; ‘Hey, are we really the Black Company? I’m not sure I like that.’ The GM explained that a Black Knight was one who had disgraced himself or sought revenge or was on some other quest in which he could not rightfully ride out with his coat of arms displayed and instead covered it in black. Owen thought about his backstory and said; ‘Ok, I kinda like it.’

The group accepted.

In Those Days, The Black Company Was In Service To Lord Nestor of Tariene.

The Count asks his son to aid the Company in finding the moat house. Moergin agrees, and now the Company is seven. They journey out, equipped with scrolls and potions from the Hidden Temple of Cuiraécen.

Moergin guides them by the backways, avoiding the main road. The bard shows some of his history as a bit of a rogue during his stay in the Imperial City. They come upon an old trader, Del, who’s out hunting and living off the land. He greets Moergin and shares his own homemade brew with the group. Any friends of Moergin’s are friends of his. He tells the group he saw some strange, hooded men going to the moat house, but they were stopped on the way by a Paladin, probably a man of the Archduke’s and allowed to pass. But whatever they were doing, they’re probably dead now. Del saw a blue dragon fly overhead and take up residence in the moat house.

Of course, even though the group has fought a baby dragon when they were 2nd level, they don’t believe this. That night, Moergin points to a hill that dominates the night and tells a brief story of his experience as a lad, and the twisted, gnarled gallows tree that the Count hung men on in days of yore. And the legend that the faces of those who’d died hanging from the tree could be seen in the twisted oak. As a boy, a young girl dared him to touch the tree one night, which he did, and returned for a kiss as his reward.

Rather than appreciate the story as spun by the novice Bard, the group says; “Cool, let’s check out the tree.”

Three of them go up the hill and the GM takes the opportunity to use one of the Random Encounters. A Yeth Hound is there. They hear the howl of the beast and Moergin fails his Will save. He’s terrified and flees. John bitches. “How is this heroic? I hate fear, this is stupid!” He asks a boon of the GM. “I tell you what, just give me some minus to all my rolls. –4.” The GM is merciful, and grants the boon. Moergin does not run off. Mind you, John is a notoriously bad roller, so the boon isn’t that big a deal.

The Yeth Hound has damage resistance, but Gavin and Albin both have magic silver arrows that bypass the damage resistance and, though the hound takes a mighty bite out of Albin, they kill the beast. “No more chasing after Moergin’s stories!” Moergin privately wonders what the hell’s going on around Tariene that a Yeth Hound would be about.

The next day the group reaches the moat house. It’s basically a ruined keep on a small island in the middle of a river. The drawbridge is down. Armando enters the tall rushes that line the edge of the river in an attempt to walk around the moat house and get some idea of what condition it’s in from the outside.

GULP! Armando disappears into the rushes. The sound of struggle is heard, but the group can’t see him. As they get closer, they find a giant frog with Armando’s legs sticking out it’s mouth. GULP! Armando’s legs disappear.

“A giant frog? You’re kidding!” comes the cry from the players. The GM assures them he is not. Some attacks against the frog. It’s still alive and a threat when Armando pries the frog’s mouth open and struggles halfway out. Moergin grabs him and pulls him the rest of the way out. Artemis concentrates for a moment, and the frog is suddenly mummified with ectoplasmic goop.

A brief debate regarding the necessity of killing the frog ends with Armando stabbing the :):):):) out of it. “Giant frog my ass!”

On to the moat house proper. Albin sneaks through the gate house and into the main courtyard. There’s a three story tower, burnt and blasted. Parts of the walls have collapsed. Wide steps lead through a large archway into a raised room, some kind of foyer, still mostly covered. A long brown streak—dried blood—leads from the courtyard into the foyer where two bodies lie in a heap. Albin declares the courtyard safe and the group enters. Moergin walks into the foyer just as the Blue Dragon swoops into the courtyard. Utrishemon chats up the group for a second, then starts beating its wings. The trash and debris in the courtyard is kicked up, and everyone is blind. Utrishemon breaths lightning and several characters are reduced to roughly half their HP. Albin runs into the ruined tower and climbs up to the top. From there, he’s got a bird’s eye view of the dragon hovering in the center of the maelstrom it’s created. For the next several rounds, Albin looses arrow after arrow, doing fully 30 points of damage over the next several rounds.

Wisely, the group does not attempt to swarm the dragon and attack. Gavin moves back to the gatehouse and waits until he can see again. Firdun casts a spell to protect him from the dragon’s lightning. Etherion erects a magical sphere to protect him from spells. Everyone makes their Concentration checks. The dragon moves forward to attack Firdun. Firdun survives. By forcing the dragon to move, they deny it its full attacks. Etherion realizes the dragon is A: not going to cast any spells on him and B: going to kill everyone if he doesn’t do something. He looses a fireball, careful not to hit Firdun. Again, he makes his concentration check. The dragon is not deterred. Moergin, from inside the moat house, taunts the dragon. This tactic works and the dragon is drawn into the room with Moergin (who quickly runs down a corridor, hoping to lure the dragon deeper into the moathouse.

The dust storm is gone, but many of the characters are still blinded. Etherion casts Web and the dragon is caught within the web inside the foyer. For the next three turns, it slowly extricates itself from the web and flies through the hole in the roof of the foyer. Albin reports from the top of the ruined tower. “It’s flying away. . .no wait, it’s turning and coming back this way. :):):):), I’m getting down!” Albin climbs down rather than be eaten by the Dragon. The group, though they can see now, are effectively blind. They don’t know from which direction the Dragon will come. Gavin hears some noises in the rushes outside the gatehouse. He moves to the edge of the drawbridge and peers into the rushes. He believes he sees a flash of blue and calls back to the group. “I think the dragon’s out here!”

Of course, this is the cue for the Dragon to rear his head up and breath. Gavin is charred, his blackened, unconscious body is slammed back into the gatehouse. “I’m still alive!” Doug says. “I’m not dead!” The dragon enters the gatehouse and starts eating Gavin’s body. “Never mind,” he says.

The group tries to swarm the dragon. It breathes again. Everyone survives, and the Dragon falls to the collected attacks of the group.

Damn, hell of a battle. “We are going back and I’m betting my daddy’s army and we are clearing this place out!” Moergin says. “Do we need to do that?” Artemis asks. “I’m confident in our abilities” Firdun says. “We are GOING back and GETTING my daddy’s ARMY!!” Moergin says. The group presses on. The Black Company doesn’t turn tail and run. They explore the rest of this level. They find the two dead bodies and loot them. A nice, magic mace! Which then dissolves in the battle against the gray ooze the party comes across. The Monte giveth and the Monte taketh away! They also find a mask, a ceremonial mask. Moergin has seen one like it in a museum at the Imperial University. It’s a mask worn by the head of the church of Azrai when making sacrifices. But Azrai has been dead for 500 years.

The party presses on, and Albin descends the stairs to the lower level. There, inching forward quietly, he hears. . .a sound. The GM asks. “Do you speak Abyssal, or Infernal?” “Uh, no,” Ross responds. Ok, Albin hears as chittering sound. As though he were a grasshopper listening to two preying mantises talk.

“Dude, there’s some weird shahit going on down there,” Albin reports to the others. “Ok, let’s rest.”

The group holes up in the ruined tower. They close the door, they do not make a fire. During the night, during his watch, Moergin hears voices. He listens at the door. Three voices. Two human, one not. They’re talking about the dragon, being dead, and whoever killed it, being gone. Probably gone back to town to lick their wounds. “That gives us another day at least to get the artifacts out.”

Moergin bursts through the door. “Ahah!” he says. “Oh, shahit,” the three clerics say. “You idiot!” the party responds. “We don’t have our armor on!” That turns out not to be much of a problem. Armando advances, but his mind is befuddled by one of the clerics. He attacks himself. Moergin puts on the mask he found and says “How dare you profane the name of Azrai!” as he casts Charm Person. The female cleric succums and calls out. “The Doomdreamer!” Her male companion says, “You fool, this is not the Lord of Dream!” But she’s hooked.

The Male cleric dies, but the Troglodyte cleric (did I mention the trog cleric?) lives on for a little while. The evening ends with the death of the Trog and the woman still charmed by Moergin.

Another update next week.
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Groovy. It's cool to see what happens when all these established game industry people get together and game. Oh, and -

mattcolville said:
. . .though the Empire of Thurazor was conquered three years later by the Dark Slavers of the Nange, a race of dark-dwarves. . . .

. . .some twisted assembly of intestine and bone wielding a bone-weapon stands in the doorway. Something near its heart glows a fiery red. . . .

. . . .“You fool, this is not the Lord of Dream!”

Nice to see this stuff in play as well.


Alas, it's just the name. The real Lord of Dream can't be behind the Temple of Elemental Evil. :(

One of the reasons I'm running the module in Birthright is that I don't have time to build my own campaign world and design my own module.

Though I may yet do a Supermodule and publish it. :)

And, with the OGL, someone can take the real Lord of Dream and publish their own module.


First Post
Great story, Matt. Although I honestly didn't expect it, I had a very slim hope your story was about a LOTR playtest game. Therefore, I must take this moment to gratuitiously volunteer to playtest it for you. (Ok, Ok, but you have to give me credit for trying :D )

Anyway you have to love the classic moathouse. :D


It's not so much a story as it a record, or log. I'm not trying to novelize anything here, although I may once I'm doing one a week rather than several weeks at one go.

And I don't think I'm the LotR playtest guy. Though I think I may be the Star Trek Miniature Space Battles Game playtest guy, since I think I'm designing and developing the system. Sorry. :(



In those days, the Black Company were in service to Lord Nestor of Tariene…

The Players...............Their Characters
Hyrum Savage...........Armando de la Rua (ranger/fighter)
George Vasilakos.......Artemis (Psion 4)
Owen Seyler..............Firdun Thunderthol (Cleric 1, Fighter 3)
John Wick..................Moergin Tariene (Rogue 1, Sorcerer 1, Bard 3)
Christian Moore.........Etherion (4th level 1/2 Elven Wizard)
Doug Sun..................Eskal Kailthane (dwarven paladin 4)

[This is, by the way, their seating arrangement around the table.]

We were missing Ross Isaacs and, per the standing house rule, if you’re not there your character disappears, is retconned from the game as though he never existed, but may reappear next week if you’re around again and get retconned back into the game as though you’d always been there.

This marks the first week of an experiment with Group Initiative. The game was bogging down with seven players, and I thought we should go back to the Old Way I used when I was younger. One player rolls, the GM rolls. If the players win, they all go then all the bad guys go, and so on. If the bad guys win…you get the idea.

We picked up where we left off. Three clerics, apparently of Azrai, had emerged from the moathouse, happy to see the dragon that had trapped them down there was dead. The players killed two of them and Moergin charmed the other one. The other one, a 2nd level female human cleric named Gren, now believes Moergin is the Lord of Dream, one of the four leaders of the Curtain of Night.

The group rests, regains spells, and heals up. The next morning, Moergin casts Charm on Gren again, the GM ruling that the countdown clock for the end of the spell’s duration is on hold while Gren sleeps (just to make life easier so the PCs don’t have to wake up every four hours and cast it on her again. As they discuss what to do, they hear the sounds of clashing steel from the lower level of the moathouse.

They go to the stairs and listen, they hear a chittering sound interspersed with dwarven war cries. They descend.

Below they find a dwarven paladin, dirty, unkempt, fighting off two Xill. The group lends aid and dispatches the Xill [who, for the record, aren’t using their implant ability.] The paladin introduces himself, he is Eskal Kailthane, paladin of Moradin. One of the players asks if this means he’s lawful good. Another player answers “Of course he’s lawful good, all paladins are lawful good.” The GM responds “Well, really he’s Pro-Dwarf, but yes, he’s lawful good.” Eskal encountered, then followed the clerics he met on the road back to the moathouse. Discovering them for what they were, he launched into an attack only to be prevented by the arrival of the blue dragon, who trapped them all in the moathouse. Eskal had been holed up down there, behind a barred door, for two days until he heard the dragon die, the clerics leave, and he attempted to kill the Xill and escape. That’s when the party came down and found him.

Eskal recognizes Owen’s character as Firdun Thunderthol, prince of Kundrakhar. “My lord!” he exclaims, “I’ve been searching throughout Anuire, looking for your brother, Glowron! Moradin came to me in a vision and told me I would aid Glowron in the retaking of Kundrakhar. What news of your brother, the Thane?’

Firdun explains that, last he heard, his brother had taken a contingent of dwarves and gone to attempt Kundrakhar a few weeks ago. Eskal is excited about this and hopes they can join him quickly. Firdun, being perhaps more circumspect than his brother, seeks greater strength and power before they attempt to retake their homeland.

So now there’s a dwarven paladin in the group. John remembers that Gren had said something last week about the clerics gathering artifacts from the moathouse. “Let’s go see the artifacts” Moergin says. Gren leads on.

The artifacts are being guarded by two Xill. Gren tries to tell them that this guy here in the Lord of Dream, their ultimate master. The Xill, not being charmed and not being stupid, see what’s happened and attack Gren. The PCs dispatch the Xill and check out the artifacts. One is a small black orb. Another a black torch with three black cinder cones for fuel. Another is a black scepter, another is a black scrollcase. Moergin comprehends languages and tells the group the scroll bears instructions on how to access an extraplanar space called the Black Cyst. “Urg” comes the response.

Gren is concerned that the Xill are no longer following her orders. Moergin gives an explanation that the GM can no longer remember, but she buys it. She offers to lead the group through the moathouse to the area they had just discovered in the warrens dug by the ghasts. Her delightful description of a maze of tunnels dug by ghasts that were trapped down here freaks a couple of people out, and we’re reminded that Monte was working on d20 Cthulu at one point. She also offers to take Moergin to the entrance to the lower level that they couldn’t access. The group agrees to check out the ghast warrens.

So the PCs are carefully led past the bad guys down here to some kind of evil shrine at the end of the ghast warrens. Inside they discover an altar of white stone and a column of rock with four figures carved into it. The Curtain of Night. The four images are the Lord of Thorns, the Lord of Dream, the Lord of Fall, and the Lord of Sky. Happily, the Lord of Dream is wearing a mask, so Gren can’t tell Moergin isn’t him.

The PCs have Gren touch the altar. She makes her save and is enraptured as the altar becomes translucent and a thick, pulsing, purple mass can be seen deep within. She goes to the column and starts poking and proding at it. She finds a secret compartment, containing a set of chimes. The group checks out the rest of the column. Artemis puts his hands on the altar, and makes his save. “Hmmm,” he says. The group meanwhile finds the other secret compartments in the column. A skin covered drum, the chimes, a brazier, and another small black orb.

They have Gren touch the altar again. They’re bound and determined to get this altar to do something and, by god, it does. Gren fails her save and is paralyzed. “Great,” the group responds. “Without her we have to fight our way out of here!” Armando points out that something will probably happen if they beat the drum, rings the chimes, and light the brazier. Gren already rang the chimes. Armando says, “I beat on the drum.” The GM makes small drum being tapped on with fingers noises.

“What are you DOING!?” Moergin responds. “Hey, we’re here to see what’s going on. This is something that’s going on.” “I don’t want to be anywhere near this,” Owen says. “Ah, yeah, I’m backing out of the room” Christian responds. “Why shouldn’t we light the brazier?” Armando says. “Yeah!” Artemis responds. “Because it’s EVIL,” John replies. “This is a temple to a DARK GOD, nothing good is going to happen.”

The group agrees to have one of Artemis’ astral constructs do the deed. Half of the group wants to be far away, the other half want to watch from outside. So that half of the group can see the eye that swivels into view within the altar and fixes them with it’s gaze. Moergin makes his save. Armando and Artemis don’t. One loses permanent STR, the other loses temporary CON. They take care of this with a scroll and one of Artemis’ body adjustment spider tattoos.

Etherion analyzes what’s gone on and declares that he doesn’t believe they’ve yet seen what this thing does yet. They’ve attracted its attention, but not yet seen its function.

The groups waits for Gren to be deparalyzed and goes to the room leading to the lower level.

When Gren was last here, the clerics hadn’t found a way to drain the water that filled a small pool in the middle of this room. But while she was guarding the artifacts, one of the clerics must have found a way. Now, instead of a small pool of water in the middle of the room, there’s a hole that extends into darkness. Water can be heard pouring onto rock. A large stone circle leans against one wall, the stone that was used to plug the hole and served as the bottom of the pool. There’s also a circular wooden platform lying against the wall, with rope attaching it to a pulley in the ceiling directly above the hole.

The group experiments with dropping torches into the hole, but they learn nothing. They get on the platform and start lowering themselves into the hole. They find the source of the water—a pipe pumping water into the hole—another pipe they determine to be the runoff pipe, and a slight indentation running round the hole where the stone would have rested, sealing the entire thing. They continue descending.

The hole opens out into a huge cavern. They cannot see the walls. Below, the floor looks black. They land on the floor. The water from the pipe above is pouring down onto the black stone which, upon closer inspection, has purple veins running through it like black through marble.

They spot another platform about 30 feet away. Looking at it, they realize the floor drops away right about there. They’re standing on. . .an island? Armando ties a rope to Firdun, and Firdun steps off the platform. As soon as his booted heel touches the rock, the purple veins begin to move and swirl towards him. He fails his save and loses some strength. The group pull him back.

Etherion casts Spider Climb, climbs up the rope back into the room and down the wall of the hole onto the ceiling of the massive cavern, finds the pulley in the ceiling and climbs down that rope to the other platform. Using rope, the rest of the group follows suit.

The group now prepares for their descent into the depths of the earth….

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