Threshold of Ages


New tax laws across the High Kingdom impose a higher import fee on certain goods - particularly tobacco. There is always profit available if one knows where to look - in this case, in a clause in the merchant-influenced rules for the introduction of new laws in the city of Velarin. A Velariner merchant with an eye for profit hired a party of ne'er-do-wells and ragtags to travel to a point outside the High Kingdom - and thus outside the laws - to meet a halfling merchant, and collect from him a medium sized shipment of tobacco. After this, the group are to get it back to Velarin, moving carefully, lest meet any officials of the kingdom - or indeed, anyone who might accidentally inform them about the tax - until they are inside the borders.They can then claim ignorance of the new import laws, and avoid paying the new tax. The tobacco will be sold at the new higher price, though, and they'll get a cut of the profit.

Dramatis Personae:

Calin Longfell (half-elf ranger, level 2)
Athel (elf fighter/wizard, level 1/1)
Tabitha (half-elf sorcerer, level 2)
Caturah (halfling rogue, level 2)
Torvald (dwarf fighter/rogue, level 1/1)
Nicolai Mikael de Barren (human psychic warrior, level 2)
Kassur (tiefling fighter/rogue, level 1/1)
Yrthilian (half-elf psychic warrior, level 2)

In the first two sessions, they sailed down the Lure River to Honn's Lake. They crossed over and landed on the shore of Lower Honn's land, a duchy of the kingdom of Haelthan. The trip took about ten days. Nothing notable happened, save the sighting of a Haelthannic Navy Skyship passing over the lake on patrol. They then travelled overland, westward. A goblin ambush on the the first day of travel was foiled, and the group camped by a cliff near a river, with watchers posted at the top of the cliff. During the night, their rest was disturbed by a small pack of unusually large white wolves, who trotted off, also westward, when Nicolai threw them some food.

The following day, they rode down to the river, where they encountered an elderly ranger. He pointed them in the direction of a bridge, and told them of a shelter nearby if it was needed. They'd find "papers" there, if they wanted them. At the bridge - old, and of dwarven construction - they found a waypost, which would probably shelter four in comfort, but would be a squeeze for a party of this size. In any case, it was only just after midday, and there was no reason to interrupt their travel. Within the shelter, they found a couple of recent broadsheets - the Times of the High Kingdom - but decided to leave them behind for the next people to use it.

In crossing the bridge, however, they found that it wasn't as stable as it looked, and it was only with great care that they managed to cross it without any stones falling out. Looking from the other side, they could see that the dwarven rune carved in the keystone had been altered from "Af", used to symbolise longevity and solidity, to an Orcish rune meaning "death". Torvald decided that fixing this was a priority, and the party stopped while he and <Eoin's character> figured out a way to reach the keystone over the fast flowing river, and change the rune. Eventually, they succeeded, and the rune was altered again to "Groph", indicating just "Stone". That seemed to help the bridge quite a bit.

This done, they rode on. At about sunset, they spotted ruins at the top of a hill, slightly north of their path, and soon after, heard drumming from westward. Correctly deducing the presence of orcs, they opted to head for the ruins. They found a mostly intact tower, and a stairway going downward. While Torvald went about fortifying the tower, the horses were brought into the ground level, and Kassur went to investigate the stairs. Proceeding quietly downwards, he discovered a small, round chamber at the bottom, with a doorway on the far side - and a huge centipede on the floor. He unsuccessfully struck at the centipede, and it chased him back up the stairs. Back at ground level, a few swipes of Kassur's rapier, and the application of a rock that Torvald was carrying quickly killed the creature. Caturah went to the top of the tower to keep an eye in the direction of the orcs, in case they'd heard anything of the fight.

Kassur ventured back down the stairs, but slipped (serious bad rolls here), fell, and landed flat on his back on the floor of the chamber, looking up at a large spider descending rapidly toward him. He dodged it, and went about hitting it. Between himself and Nicolai, it was soon disposed of, and they burnt its web and the egg sacs it left before coming back onto the surface to recover.

Next - Orcs in passing, a halfling on a throne, and stone faces of elves.
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Session 3

The group settled down for a night in the tower. After the sun had gone down, Calin went quietly up the hill to have another look at the orcs. He determined that they were a warband numbering about four hundred, and that they'd been on the road for a while. He noted the positions of sentries, and then went back to the tower.

Nicolai investigated the ruins, using darksight in the fading light, but found nothing of any great interest. He did spot a single orc silhouette on the horizon, with a spear in hand, and alerted the others to its presence. Calin crept up close to it, careful not to attract its attention. After a few moments it returned to the camp.

The night passed quietly, and the group were awoken at dawn by noise from the orcish camp. A glance over the hill revealed the orcs forming up into a column and heading for the tower. The group quickly conferred, and decided that staying in the tower would be best, with the horses and Caturah's riding dog kept quiet. Torvald quickly went about brewing up a soporific from his alchemy kit, and arrived at a crude mixture that would quiet four of the ten horses. Calin, however, managed to keep the animals calm without recourse to the mixture.

The orcs actually passed south of the tower, and continued away eastward, with two oxen at the rear of the colum dragging a large sledge, which was covered by a canvas. The group speculated that it was supplies, and Calin went to have a look while the others, except Tabitha and Athel, went back to investigate the underground area again.

Coming down the stairs, moving quietly and carefully, they passed through the small round chamber, and along a narrow passageway, which widened out into something like an audience chamber. There was a throne at the far end, and a doorway on either side. While Kassur and Caturah moved toward the doorway on the right, Nicolai, Torvald and Yrthilian went to the left hand side.

Kassur and Tabitha found a north-south corridor beyond their doorway, and headed left - or north. The other three were looking into what looked like a dining chamber - an ancient wooden table, collapsed in the the middle, and surrounded by equally decrepit chairs. Nicolai headed to look at the table, while Torvald moved more cautiously around it. Suddenly, another huge centipede launched itself from the ruins of the table at Nicolai, who, hearing Yrthilian behind him say "Firing!", leaped away across the table. Yrthilian hit the centipede with a finger of fire, and Torvald wasn't far behind with his axe, killing the creature in one blow. Checking where it came from, they found a nest of sorts in the remains of the table, containing the skeleton of a halfling, 30 sling bullets, and a few silver coins.

On the other side, Kassur heard a squeaking noise from a doorway on the left, further up the corridor. Creeping to the door, he glanced around, and saw four goblins "playing" with the remains of a torture chamber. One goblin was tied to the rack, and the other three were trying to stretch him out with the broken mechanism. He and Caturah both launched sneak attacks with ranged weapons, and then joined to melee, and within seconds, the goblins were all dead, although both attackers received minor wounds. In terms of loot, the goblins had their shortswords and twenty-eight gold crowns between them. Kassur also picked up some odd bits of metal from around the room that could conceivably be used as caltrops.

Torvald and Nicolai went to investigate the throne in the first hall they had entered, and found that while it was carved of one block of stone, and scribed with runes, it wasn't of dwarven make - although someone had evidently tried hard to make it look as though it was.

Meanwhile, Kassur and Caturah moved further along the passageway, finding a turn to the right, and a doorway to the left. The doorway led to a dormitory-like room, wherein each and every bed was shattered by axe blows, and most had a great vertical cut in the headboard.

Outside, Calin had caught up to the orc column, keeping enough distance to be safe - but unable to see what was on the sledge, under the cover. Seized by curiousity, he moved closer - and an orc moved away from the column towards him, having spotted movement. Calin froze, and the column moved on, but the lone orc came closer and closer, and then attacked with its halfspear. It hit hard, injuring Calin. He struck back with an equal blow, and in a few moments, had disposed of the orc. Hoping that none of the other orcs had heard the combat, he followed a roundabout route back to the ruins.

Kassur and Caturah had moved further along the corridor, now headed east. They found two statues in neatly carved niches, on either side of the passage. Each one was of a human-sized, fully armoured figure, holding a sword point down in front of it. Cautious of traps - or golems - they looked for tripwires or other triggers. On not finding any, they went back to find one of the party's spellcasters for a detect magic.

The whole party came back to have a look at this (after Torvald had set up a rockfall trap at the door to the tower so that nobody would steal the horses), while Kassur checked the other way in the corridor from the point where he and Caturah entered. He found a room on the east side of the corridor - an armoury, full of rusty weapons. Careful checking found only one serviceable weapon, a battered warhammer. He took it, and went back to join the others. There was no magic from the statues, and so the group cautiously passed by them. Further down the corridor were another pair of statues, and then the passage widened out into an audience chamber, like the first, but better built. There was another throne here, with two more statues standing, back to the wall, on either side.

The party approached the throne with care, and eventually, Kassur touched it. Instantly, the statues moved, sweeping up their swords and coming to an attack posture. Kassur hastily took his hand off the throne, and they returned to their original position. Each of the party in turn tried the same, but each time, it moved - until Caturah sat down on the throne. Thereupon the statues stood still for a moment, and then moved to stand beside the throne, as though guarding it. Cat tried to make them dance, move, or attack, but couldn't get them to do anything. When Kassur unsheathed a sword they again swept into the attack posture. He quickly put away the sword and the statues "relaxed". As soon as Cat left the throne, they returned to standing by the wall.

Torvald, deciding that there had to be an explanation somewhere for this, started to search the room. Eventually, he found an extremely well-concealed rotating panel in the north wall, which had a fragile-looking framed oil painting on the other side. It was faded badly, but on examination, he could tell that it showed the throne room they were in, with a child on the throne. Hung about the hall were banners and flags, all with a black band across them, and the guards were wearing black armbands. He also figured that the painting, if they could get it back to Velarin intact, could be worth at least two thousand gold crowns. As it was, though, they didn't want to even touch it, let along move it. Torvald took careful measurements, with an aim in mind of making a case for it, and then closed the panel. Kassur wedged it shut with two caltrops, and concealed them as best he could.

The corridor beyond the armoury had caved in, and so, having explored all the easy-to-reach parts of the complex, the party decided to move on to their rendezvous with the merchant.

After travelling for most of the rest of the day, they arrived, about an hour before sunset, at an odd looking valley. It looked as though it had literally been cut from the rock of a long low, north-south ridge. In the sides were carved smooth elven faces, about thirty feet high. Fearing some kind of magic, Kassur and a few of the others climbed up along the ridge and around the valley, while Calin and the rest went to look at the faces. Looking closely, and then from various angles, Calin figured that the faces would line up neatly with the setting sun. Kassur and the others had found a perfect campsite on the far side of the valley - flat, slightly raised from the surrounding terrain, and with a firepit in the middle. By the looks of it, it hadn't been used in about a year.

Standing at the east end of the valley at sunset, Calin saw something strange - although the faces didn't move, the shadows falling across them made it look as though they did - at least the lips. He tried hard to make out the words they were forming, and thought that they said, on the south side "Beware", and on the north "the pool" - in Mist Elvish. He discussed this with the other elven members of the party (two half-elves and one full elf), and then revealed it to everyone.

Attempts at walking up or down one side or other of the valley proved fruitless, although the whole party saw the effect in reverse at sunrise the next morning, with the words coming from the opposite sides. Eventually, unable to make any sense of the valley, they saddled up and prepared to ride on, the meeting point with the merchant still some eight days ride away.

(DM's note: This is now up to date, so it'll be a while before the next log - a week, maybe two.)
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Other campaign information

I'm running two other campaigns as well as this one - "Middle Kingdoms" and the just-about-to-start "Major Arcana". Information on Major Arcana can be seen here.

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Threshold of Ages runs every two weeks on a Tuesday evening. Every other two weeks, we play a GURPS game in the Stargate setting. So even though there's no log for this week, there was a game.

We ordered Indian food, which took ages to arrive. By the time it got to the house, we were all starving, and stopped playing to eat. Someone wandered through the room while this was happening, and asked "Wasn't there a game going on here?"

Eoin (Nicolai's player) replied: "Yeah. I'm playing Lamb: The Korma, and he's on Tikka Masala, Third Edition."

I've been laughing at that for nearly twelve hours now, on and off...


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