The Westgate Campaign Chronicles - serial

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Impatient, Darrow tried one of the doors and was zapped hard by some force, although the stoneskin absorbed most of it. Turning to using their brains (for once --R), Dermot and Shanni worked to recall the colors on the misty door in the entrance corridor – yellow, orange, and blue – which they noted matched orbs held by certain of the statues. Having finished his study of the walls, Aerikoth interjected that the colors that predominated in the deliberate, repeating pattern there were black and red.

Shanni again observed that the doors by the statues with yellow, orange and blue sphere led to other places – unlike some they had found that were false – but did not offer a way out. Aerikoth meanwhile had approached the statue with the black sphere and touched it, causing it to disappear, as it had merely been an illusion. The wizard repeated the trick with the red statue.

Dermot at this point got an idea and retraced his steps through the secret doors and corridors back to the room with the chest that gave off a flash of light when opened. The ranger, followed by the others, slipped on the gold ring he had found in the room and opened the chest. The flash of light appeared again, but nothing else happened. Dermot repeated the action after placing the ring in the chest, with the same result. Aerikoth studied the chest and declared that it had an aura of illusionary magic, but he not could tell its purpose.

The four adventurers made their way again through the stone corridors, but this time they heard something up ahead. Dermot whispered to the others that someone was there and Shanni hugged the walls in response, as a group of vampires came into view ahead of them, moving quickly. Darrow let out a war cry and leaped forward into their midst, trusting in his armor and the axe Haelgrim. The dwarf nearly disappeared under the assault of several vampire warriors, however, while a pair also broke away to go after Dermot and Shanni.

In the rear of the vampire ranks a coldly beautiful female mage cast multiple spells into the swirling combat, at first sucking life from the party. As blood continued to spill from Darrow and the others, however, a frenzy came upon her and a storm of fire shot forth from her hands, engulfing everyone in the corridor ahead of her. Darrow expired and his companions were hurt badly, but so were the vampire mage’s allies, who were quickly finished off by Dermot, Shanni and Aerikoth. Seeing that she was now alone, the vampire mage hissed her frustration and disappeared into the darkness.
 

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Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Shanni cursed as she scrambled for something in her pack, then the petite rogue brought forth a magical scroll. She intoned the words rapidly, ending with a simple “please work.” Darrow then stirred, coughing and wheezing, to Dermot and Aerikoth’s approval and relief. Seeing the ranger slumping against the corridor wall, Shanni passed him a ring, indicating that Darrow already had one after Dermot objected that the dwarf needed it more. Aerikoth also offered his, as apparently everyone except the ranger possessed a ring offering magical healing.

Darrow soon felt better and dug in his pack for an ale, thankful for the assistance of his companions. Shanni with a grin mentioned that she kept a piece of paper handy for those who stood between her and trouble. Once various healing and other potions had been consumed, the four adventurers took stock of their situation. Aerikoth observed that the vampire spellcaster had escaped, and seemed strangely indifferent to the damage that she had done to her comrades.

They soon found their way through another secret door and into a passage that led to a dark chapel, in which a blue-glowing altar was placed in front of two columns of benches. Two bronze gongs flanked statues against the wall, along with a throne inlaid in gold. An orange-glowing door could also be seen to the side of the room. Darrow commented on profusion of gongs as Dermot warned them not to sit down on the chapel benches, a piece of advice which seemed unnecessary to Shanni.

A ghost then appeared in front of them, declaring that they were free to pay their respects in any manner they chose. To Dermot’s question as to what there was to worship, the ghost simply said a greater power than themselves. Shanni and Dermot declined the ghost’s offer to be seated. In response to Dermot and Aerikoth’s questions, the ghost informed them that it was the officiant of the chapel, which was dedicated to the lord of that place, along with whichever god ruled the domain of the dead. The ghost complained that Myrkul had not been answering his prayers, which prompted Darrow to explain that it was now Kelemvor that he was looking for. The ghost sighed and departed, after Shanni explained that they were all just passing through. (Another intriguing indication of the age and remoteness of the crypt complex. Myrkul was slain during the Time of Troubles, a fact seemingly unknown to the ghostly chapel officiant. --C)

The four began exploring the room. Darrow searched through the urns that dotted the area, finding small items including gems, scrolls and arrows. Dermot discovered a secret door, offering them an alternative way out of the chamber. Shanni scooped up the gems and arrows while Aerikoth took a scroll. The wizard explained that a pouch of dust they found would remove invisibility from someone, which Dermot thought would be handy.

They then turned their attention to the secret door, which they discovered was locked. Neither Shanni’s tools nor Darrow’s axe were successful in allowing themselves to enter. Aerikoth wondered if there might not be a release for the door on the throne. Shanni examined the secret door lock and observed that it there was a depression in the shape of a ring. Dermot then cursed as he realized that he had left the ring they found back in the room with the illusionary chest.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
While Aerikoth and Shanni remained to study the chapel further, Darrow and Dermot ran back to the room, where Dermot expressed his relief upon discovering the ring was still there. The ranger and the dwarf made their way back to the chapel, but in the gloom did not see their two companions, who were inspecting the far reaches of the room. Bored, Darrow rang one of the gongs, which brought the ghostly chapel officiant back briefly, before it decided the two adventurers made poor company. Darrow then drew the attention of all his comrades by screaming loudly and slumping to the floor dead, after touching the glowing altar. (The dwarf shows a consistent and rather remarkable lack of wisdom, despite his other qualities. Also a tendency to visit the realm of Kelemvor rather more frequently. --R)

Dermot instantly grabbed a scroll from his pack and read out its contents, restoring life but little health to his dwarven companion. Shanni ran over and Aerikoth also quickly made his way to the side of the moaning dwarf. Darrow disdained some brandy, but weakly accepted some beer and then downed a healing potion, visibly becoming less pale and declaring he could fix himself up from there.

Following a brief study of the altar, Aerikoth hypothesized that it was attuned to evil and would strike down those of opposed alignments. However, the wizard also observed that it might simply strike down anything living that touched it, considering that they were in an ancient hold of undead. He therefore urged none of them to touch it again.

There was no argument to that, so the group turned to discussing how best to exit the chapel. Dermot held up the gold ring he had retrieved, which they could try in the secret door. Darrow explained that he had passed through the orange-glowing door of light, which just led to an alcove with some grates in the ceiling and floor. The dwarf mentioned that he and Dermot had chatted with some unseen vampire lady near there, after returning with the ring. She had been quite keen on them leaving, Darrow said, before she apparently departed the area herself.

While the dwarf seemed phlegmatic about this occurrence, Dermot was more concerned and suggested that they get moving. The ranger went over to the secret door and placed the ring inside its depression, which allowed him to slide the door aside and revealed another corridor. The four adventurers then exited the chapel quickly.
 
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Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
The new corridor featured a spider pattern inlaid into the stone, which Darrow remarked on. As Shanni carefully led the way, Dermot relayed more about the conversation in the chapel with the vampire. She had said she did not who the Night King was, also denying that he was the master of this place. (An intriguing development. The party had more or less assumed that this ancient vampire complex was associated with the Westgate vampires and their leader. Yet that was never certain and now appears to not be the case. --C). Conversation abruptly stopped as Shanni, probing ahead, triggered a pit trap and barely avoided falling into it. This one was just a small pit, but despite Shanni slowing her progress to a crawl, she triggered another trap and shrieking, fell into a larger one, to the cries of her companions.

Dermot waved his light from above and was rewarded with sounds of Shanni cursing below. The ranger then secured his last remaining rope to a torch bracket and dropped it down the hole. Shanni stopped cursing and in a more excited tone mentioned she had found a dead guy and a chest. After a short wait, her companions heard the sound of creaking and the petite rogue yelled up that she had found a helmet of some kind. This was followed by the sound of a lid dropping and a small shriek as she discovered more bones and a door in the pit.

Shanni finished looting the bodies and climbed out of the pit. She then set out on the floor a plethora of her finds for the others to see. Aerikoth examined the helmet and a set of magic arrows, both of which the wizard declared would be quite effective against the undead. The helm was known as a greater circlet of blasting and could project sunlight three times a day. Dermot speculated that the items had belonged to an undead hunter from long ago. Shanni then pointed out the ring she had found, which Aerikoth carefully looked over, but could not determine what it did. The mage said it had to be significantly powerful, though, to require further study from him. The others agreed that he could hold onto it.

After dividing up the remaining items, including some healing potions and gold, they somewhat reluctantly decided to continue moving along the corridor rather than chance the pit door. Despite Shanni’s pessimistic expectations, nothing further untoward happened to them as they inched their way along, avoiding two more pit traps and eventually coming to a spot where an orange glow could be seen through a crack in the wall. The petite rogue determined that they must be behind the glowy spot in the chapel. The party discussed the significance of the crack, including the likelihood of the female vampire having been able to assume gaseous form and use it.

Shanni had just warned them to be careful when a glowing suit of armor emerged from the darkness ahead and attacked them. Darrow eagerly let out a battle cry and began laying into it as Shanni retreated behind the dwarf. Dermot then drew his twin swords and assisted in cutting their metal opponent to pieces. Aerikoth observed that the construct had been animated by magic.

Moving ahead, they found a room at the end of the corridor, with no obvious exit. Shanni urged them to look closer and she and Dermot began poking the walls and tapping the floor. The party noticed a thumb’s-width slit in the stone at the end of the corridor, which Dermot thought was similar to the one in the chapel, but did not find any secret doors. Shanni took the lead in backtracking to the other pit traps in the corridor, which she determined were spiked and ten feet in depth, but not likely to lead anywhere. With no other obvious recourse, the four adventurers then descended into the large pit where Shanni had found a secret door.
 
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Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
After some commentary on the fate of the previous pit occupants, they tried the door and found it to be locked, to Shanni’s chagrin, without a way to pick it. Aerikoth volunteered to attempt his chime of opening before Darrow’s “dwarven locksmith” technique was applied. The wizard pulled forth some small chimes from his magical bag and struck them, the sound filling the small space followed by a click from the door mechanism. Relieved that it had worked, Shanni gingerly turned the handle and was immediately impaled through several parts of her body. The petite rogue fell to the ground, limp, but still barely breathing. (It may seem harsh, but employing the "dwarven locksmith" strategy in such scenarios may in fact prove to be the best approach, if one is not sure there is a trap involved. A fully armored dwarven fighter no doubt can take punishment better than a petite rogue. --R)

Darrow rushed forward with a healing kit and applied it to her wounds as she continued to bleed, also slipping his magic healing ring on her finger at Aerikoth’s encouragement, as Dermot fumbled for a potion bottle that might help. As Shanni’s bleeding slowed, Darrow began carefully easing her off the spikes as she whimpered while unconscious. Dermot tilted her head up and carefully poured in the contents of his bottle, murmuring that pain was just a moment in time.

The magical healing and her companions’ care put Shanni upright, if shakily, in relatively short time. She tossed up her red ioun stone, which began orbiting her head, and tried the door again, this time opening it easily if gingerly. A corridor was revealed and Dermot soon found another secret door inside. The ranger poked it and then opened it to reveal another, darker corridor. They decided to pass it up for the moment and return after they investigated the area, as Aerikoth advised.

Dermot and Shanni continued poking the length of the corridor walls, finding nothing of interest except for an old book that crumbled to dust in Shanni’s hands. They did note some differences in the stonework in the main corridor, once past the secret door, but could not determine anything of significance about it. They therefore went back to the secret door and entered the new corridor, finding it was covered with spiderwebs. After moving down it a ways, Darrow spotted another door, one which Shanni said had spikes protecting it, as well as something buzzing beyond it.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Shanni was unfortunately unable to disarm the trap and the adventurers, seeing what had happened the last time, were reluctant to attempt the door. Darrow wondered if they could shoot the trap from a distance, while the petite rogue bit her lip and stared at the door. After rummaging through his pack, Dermot came up with nothing helpful, so the ranger decided to ask Aerikoth if he could maybe just blow the door of its hinges.

The wizard indicated that might be possible and started studying the stone door. This prompted Darrow to say that he would be just around the bend and Shanni to join him. Aerikoth eventually settled on targeting the door with a flight of magic acid arrows, which succeeding in dissolving their target.

Shanni was the first to peer inside the room that was revealed, which she declared contained loads of stuff. Darrow thought it looked creepy. Moving inside, the group saw what appeared to be a wizard laboratory, complete with vats, a gong (as Darrow pointed out) and something in a corner that Aerikoth identified as a flesh golem. Shanni looked appalled at this and Dermot was similarly unsettled by the golem and all of the apparatus in the room. Aerikoth for his part was impressed by the significant arcane skill that the construct had taken to create, as he explained to the others that it was not actually an undead creature. (The depravity of a mind that would create such a construct, however, suggests that it would be comparable in its evil intent. --C)

The four carefully examined the room. Dermot and Shanni poked at the walls as they passed, finding them quite solid. Dermot turned his attention to the large amount of books and vials, while Shanni found a lot of weird bits of animals, as she put it. Dermot located a locked desk drawer, which Shanni successfully picked. Inside was a book about making some kind of slave from the dead, she noted with distaste. Dermot meanwhile found himself in front of a large mirror, which instead of his own reflection, showed a scene with a man falling off a narrow stone bridge, to the ranger’s consternation.

Shanni and Darrow in turn looked at the mirror, experiencing various different visions, all disturbing in some respect. Shanni saw one featuring a young woman and told the others that a voice had whispered in her head that it was “Achmaal’s daughter.” Seemingly through a stroke of blind luck, Darrow must have been paying attention one day in class, and remembered the name being that of an ancient human lord of the Dragon Coast.

As the others were struggling to recall anything more, Shanni poked around in one of the vat pools and an ocher jelly leapt from it, attempting to engulf the petite rogue. Darrow chopped it to pieces as she screamed, however more from disgust than pain, it seemed. Dermot declared ironically that the room had lost its charms and suggested that they do one more sweep of it before leaving. The ranger, perhaps looking more carefully this time, indeed found a secret passage.

Once inside the dark corridor leading away from the laboratory, Shanni found some skeletons on the floor – evidently victims of traps – and used one of their bones to wedge open the door behind them, just in case. She then encountered more traps, which indicated to her that no one else had gotten that far.

The petite rogue had just regained some of her previous swagger when the sound of spikes snapping closed caused her to reflexively jump out of the way. She declared that at least they should be safe now, having reached the end of the corridor. However Darrow soon proved her wrong, as the dwarf advanced and suffered an impalement from a spike trap. Grumbling, he sat down in the hall and let his healing ring do its work.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
It became evident to Shanni that the spike trap in the corridor had reset itself, so she advised her companions to jump over it, past where Darrow had impaled himself. Dermot quickly followed her advice, but misjudged the distance and received a spike through his leg, wincing and collapsing against the wall afterwards. Darrow took a bandage kit out and began working on the ranger’s wounds, as Shanni passed her healing ring over.

Having benefited so far from his patience, Aerikoth inquired whether Shanni could flag the exact trap location, but the rogue said she could not see the mechanism. Impassive, the wizard then asked if she could tell if there was another, further down the hallway. Shanni in response moved forward, springing and avoiding another trap. Aerikoth then indicated he would remain where he was until the others had reached the end of the hall.

Darrow, scrutinizing the corridor’s stonework, asked Shanni if maybe they could avoid the resetting trap by sticking close to the wall. She thought they could, then was proved wrong the hard way by both Dermot and Darrow, whose blood now coated the stone floor. Dermot said he was getting the eerie idea that they weren’t supposed to survive the hall. Just as Shanni was getting ready to jump ahead, the ranger called out to stop her from going forward, suggesting they go back to what they thought was a bricked-up door before the laboratory.

Aerikoth in response said that the heavily trapped corridor and the laboratory led him to think that was where they would need to travel eventually, if they wanted to explore the place thoroughly. However, the wizard stated that he was indifferent to doing it then or at a later time. Shanni, showing some impatience, decided she would prefer to just go look, backing up and doing a run and jump over the blank stone floor. She dropped, to the floor, steady on her feet, having avoided the trap, then found and edged around another one before reaching the end of the hall. Darrow remarked that he hoped they didn’t have to run from anything.

She called out to the others that the corridor looked like it had collapsed, but then shortly thereafter found a secret door. Dermot and Darrow then carefully avoided the traps, doing what Shanni had done, while the ranger held a torch up for Aerikoth to see. The wizard saw the torch and then Dermot’s form underneath start moving back towards him, then spoke a word of power and appeared next to Darrow, to the dwarf’s delight. Shanni, slightly sourly, said it was a neat trick, but cheating.

The petite rogue, after some sighing at the door and expressing some pessimism about her prospects, shooed Darrow and Aerikoth back, so she and Dermot could open it and scout ahead. Shanni called out that it was okay and the other two passed through the door into a large room, which had a throne in the center but otherwise was a total mess, with all the furniture looking like it had been tossed about.

Dermot was about to say something but then yelled as the room’s floor and walls shook violently, hurling him and the rest of the party from their feet. Staggering back up with the others, Darrow wondered what had triggered it, but no one knew. Aerikoth meanwhile had been standing in the doorway, watching the others, so was unharmed.

As Dermot pointed out the throne looked like one that had been displayed in the laboratory’s magic mirror, Shanni eyed the coffers that were strewn about the room, fingers twitching open and closed. Eventually she gave in to her instincts and leaned over to reach the nearest one, opening it and scooping some coins out of it. She then started eyeing the coffer in the opposite corner, which prompted Dermot to distract her by pointing out an exit door. Even Darrow expressed concern going after the coffer wouldn’t be the best idea.

Shanni managed to regain control over her greedy instincts and somewhat reluctantly agreed to move forward, but discovered quickly that the apparent exit was a false door, pushing on it then sighing. Scowling and bruised, Dermot quickly ran his hands around the walls, then continued scowling at them, stymied. Shanni meanwhile gave into temptation and picked something else out of the coffer.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Dermot cursed as he and Darrow failed to see a way out of the room. Darrow wondered aloud if the whole purpose of the room was that of a trap, asking Aerikoth if he bought that. The wizard again observed that they were likely missing something, since it would be odd to have such an extensive lab with a secret exit, only to end there – in a fake trap room, as the dwarf put it, frowning.

Despite this, the others eventually agreed to backtrack, which Aerikoth did, reluctantly, this time joining them in jumping over the resetting trap. Ironically the slight wizard cleared it effortlessly, to Shanni’s encouragement, while Dermot lacked the dexterity to do anything but barely avoid it. They then re-entered the laboratory. Darrow poked around in a vat of brown liquid with his weapon, but nothing happened.

Dermot and Shanni then led them back to the dead-end corridor that held the secret door entrance to the lab, wanting to test the apparently walled-up area. Darrow agreed that the stonework there looked newer – perhaps only a decade old – and had a different color and feel to it, the latter being established after the dwarf hit it with his fist. He then took a hammer to the wall, which did not do much beyond knock off a small chip of plaster.

Frustrated, they spent a good deal of time examining the wall and also re-examining the path that had led them to there, both literally and figuratively. Lacking any better ideas, they went back inside the laboratory and continued poking and prodding the various pieces of apparatus, including the vision mirror and a strange mechanism. After a time, they heard a hiss come from the wall and a female, throaty, dark voice asked what their purpose was there.

Dermot let out a minor oath as Aerikoth tilted his head in response, face expressionless as usual, and declared they were there for exploration and discovery, asking who inquired. The voice continued, stating that they rang the gongs and explored the crypt – why? Her Lord had sent her to understand their purpose, she declared. Dermot piped up, after Shanni in a low voice queried if they were going to ask the obvious, saying that they were there to learn and asked who was her Lord, a question echoed in a more detailed way by Aerikoth.

The female voice told them that the Lord of that place would reveal himself…at the end, if they wished to speak with him. Darrow boldly asked if she might help with directions and was told to go forward past the traps. If they survived and entered the throne room, her Lord would hold audience with them. If they did not, they would not be worthy. Pushing further, Darrow asked about going past the big tilty room, as the dwarf put it, and the voice confirmed that there was more, before it hissed again, retreating away. (Our Order - rightly so - treats all undead as abominations and enemies, but this sometimes obscures our understanding of the actions of the more intelligent kind, dare I say it. The curiosity of the female vampire mage is another indication that the adventurers' current opponent is not their ultimate enemy. --R)

Aerikoth indicated that be believed that she had meant the traps in the corridor and Dermot cursed some more in reaction, wondering out loud if this was just to get them killed, again. Somewhat fatalistically, they made their way back to the long, trapped corridor past the laboratory and carefully went down it again, Shanni pointing out the area where she thought the resetting trap was. She and Dermot then leaped over it, the ranger once again having trouble with his landing, but luckily was steadied by his petite companion. The wizard, meanwhile, had pointed out that his spells were depleted and that he could not get them all out, if it came to a confrontation with the lord of that place.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
After another series of jumps, which this time saw Shanni fall flat on her face, ankle giving under the landing, she and Dermot finally managed to leapfrog to the end of the trapped corridor (again). Darrow missed the first trap, due to a misunderstanding about where Shanni said the next trap was, and let loose a reference to Moradin’s balls as a spike went through his foot. Aerikoth, evidently not looking forward to risking himself again, inquired whether a sort of bridge using broken furniture from the room could be put over the traps.

Darrow continued complaining in a loud voice as Shanni dropped an arrow on the floor as a marker for the last trap. Reluctant to try their luck again in the corridor, Aerikoth and Darrow went back to the laboratory, where the dwarf started moving furniture, spilling alchemical contents all over the floor as he dragged a table off toward the corridor entrance. Shoving it down the stairs, he then pushed it in front of him, triggering the trap, which damaged the table but jammed the spike mechanism as well.

Shanni and Dermot edged round a trap in between and rejoined Aerikoth and Darrow, the ranger informing them that they had missed something in the room, something in the wall opposite the throne. Somewhat shamefaced, he said he thought he had looked around, but maybe had been wrong. The four made their way for a final time back down the trapped corridor to the room beyond, where Dermot located a grey brick in the wall opposite the throne and pressed it. Despite his success at revealing an exit, the ranger continued cursing at having missed it before.

Shanni scouted ahead through the door and indicated the way was clear to the others. They then made their way down a corridor to a four-way crossroads. Standing there, they considered what to do, somewhat shaken from their painful experience in the trapped corridor. They were also mistrustful of what they saw, as Dermot could make out only one door – which Shanni pointed out meant nothing, around there – and the petite rogue could not see any traps. Cursing, she observed that also meant nothing. Grumbling and still sore from the spike through his foot, the dwarf sarcastically told her he’d be sure to tell her when she was about to step on a trap.

Shanni told the dwarf to pipe down, as his groans were worse than the spooky sounds they heard emanating from the walls. After examining the door, the petite rogue was able to use her tools on the door lock successfully, but was not quite able to disarm the trap she had detected on it. She rummaged through her pack, hoping to find a potion that would beef up her focus, but failed to find anything of use. She asked Aerikoth if he had anything appropriate and the wizard offered her his ring that assisted with clear thought. It did appear to help his companion, who narrowed her eyes and stuck her tongue out, concentrating for a moment, followed by a click. She then handed the ring back, making a note to get herself one of them.

Just then Dermot announced, by this point to no one’s surprise, than he had found a hidden door. Shanni pointed out that the door in front of her had just been de-trapped, but also raised the point that the less obvious way might be best, which Darrow and Aerikoth agreed with, but without certainty as to their chosen way forward. (One can sense the fatigue and strain which now accompanies the adventurers, who nonetheless must be praised for their persistence and courage. I must say that I probably would not have chosen to traverse the deadly trapped corridor quite so many times, were I in their place. --C)
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
Eventually they decided to leave Darrow in the crossroads, as the dwarf still needed to fully heal and also wanted to keep an eye on the now-unlocked door there. Aerikoth, Dermot and Shanni then entered the secret door Dermot had found. In the chamber beyond, they found the way forward split by a wall, with red arrows in the floor leading to an old iron door on the right side, while a long corridor receded into the dark in front of them on the left. Suspicious of the arrows’ meaning, Shanni checked the door, but found it warded by a magical lock.

The petite rogue gave the long corridor a baleful look, no doubt recalling the last one they had traversed repeatedly, and agreed to let Aerikoth try his magical chime of opening on the door. Shanni exclaimed with pleasure as she heard the door mechanism unlock with a ting. Once past the door, however, her face fell as she saw several bodies laying on the floor of a short corridor, which turned left out of sight. She observed that all of them had been smashed.

Shanni moved carefully right up to the edge of the first skeleton and paused, looking all around. After some bickering about their predicament, Shanni pointed out to the others that it looked like an older skeleton had been smashed trying to run towards the iron door they had entered from, while a fresher corpse had evidently been moving the other way.

She speculated that whatever it was had smashed them might be at the end of that corridor, so wanted to wedge the door behind them open to avoid being trapped. Dermot tried to wedge his skinning knife into the iron door’s hinge, but then judged the door was too heavy for that to work. Shanni however was able to convert one of her spike traps into an effective doorjamb.

They continued down the corridor and around the bend, noticing a number of skeletons with broken bones as they passed. Shanni, cursing and edging along nervously, warned the others to be ready to run. They soon reached a large stone slab of a door blocking the way. Shanni paused by the wall for a short while and then pushed at some parts of it, opening the door. As soon as she stepped forward, the petite rogue fell flat on her face and stopped moving, to Dermot’s consternation.

A few moments later, Shanni groaned a little and rolled over, then stood up slowly. As she got to her feet, they could all hear a single thud in the distance, as of rock against rock. It was unclear exactly where the sound was originating from. Dermot immediately urged the others to get moving, observing that something had changed. Another thud sounded as they considered which way to go.
 

Carlo-One

Explorer
Supporter
As they continued to debate, the thudding sound continued. Shanni, impatient, decided to press ahead, while Dermot thought they should get out of there. However, he and Aerikoth still ended up following in Shanni’s wake. After the bodies in the corridor ended, the three turned left into a rectangular chamber, which had dimly glowing walls, but no evident exit. The sound was still distant, but now they could tell it was coming from back in the main corridor they had originally entered, even though the rock walls of their chamber vibrated slightly with each thud.

They agreed to swiftly retreat back the way they came, emerging into the long corridor. Shanni peered down it, but could see nothing in the distant gloom, as the corridor receded out of sight. Dermot, slightly panicked, at Shanni’s urging pulled out the spikes holding the door to the side corridor open. Shanni, listening as the thudding sound grew louder, finally determined that it was in fact coming from the long corridor ahead – and closer. She then carefully moved ahead to scout.

After taking up a position down the hallway, she waited to see what it was and finally a large, humanoid form appeared out of the gloom, filling the corridor ahead of her. Shanni ran back to the others, yelling that it was a metal man and that it must have smashed the others they had found. She then asked if they should run, but both Aerikoth and Dermot instead started peppering her with questions.

The ranger, scowling under his helmet, evidently wanted to go back down the side corridor with the sleep slab; however, Shanni pointed out that if there was in fact no exit, they would be trapped. Aerikoth wondered out loud if there was a reason they could not step back through the secret door and wait for the creature to pass. The wizard pointed out that the bodies in the other hall had probably thought to run ahead of whatever was coming and found themselves trapped. Dermot was reluctant to pass up further exploration, but Aerikoth thought they could always return. (I must admit that the wizard has always been cool under pressure, even in the face of great danger, often reminding his companions of the logical options facing them. --R)

Shanni eventually voted with her feet, as the thudding from the creature’s steps grew louder, dashing back through the secret door to the crossroads area. Dermot joined her, followed quickly by Aerikoth. The petite rogue nocked an arrow with a particularly corrosive-looking tip and cocked her head, asking the others if they heard it coming. They confirmed that there was silence, as Shanni continued backing away.
 
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Carlo-One

Explorer
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Leaving aside the deadly mystery of the crushed bodies, at least for the time being, the three adventurers rejoined Darrow in the crossroads and. Aerikoth, evidently having been fatigued by all of their efforts, decided he would now rest while Darrow, Dermot and Shanni continued to check the remaining exits. Shanni examined one closely, thinking it was a little off, then revealed it as a fake door. The last one was a normal door, which Dermot mistrusted, but they entered nonetheless.

The three found themselves descending into a natural-seeming stone corridor, which was unusually foggy and damp. After turning a corner, they emerged into an underground grotto. Using her ears, Shanni heard a sound ahead of them that she said sounded like the watery thing Aerikoth had summoned. Advancing carefully forward, they finally made out two water elementals and a green hag ahead. The hag, surprisingly cheery, greeted them as guests and motioned to Darrow, who was in the lead, to come closer.

Dermot and the others were naturally suspicious of the hag and questioned her closely. She admitted having a sister who had made a bargain with the Lord of this place, to supply him with “gifts” as she put it. However, the green hag said she preferred the water and to come and go as she pleased. Following some further discussion, the adventurers decided to go, after receiving advice from the hag to beware the final guardian of stone, if they would travel the route to the throne room.

Darrow, Dermot and Shanni returned to the crossroads and Darrow suggested they at least peek into the corridor with the stone man, since that seemed to be the way they had to go. They saw nothing near the secret entry door, so headed back towards the corridor with the crushed bodies. However, once they had passed through the first door, it sprung shut behind them at the same time the slab door ahead rose from its floor recess, blocking them in.

Shanni and Dermot cursed, as the sound of thudding started again and the ranger observed they had forgotten to spike the first door open. Shanni went to open the slab door ahead of them and dropped to the floor like a stone, as she had done before. After a moment, she roused herself, groaning and shaking her head, getting up slowly. They then moved ahead past the slab door, Shanni setting some traps down the corridor as they passed.

The three waited in the room at the end, which was noisy for some unseen reason, but they could still feel if not hear the stone thuds, as the creature slowly advanced. They considered various plans to trick or avoid it and decided to confront it in the corridor, after they heard it open the slab door. Darrow, Dermot and Shanni first waited for it to set off the traps the rogue had placed, then attacked.

Darrow planted himself directly in front of the huge stone form, using his short height to his advantage as he repeatedly swept the creature's legs out from under it, sending it crashing to the floor. His two companions did the best work they could against the stone form, but it was like hitting a wall, Dermot shouted. Eventually he and Shanni used their elemental magical weapons and supply of alchemist’s fire to good effect, stabbing and hacking at the creature’s joints until it finally crumbled. Nobody had been hurt badly, although Darrow ruefully observed that his axe Haelgrim couldn’t bite into the thing at all.

The three moved back into the main corridor where the creature had come from and found a large metal door at the end. Shanni suspiciously checked the door and noticed a curious design, that of a wicked-appearing helmet, at its center. Swallowing hard, she opened the door and they peered into what appeared to be a darkened throne room. Darrow declared that was the point where they should wait for Aerikoth.
 
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The three retreated back to the crossroads, where they located the wizard. Shanni excitedly announced they had defeated the stone man, while the others explained that they had found the throne room of the lord of the place. The four went through the secret door and Aerikoth was shown where they defeated the guardian creature.

They paused briefly at the large metal door at the end of the hall, then stepped through into a large, darkened chamber. Shortly afterwards, a hissing, female voice echoed across it, telling them to approach the throne when they were ready. This prompted a short discussion among the four adventurers regarding whether they were, in fact, ready. Having decided that they were, although perhaps some were worried as well, they made their way across the room and approached a dais. Shanni chose to lurk in the shadows behind, as the others stepped forward.

In front of them, a helmeted male figure sat on a throne, with a female vampire mage to his side, both of them flanked by large, completely armored undead warriors. Dermot slightly awkwardly greeted the enthroned figure, who was then asked by his companion if she could converse with them. Assent was given via an imperious gesture.

The vampire mage began by asking for what they had come to that realm. Dermot, gaining confidence, folded his arms and declared that they were from Westgate, where they had heard word of the Night King’s rising from beneath its streets. He asked if they knew that name. In response, the female vampire hissed and turned to her companion, saying that they spoke of the outcast.

For the first time the vampire lord spoke, in a dry voice sounding both youthful and infinitely world-weary, asking about the Night King, as his consort warned that the adventurers might be his servants, sent to destroy them. Darrow wondered out loud that it was not the vampire lord stealing folk off of city streets, as Dermot and Darrow denied being anyone’s servants. In response to the dwarf, the vampire lord stated dryly that his people subsisted off the detritus of the wilderness in this day, having no wish to be nearer to the city. He then observed that they seemed to have problems with the Night King.

The vampire lord explained that the original Night King, Orlak, had departed the necropolis two millennia ago, determined to increase his power in the Dragon Coast by conquering and enslaving the other races. The lord at the time had counseled against this and had been imprisoned for his impertinence. As he had feared, Orlak was defeated eventually and the vampiric secrets of their people revealed. It had taken centuries to recover from that and reduced their standing, the vampire lord continued, voice rising and falling melodiously, but dry as the desert air.

Darrow observed that someone had taken up the Night King’s mantle, perhaps one of his progeny. As her companion spoke, Shanni continued to lurk while fiddling with her quiver, selecting something specific. As the dwarf ceased speaking, he was answered by the lord, who revealed that a vampire nest indeed had survived, deep below the city of Westgate. It had lived within their traditions and none knew of it. Until now, that is, as the new self-styled Night King, who was a turned human wizard, had upset the balance again. (Astounding! If true - one should never simply believe the evil undead - this explains a great deal, both about the original conquest of Westgate by vampires, as well as what had occurred to bring them to the surface of the city again after so much time. The history of Westgate has Orlak simply appearing from nothing and conquering the city, when of course he had to have come from somewhere. --C)
 

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The vampire lord queried if they sought to fight this apostate, as he termed the Night King, who was calling himself Orlak II. Dermot cautiously replied in the affirmative and was echoed by a more confident Darrow. The lord stated that not all in the city had abandoned the old ways and that he knew certain things about the Night King. Before he revealed anything further, however, he asked for the adventurers’ word that a truce existed between them.

Aerikoth spoke first, saying he was willing to offer a truce, but noted that each of them spoke for themselves. Darrow also agreed, saying that the vampire lord would be more helpful against a greater threat. Dermot Kenner meanwhile gritted his teeth, thinking, but raised no objection. The lord then stated that a truce was proclaimed, to a low hiss from his consort.

The vampire lord continued his revelations, sharing that the new Night King was respected and feared because he possessed two items of ancient vampire lore which Orlak had taken with him when he departed the necropolis: the Argraal of Orlak and the Flying Fangs,. While the lord said he did not believe it would be possible for them to defeat the Night King in battle, perhaps it would be possible to steal the items and return them, for which the adventurers would be rewarded.

They started asking questions about the items, until Aerikoth interjected a sentence in a guttural tongue unknown to the others. This caused the vampire lord to start in surprise and state that one among them was knowledgeable of ancient tongues. Aerikoth in response simply stared back with a neutral expression.

Rising from his throne, the vampire lord indicated that they need not decide immediately on their course of action. Moving forward at a deliberate pace towards the group, while motioning his consort to stay put, in smooth tones the lord stated that he was placing great trust in their hands and was willing to give them aid. First, in the form of a gateway from that place. Second, in the form of an assistant in Westgate. This earned a frank stare of disbelief from Dermot and, from the vampire lord’s consort, another hiss and a question whether they could be trusted. Shanni, still in the shadows, similarly looked at the bargaining with disbelief. Aerikoth for his part found the offer intriguing, observing that this pretender of Orlak's heritage must be greatly vexing.

In response to the party’s doubts, the vampire lord removed a token from his sleeve and flicked it in a swift gesture at Dermot's feet, explaining that it was the key to the gateway which lead to that place. The ranger bent down slowly to examine it, as it was explained that one who possessed it, and up to four others touching them, could use the portal in the throne room and at the entrance to the crypt, to avoid all the traps and pitfalls. Dermot looked up at the vampire lord before cautiously taking the strange bone charm. (One should pay attention to the fate of this particular charm, and its implications. --R)

Apparently satisfied, the lord indicated that once they were ready, he would have his consort escort them to the portal, and inform them how to contact his assistant in Westgate. Utterly astounded at the turn of events, Shanni alternated looking at her companions and at the vampires, twitching in some internal struggle. Aerikoth politely suggested they should adjourn and discuss events from the doorway they had entered. Dermot first attempted to question the vampire lord about the hag’s activities, but then withdrew to confer with the others.

Back at the metal doorway, Shanni reappeared, apparently flabbergasted at the fact they were considering a pact with the vampire. Aerikoth argued that they could discover and learn much, while Dermot noted that what they had been told tallied with what they knew from the Ascetic One and others about the Night King. Darrow, ever practical, pointed out there was a good chance the vampire lord could wipe the floor with them. In the dwarf’s view, he and his cohorts were evil, but at least they were not looking to enslave a city.

After some forceful arguments, Shanni admitted – however begrudgingly – that she was outvoted and that they would parlay with the vampire lord, rather than fight him. This time she openly accompanied her companions back to the throne, where the vampire mage glared at her after announcing their return. Dermot took the role of spokesperson, stating that they didn’t like it, but would work with the vampire lord’s representative in Westgate. (I have very mixed feelings about this almost literal deal with a devil. The practical reasons for doing so are well enumerated by these chronicles, yet Shanni's visceral reaction is fundamentally mine as well. Embracing evil, one is inevitably tainted by it. --C)

As his consort and Shanni engaged in a stare-off, the vampire lord praised their decision and informed them that a member of the Night King's Court had remained faithful to the old ways and was working to undermine him. The adventurers would meet one of his agents in Westgate, who could give them more information on the location of the Argraal and Flying Fangs. They should plan to be at the center of the Market district at midnight, where they would be approached by someone who would show them a token, twin to the one they now possessed.

The vampire lord was evasive in answering any further questions and then instructed his consort to see the group to the portal. Once they reached it, she explained that the one who possessed the token must touch the others, then touch the glowing red light, stepping forward and vanishing by way of example. Dermot tapped Aerikoth on the shoulder, then Shanni and Darrow, following her through the portal. They found themselves back in the entryway to the crypt complex, the vampire mage beside them. She declared that the lord had been most merciful, before touching the portal and vanishing.
 

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Interlude from "C"

As instructed by my superiors, I have spent much of the past tenday meditating, having finished the three volumes of the chronicles that were provided to me. Yet my thoughts have been bothered by many things, not least the incomplete nature of the story before me. My predecessor as senior initiate, "R", whose acerbic yet insightful comments have accompanied me for many a day, clearly had signaled in his own annotations that he had foreknowledge of additional events yet to come. In approaching this final task put to those of us who wish to achieve the rank of master, he apparently had - for whatever reason - chosen to read through the full chronicles first, before going back to provide his own observations in the margin. Providing one's own written perspective on the chronicled events is required, no doubt both to stimulate our thinking and provide a tangible record of the accomplishment for our mentor to judge.

In these pages, I have for philosophical reasons simply commented on those things which seemed of most import, as I have read through the three volumes page by page. Naturally this is also the most expedient route for the usage of my time, as unlike with the method "R" used, I only need make one pass through the chronicles. I am beginning to suspect that "R" was 'gaming the system' as some of my compatriots occasionally do in other ways, by wanting to extend this period of reading and contemplation beyond its normal limit. In truth, I have enjoyed focusing on the task; for others, not having to toil in the garden or haul supplies into the monastery for the duration might also be an attraction of it. I for one enjoy the outdoors and of course all of us pitched in to the best of our abilities during the transfer of the monastery and its possessions from its original site in Archendale.

While I was preparing to put down my final thoughts on the stories herein contained, I was interrupted by the archivist, "G". He informed me that he had been sorting through all of the library's possessions and had come across an old, sealed crate that contained additional bound vellum manuscripts, which appeared to be part of the series of chronicles. The prospect of extending my task thusly gave me pause, as I had just become used to the idea of my nearing its completion. Yet I understand that Kelemvor and the other gods have their reasons for such things to occur...
 

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Chapter XI: New Allies and Old Enemies​

Farewells and Hails

Squinting in the sunlight after emerging from the crypt the morning of Tarsakh 2, Aerikoth, Darrow, Dermot and Shanni wearily made their way back from the ruined necropolis of the vampire lord to the village of Reddansyr, where they could rest for free at the Giant’s Folly. Shanni was uncharacteristically silent after departing the area, the petite rogue apparently lost in her unhappy thoughts. Ian Gryphonhawk took one look at the group when they stumbled into his inn and hurriedly made up their rooms, not asking any questions about where they had been.

Exhausted, the adventurers caught up on their sleep, then awakened in the afternoon to find that Shanni had disappeared. She left personal notes for Darrow and Dermot in their rooms – to which she had apparently gained access without being noticed – but nothing for Aerikoth, which did not surprise the wizard, given the state of their relationship. The three reaffirmed their decision to ally with the ancient vampire lord of the crypt, for expediency’s sake if nothing else, against the greater threat of the new Westgate vampires. Apparently this had been the sticking point for Shanni, who could not stomach the idea of such an alliance.

Over breakfast, they reminisced about their various accomplishments and adventures involving intrigue among the Westgate houses, including those of Cormaeril – now vanquished – and Urdo, now in effective control of the city through the office of the Croamarkh. Once they had finished their meal, Aerikoth offered to teleport them to the Gatereach in Westgate. Darrow and Dermot then gathered their gear and touched the wizard as he spoke a word of power.

After a moment of disorientation, the wizard, the dwarf and the ranger arrived in the Gatereach Inn compound, facing the now fully-reconstructed guest house; apparently it had been completed in their absence. Inside the main inn, they were greeted by Jandrico Swift. The innkeeper was glad to see they had returned safely, being philosophical about Shanni’s decision to depart from their company. He also informed them that a dwarf calling himself “Volamtar” had just been there with a message for Darrow.

This prompted some head-scratching from the dwarf, who then recalled that some priest types called themselves that, as a title. Jandrico said he had indicated that he would mention this to Darrow and that he expected that the other dwarf would return later that day. He also mentioned the dwarf’s impressive-looking armor.

Reaching below the counter, the innkeeper then produced three keys to the new Gatereach guesthouse for Aerikoth, Darrow and Dermot. Dermot thanked him and Aerikoth did as well, noting that it was the second time he had received a key to Master Swift’s guest house. Jandrico expressed his hope that this one would be even finer, while Aerikoth expressed his that it would not suffer a similar fate as the last one.
 
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The morning of Tarsakh 3, 1373, the mage Aerikoth Ankharat rejoined his companions Dermot Kenner and Darrow Ironhelm in the newly rebuilt Gatereach guesthouse, having chosen to sleep elsewhere. The previous evening, he and Dermot had met Rosten Foregallow for the first time. The morose but tough-looking halfling had arrived in Westgate just days before and was introduced to them by Jandrico Swift. According to the innkeeper, Rosten had come from Cormyr and was known to Jandrico as the associate of a former business partner. Rosten's introduction to the city had been a heart-pounding and nearly fatal one, as he had met the elven wizard Lomilith at the Black Boot in River Gate and defended him from a vicious vampire attack. Rosten seemed more interested in gold than in vampires, but the former sailor was willing to join forces with the group, apparently not having any better current offers for employment.

As he walked into the guesthouse behind the Gatereach's serving woman, Goruna, Aerikoth spotted the three of them and another dwarf, who introduced himself as Njord Vindastig, one of the volamtar - a wandering priest of Marthammor Duin. Njord had been asked to seek Darrow out in Westgate. Goruna placed the large breakfast tray down and pinched Dermot's bum as she departed, in line with her history of hopeful attentions paid to the ranger. Rosten took a look at the tray's contents and excused himself for a "hair of the dog", none evidently having been included for him, although there were two ales for the dwarves. (It is a wonder to me how alcoholic adventurers manage to survive for any length of time. That said, I've known more than one like that. And called him friend. --R)

As Rosten returned, Aerikoth was reminding the others of the need to make contact with the Westgate associate of the Vampire Lord of the Crypt; the associate was supposed to appear at midnight in the Market district. After general agreement was reached that they should go meet the (person?) as a group, for safety reasons, the wizard turned to Njord and asked the dwarf why he had been seeking Darrow. Njord briefly explained that the high priest of Clan Ironhelm, Iskar, had sent him; apparently a schism was brewing within the clan. Njord said no more on the matter, declaring that he planned to help the group against the vampires and then go on with them to the clanhold. (It is true that the company left certain matters unresolved the last time they visited Clan Ironhelm. This included the status of Prince Dalgan, both in terms of his health and royal title. Although perhaps something more has occurred as well, since the dwarves were last heard from. --C)

After finishing breakfast and drinks, the five departed the guesthouse and headed for the house of the Ascetic One in the West Gate district, where they had agreed to start the process of gathering allies. Darrow also had the unfinished business of carrying the bones of Aronson, the ghostly paladin and former companion of the Ascetic One, who had been bound to guard the entrance to the vampire lord's crypt. Arriving at the unassuming house, Dermot knocked loudly on the wooden door, and one of the Ascetic One's students let them in.

The monk greeted the adventurers, noting the two newcomers Njord and Rosten, and observed that one of their original number was missing. He was reassured that Shanni had departed them after meeting the Lord of the Crypt, due to a difference of opinion over their actions, rather than as a result of her death. Dermot, never one to mince words or use too many of them, declared that they had found the castle of the vampire lord and also the bones of someone the Ascetic One knew.

When the monk wondered aloud how this could be, Darrow stepped forward with his parcel of bones, and Aerikoth said one word: "Aronson" - which caused a look of pain and suffering on the monk of Ilmater. The Ascetic One said that he would bear this burden now - something which he could not do before - describing the lesson of self-mastery as the hardest one. The monk was surprised and pleased to hear from Aerikoth that "Tougal" - a name which the Ascetic One had not used since Aronson's death - had not been borne any ill will by the ghost of Aronson. (I am rarely accused of being a sensitive person, but for some reason - perhaps that the story also involves a fellow monk who is seeking a form of redemption - this touches my soul in a way that little else does. --R)

Talk then turned to why Shanni had abandoned the group, namely their agreement to work with the Lord of the Crypt - an ancient evil - against the Westgate vampires. Aerikoth explained that a new Night King had risen in Westgate, having nothing to do with the vampire lord they had spoken with. Dermot shared that the Westgate vampire had found artifacts from the previous Night King which had aided his rise. The Ascetic One knew of the legend of the original Night King and his defeat at the hands of the Lathanderite paladin, Gen Soleilon. The monk stated that he saw no reason for the Lord of the Crypt to be lying about the situation, despite what he was. Aerikoth agreed with this stance. Dermot was less sure of the benefits of their bargain with the vampire lord, but observed that if they could get the Night King away from his "baubles", they perhaps had a shot.

The monk agreed to assist them by seeking out further allies. He mentioned in passing that he knew of Thessar the Warrior, after Dermot referred to allies in the Shore. The group, having accomplished what they came for, turned to depart, intending to head next to the Temple of Lathander.
 
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Searching for Allies

Dermot, ever the thoughtful ranger, changed his mind and decided to stay and talk more with the Ascetic One about the situation with Shanni and other things on his mind. Meanwhile, Njord decided he would canvas other temples in the city besides that of the Lathanderites, to see if they might be worth approaching as allies. This left Aerikoth, Darrow and Rosten comparing notes outside the Ascetic One’s house in the West Gate district.

The three made their way to Morningstar Haven, Darrow and Rosten wistfully looking at the entrance to the Jolly Warrior inn as they passed. As the group entered the temple spaces, Aerikoth warned them in a low tone not to mention their current agreement with the Lord of the Crypt and to be patient with the temple staff, unlike their former companion Shanni. The dwarf and the halfling agreed, only too glad to leave most of the talking to the wizard.

Aerikoth greeted the priest on duty, who remembered him from his previous audience at the temple, a half-tenday prior. The wizard indicated that they had vital information for the Lady Tylanna and the priest said he would bear word of this to her. After a short interval, he escorted them to the high priestess’ chamber and formally presented the Lady Sunrise Tylanna of the Seventh Rose. Aerikoth politely introduced Rosten and the wizard noted that she and Darrow had previously met.

At Lady Tylanna’s prompting, Aerikoth related how they had journeyed to the necropolis, based on the Ascetic One’s tale from his youth. There, they discovered – exactly how, the wizard declined to specify – that there was a new Night King in Westgate, who had risen to power with the assistance of some ancient artifacts of a vampiric kingdom of milennia ago. Specifically, they learned of "The Flying Fangs" and the "The Argaal of Orlak" - items of considerable power that only a parasitic undead could make use of, as the wizard put it. Lady Tylanna appeared somewhat suspicious of the circumstances under which they had obtained the information, but nonetheless commended them on their efforts and lamented that the Dawnknight Gen Soleilon had been unable to destroy the vampires fully, after he defeated the Night King over a millenium ago.

Talk then turned to the threat the vampires posed to the city, which seemed to be greatest in the Shore district. After confirming they were acquainted with Thessar the Warrior, who lived in the Shore, the high priestess mentioned that she had received a message inviting her to a "gathering" at his place, the following day at noon. It hinted at a need to speak frankly, among those who wished to protect the city. Lady Tylanna indicated that, after hearing their words, she was inclined to participate in this gathering, although she did not know who else would be present. Aerikoth offered to escort her there, but she declined, saying that she feared nothing in the city at noontime, when Lathander was most powerful.

After taking their leave of the temple, the three adventurers decided to head to the Shore and stop in at Lilda’s Festhall. Inside, they spotted Thessar speaking to the barmaid, but the old warrior only spared them a brief glance before heading for the door. Darrow and Rosten were happy enough to get some ales and sit down, eyeing the assortment of mercenaries and thugs there. Rosten, whispering, informed them of a previous talk he had with Thessar about Lomilith, the elf at the Black Boot who had been attacked by a vampire after investigating matters at the Shore. Aerikoth in turn related how the company in the past had investigated the nearby sewer entrance and had discovered and defeated very powerful undead that had been left as guards.

Hoping to gather more information, Rosten got the barmaid Hazel’s attention. Her memory improved significantly after Darrow passed her two gold coins and she related how “Ol Lomi’” used to hang out at the festhall, but had stopped coming around a few days prior. She warmed a bit to the adventurers after they shared they were friends – after a fashion – with Lomilith and ordered more food and drink. The stew she brought back looked suspicious, but Darrow poured some ale in it and experimentally stabbed it before digging in.
 
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A short while later, the dwarf, who normally had an iron constitution, excused himself with a stomachache and headed back to the Gatereach. Rosten meanwhile had paled considerably while eating the stew, but finished it nonetheless, pushing the bowl away slowly while grimacing and gritting his teeth. The halfling then glugged down some ale, which returned some color to his cheeks. Njord shortly after arrived at Lilda’s Festhall and bought some more ales, which Rosten appreciated, as did Dermot after the ranger arrived as well. Aerikoth advised him not to consume the stew.

As the group was about to break up and go their separate ways for the day, a young girl named Lilly arrived and in a conspiratorial whisper asked Aerikoth to have them go back with her to Thessar the Warrior’s house. The wizard informed his companions, who were curious and up for it, and they walked the short distance to the old warrior’s place. Thessar was as hospitable as ever and invited them to take a seat in front of his fireplace. He then asked Lilly to tell her story, explaining that she had escaped from her brother, who brought her to a cave further down the Shore, having lured her there with a tale about playing hide-and-seek.

The girl was at first reluctant, but then sat down formally in a chair, her legs dangling, and raised a hand dramatically to begin her tale. She related that her brother Xavier – or what she thought was him – had lured her into the back of the cave, which was smelly and not fun anymore. Then this HUGE orc appeared with a boar named Ugga. The “Xavier thing” as the girl put it, said that the orc would not take its prey from it. Then the orc said, “No, you don’t understand. YOU are my prey” and attacked it. Rosten, eyes widening, took the opportunity to drink from his hip flask.

Lilly continued, saying the orc had told her to run to Ugga and get away. She ran and ran, hearing yelling behind her as the boar charged past. She said she didn’t look back, but kept going outside the cave and ran into the night, desperate for a savior. In a dramatic tone, she related how she had cowered behind one of the houses, not daring to come out when she heard voices. Thessar had then appeared, with a woman leading him, and took Lilly back to his house, saying she could stay there until it was safe. She repeated the word “safe” to herself a few times, evidently trying to convince herself, while hoping that Xavier would come along for her. Thessar said they would just have to see and sent her upstairs to her room.

The old warrior waited until he heard the girl heading upstairs before he spoke further, saying that they all of course knew what really happened. Rosten expressed his sympathies for Lilly’s situation and Njord replied that her brother was a vampire, which was easy to figure out. (Lilly, the poor girl, still seems to be in denial about this fact - although perhaps her characterization of the "Xavier thing" was correct after all; it was truly no longer her brother, but an abomination. --C) Thessar mentioned that he had encountered the half-orc the previous night, before the incident in the cave; he had indicated to Thessar that he was on some sort of spirit quest. Thessar said he had sent the half-orc, whose name was Krull, to the Ascetic One and had not seen him since, but it seemed that he at least did some good. The old warrior then revealed that he had another house guest, who had also showed up the previous night – an elf by the name of Lomilith, who of course was known to the party.

Before Thessar went upstairs to attend to his guests, Aerikoth mentioned that they had been to see Lady Tylanna, who had mentioned Thessar’s upcoming gathering. Grinning, the warrior asked if they would attend, and received an affirmative from the wizard, who noted that Dermot and Njord had not previously heard of it. Thessar was pleased and said that more would be revealed then, to all, when the meeting occurred the next day at highsun. After Thessar departed, the others went their separate ways. Dermot accompanied Njord to see some of the other temples in Westgate, in hopes of finding more allies, while Aerikoth and Rosten went about their own business.
 
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Mid-afternoon of Tarsakh 3 the group gathered again at the Gatereach. Darrow still looked a little green, but had been filled in by Aerikoth as to what had occurred at Thessar’s. Njord claimed that his and Dermot’s afternoon visiting the temples had been productive, prompting the ranger to tell the others how they had gotten the chance to bring the Gondians and the Tymorans into the work, as he put it. Njord enthusiastically also asserted that the Ilmateri would assist them with healing any wounded, and that the dwarven priest was making many valuable connections. Aerikoth pointed out that outsiders rarely had such an easy time of it in Westgate, but failed to dent Njord’s optimism. Jandrico Swift, seeing that earlier meals had been lost, set about finding some healthy food for them.

In discussing what to do next, it was noted that they had a meeting set for midnight, which might preclude other ideas, such as exploring the Lost Hills or talking to the elf Lomilith. They decided it would be best to rest up for the night’s work, since they did not know when they would next be sleeping. Aerikoth departed the Gatereach, leaving the other four to head to the guest house and rest for several hours. The wizard then rejoined them in the evening, just as they were gearing up for the night’s endeavors. Dermot rummaged in a bag which the ranger said contained old trophies and keepsakes, distributing a few things to Rosten and Njord that might aid them in the future, including a warding ring and a talisman to keep disease away.

It being only early evening, they decided to head for Thessar’s to see if Lomilith was awake and to make sure to catch him before he left. As they departed the guest house, Dermot remarked that for once it wasn’t raining, while Rosten observed that it was the first time the hin had been out after dark since the night with Lomilith. They made some idle chatter with the merchant guards outside the Westward Eye inn, but other than that it was an uneventful walk to the Shore.

Although Njord was concerned enough to listen outside the window, Thessar readily opened his door after they knocked, although the party saw him putting away a large waraxe as he did so. He went upstairs to see about Lomilith, telling them to come up in a minute. Shortly thereafter, they went up to the elf’s room, Thessar reminding Njord to leave his shield outside as it wasn’t necessary. The old warrior then went back downstairs, leaving them to their conversation.

The elven wizard gave them – particularly Rosten – a sour look and sighed, asking first about the nice lady they used to travel with. Darrow explained that she had left the group due to philosophical differences. Lomilith took this bitterly, as he did most things, and laughed outright at Njord’s attempt to cheer him up. Eventually he noticed Aerikoth, who introduced himself, as did Njord. Lomilith seemed respectful for once, commenting that at least they had a real mage on their side.

Aeirkoth inquired why the parasitic undead wished Lomilith’s demise and the elf replied that he had stuck his nose into their business on the Shore; he actually cared about the people there and wanted to find out what was happening to them. (Normally I would not believe such a story in Westgate, but it is true that those in the Shore had no coin or business worth coveting in the first place. --R) Lomilith confirmed that Rosten had told the others about how they met, the elf considering himself lucky that Rosten happened along to defend him from the vampire attack. He also had counted himself fortunate to have met Thessar, at Lilda’s Festhall one night. (Lomilith's story in these chronicles touches me in a personal way that others do not. The bitter elf mage, down on his luck, still in essence was willing to risk his own life to help those even less fortunate. This is a lesson for all of us. --C)

Lomilith then shared that, from what he could tell, disappearances in the Shore had been going on for at least a year, which earned an expletive from Rosten at the fact vampires had been active for that long. Nobody knew it was anything different for a while, explained the elf, since it just seemed that drifters in the area were moving along, beggars falling into the river, whatever – except that it wasn’t. Only in the past month or so did the rumors of vampire sightings start, with them getting bolder. In response to a question from Aerikoth, Lomilith pondered for a while and then said he thought the vampires had come after him for asking too many questions at Lilda’s. He suggested they talk to Hazel, the barmaid, if they wanted to know more about the place.
 
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