Ruins of Adventure

The Amazons: Session 5
As told by Princess

Princess woke up cold, sore, and wet. Again. It was dark, save for the flickering light of a campfire, and, judging by the thick, cloying smell of smoke mingled with damp earth, they were in a cave. Great, she thought, I just love sleeping on the cold, hard, wet ground. She looked around and saw that her “sisters” were all there, more or less. Hot Flanks sat tending the fire. Had Enough and Battle Cry were in their bedrolls. Worthy of Armor was leaning over Don’t Fail with a worried look on her face.

Princess tried to move, wincing at the sudden tingling in her extremities. What the fuck?! Frostbite? she thought with the mixture of anger and anxiety that was all too common in her chosen profession. And to think that I could be in the nice warm south, married to some thick-headed, chisel-jawed bro-fo right about now. Instead of freezing to death in a monster-infested wasteland trying to help my “sisters” take vengeance for an attempt to kill me which didn’t stick. “Fuck that!” she said aloud, drawing a surprised smile from Hot Flanks.

Pushing through the pain, she sat up, shivering unconsciously. “Where are we? When are we? How are we?” she said hurriedly.

“Where: In a cave that was until very recently occupied by a she-bear, just south of Lake Kuto, about a thousand paces into the treeline. When: night time—a full day since we got jumped by those wolves. How: not good.” Hot Flanks replied. “We have a lot of horse meat, and wolf meat, and bear meat, but most of the rest of our food got burned up in the fight. Ditto for most of our other gear—tents, horses…”

Princess’s immediate thought was that “got burned up” was just Hot Flanks’ way of saying, “I nuked our food and blankets with a fireball.”

“…Battle Cry woke up around sundown, but is still weak. Don’t Fail was frozen solid and nearly got her leg ripped off. Worthy says she probably won’t wake up for a couple more days, and likely won’t be walking any time soon.”

“Actually, after the salve I just put on her, she should be fine,” Worthy of armor said. “And once I’ve rested I should be able to get you and Battle Cry back on your feet as well.”

Princess’s stomach growled and she thought about the available options. “So, horse meat?” Hot Flanks handed her a bit of well-done flank on a wooden skewer. It was surprisingly tasty, if a little charred. Beats the food at my dad’s palace any day, she thought as she laid back down on her smoky bedroll. “Tomorrow then,” she said and rolled over, trying to get comfortable.

In the morning, as promised, everyone was back on their feet and, if not completely whole, at least free of the worst of their wounds and able to travel. After Worthy of Armor laid hands on her feet, the tingling stopped and Princess was able to get up. “Where to then?” she asked, really hoping the answer would be ‘Back to Phlan.’

“North,” Battle Cry said stoically and emphatically. “We need to find whoever summoned the thing that killed you and tear his heart out.”

“I got better…” Princess said, trying to reason with her revenge-happy friend. “We really don’t have to…”

“It cost our entire take from the last three jobs to get you raised,” Hot Flanks reminded her.

“And we promised Lady Bivant that we’d deal with the Squire and his miscreant friends,” Don’t Fail added.

“And…VENGEANCE!” Battle Cry concluded, or something similarly ridiculous.

“Right…” Princess assented. At least Hot Flanks makes some sense. “So we just keep trekking further into the snow then?”

“When I last communed with Assuran, our quarry were still on a mountaintop, almost due north of here,” Battle Cry insisted. “So we go north, through the forest, towards the mountains. When we stop tonight I will contact Lord Assuran again and try to get more detailed directions.”

“So who rides?” Princess said.

“No one,” Worthy of Armor insisted, “Mfara and the mule will carry our supplies, so that we don’t tire out, but with only the two of them, everyone will have to walk on her own two feet.”

The rest of the day was quiet, cold, and miserable. They hiked through knee-deep snow and pushed their way through ice-crusted brambles and tree-limbs. Around noon, as their path neared the Stojanow river, they saw a passel of white-skinned trolls basking on an ice flow. Luckily Princess spotted the trolls while the girls were still safely ensconced in the trees and they were able to back up and take a different path.

In deep winter in the north, it gets dark far too early. Only five hours after they set out, Princess could barely see a foot in front of her.

“We need to find shelter for the night,” Don’t Fail said.

“What are you complaining about, you can see in the dark!” Princess was, to say the least, a little jealous of her friend’s elven heritage.

“That doesn’t change the fact that it is cold and it is night,” Don’t Fail replied.

Just then Had Enough pointed off to their right, deeper into the woods. “What’s that glow?”

“No!” Princess said, “I’m not going chasing after will-o-wisps in the middle of a fucking snowstorm.”

“It hasn’t snowed in hours,” Hot Flanks snapped, “and she’s right, it looks like there is a light over there. I don’t care if its goblins or ogres or what-have-you, if they have a fire, I want it.”

Worthy of Armor wordlessly turned in that direction, drawing her katana and leading the way. The light, it turned out, was not a campfire, but a smith’s forge which had been left unattended and burning under an old stone lean-to-like structure in the middle of the forest. The warmth put off by the massive thing was wonderful, though it made the ground in the small clearing a soggy mess of melted snow.

Everyone spread out and searched the area, but found no signs of other creatures—no tracks in the mud, no scraps of food, nothing. Don’t Fail pointed out that the forge radiated fairly strong magic, and likely was of a variety that could never be put out, and thus may have been sitting their unattended for years, decades even. The only tools left at the forge were a pair of tongs and those two large to be moved—anvil, bellows, and the forge itself.

Magic forge, blah, blah, Princess thought. At least its shelter, and heat. “Awesome,” she said, “dibs on the bed closest to the forge!” She gave the bellows a pull and the forge brightened.

They set to work pitching their camp. There was, in fact, enough room under the eaves of the smithy for them all to have a relatively dry place to lay out what was left of their bedrolls. Had Enough began warming up some bear, and they drew straws for watches, all except Don’t Fail, who said she wanted to examine the forge, and Battle Cry who was planning on staying up all night praying anyways. Princess grumbled as she drew third watch, we meant waking up in the middle of the night and probably not getting back to sleep.

The night was uneventful save for a lone, curious deer who wandered by their shelter, and, as expected, Princess was not able to get back to sleep after her watch, so she sat and listened to Battle Cry bemoaning the injustice of her death, however brief it had been, the crimes of Squire Grimnir, and the woes of having to pay the Tyrrans to get her raised. That last one was a little annoying, it wasn’t her fault she had died after all. Even more annoying when she looked at her empty purse. I sure hope this Squire has some cash on him after we kick his ass. She stabbed into the open air with Handsome Prince, “That one is for my empty purse…”

The next morning Don’t Fail informed them of some interesting properties of the forge, particularly that she thought it might be able to resize and reforge magical weapons and armor without risking the loss of their enchantments. “Nifty,” was all Princess could say to that, especially since they had no tools and none of them knew the first thing about smithwork.

“Maybe once this is over we can hire a smith to come back here with us and see about reworking some of the magic armor we found so that it will fit us,” Don’t Fail said.

“Yeah,” Princess piped up, “there’s that ugly guy, Jack, in the slums. He’s good at making all kinds of things, works cheap, and even has that magic hammer he uses as a chandelier in his store.”

“Sure, but first…” Battle Cry began.

“Yeah, yeah, VENGEANCE!” Princess grinned, mocking her friend.

“Our quarry are still in the mountains, north and a little west.” Battle Cry explained, “I saw two peaks, with a ruined city running along the ridge between them. In the middle of the city was a glowing stairway leading up into the sky.”

“That can’t be good.” Hot Flanks quipped.

“Oh, come one, it’s not like you didn’t suspect that our big, bad, demon-summoning ex-noble was going to hole up in some ancient ruin with some kind of interplanar gate.” Princess rolled her eyes, and made spooky oohing noises. “It’s probably got a whole mess of undead guarding too, and I bet some horde of demons is going to come down the magic staircase…”

Had Enough glared at her, “You’d be annoying if you weren’t probably speaking the truth.”

“Yeah,” Worthy said. “They must have gone to the mountains for a reason, since we know they left before the announcement. That ruined city must have something that the Squire wants, and its likely connected to that staircase.”

“Yeah, it’s just so….cliché.” Princess said, “Though I guess that’s what you get when you’re in the vengeance business.”

“Let’s go then,” Don’t Fail said simply, tightening a strap on the mule’s pack, “we’re losing daylight.”

By midday the girls reached the foothills of the Dragonspines, which Had Enough informed them were called the “Ticklebelly Hills”, which elicited some much needed laughter from all of the party. They veered down to parallel the headwaters of the Stojanow, scrambling over icy rocks and getting their horses hung up in an occasional snowbank. The going was, unsurprisingly, very slow.

Eventually they found the mouth of a wide valley known as the Valley of Thorns or, alternately, Dragonden Pass, and a rough trail running along beside the river, which allowed them to cover more ground. Battle Cry pointed to a pair of tall peaks off to their left, near the north end of the pass, “I think those are the mountains I saw in Hoar’s vision.”

Worthy shielded her eyes against the glare of the sun on the snow. “If this path continues all the way through the pass, we should reach the base of them in another day.”

“According to the people in Phlan, Dragonden Pass used to be a major trade route,” Don’t Cry said. “There is supposed to be a pair of villages or waystops, one at either end of the valley, that should still be operational. If we press on, we may find shelter for the night at the near one.”

So they pressed on, lighting brands gathered in the woods to see the path, and shortly after nightfall heard the roaring of a waterfall ahead. The path veered to the right and sharply upwards, circumnavigating the falls, and leaving Princess quite annoyed that she could not get a good view of the falls in the darkness. A cold wind, laden with snowflakes blew into their faces, but they saw lights shining out of windows near the top of the falls.

With a faint, “Woohoo,” Princess practically ran for the buildings, followed by her friends. A small village was nestled between the high slopes of the valley, stone buildings insulated by an extra layer of deep snowdrifts. Smoke poured out of chimneys and warm light leaked from wood-shuttered windows.

Princess led the way towards the largest building, which looked like an inn or caravansary, with an arch leading into a central courtyard and a sign over the arch proclaiming “Song and Ale” in the trader’s tongue. They tied their horses up under the shelter of a sloped wooden roof that had been erected over the courtyard, clearly a temporary accommodation of the winter, and stepped into the inn.

Inside they found people of all ages crowded around two large fires, set in open hearths in the center of the room. An armed guard, a big burly Eraka with a heavy broadsword, stood just inside the door. He looked them over then grunted something incomprehensible and waved them in. With massive sighs of relief, all six girls huddled into the space between the two hearths and just stood their, basking in the warmth for several long minutes.

Eventually a woman, blonde-haired and in her early thirties with blue robes and a staff topped by a blue crystal, approached them. She introduced herself as Hira, a priestess of some local goddess none of them had ever heard of, the Lady of Blue, and manager of the waystop. She offered them drinks and food, which they gladly accepted, and had stools brought over for them to sit on as they dug into the warm stew and stout ale which she brought them. She then, of course, asked where they were headed and why.

Don’t Fail explained about their quest in general terms, hunting fugitives from Phlan, and asked about the two peaks on the north-west end of the valley and the ruins between them.

“We do not go there,” Hira said.

Of course you don’t thought Princess, why would you.

As if reading her mind, the priestess continued, “The near mountain is the home of a terrible frost giant. He lives in a cave at the peak and has terrorized our sister-village, Rhund, for nearly six years. The far peak is claimed by the Eraka tribe of Verdigris, and is most easily reached from that village, which lies just north of the pass. Though you would need their permission. They also do not travel that way, for they say some great evil lives on the mountain, which they call Duvan’ku.”

“What kind of evil?” Worthy of Armor asked, and Princess couldn’t help but think of her earlier speculation about cursed ruins and undead hordes.

“I do not know,” she replied. “On the ridge of Duvan’ku is an ancient city, old and forgotten even in the stories of my grandmother’s grandmother’s grandmother. The warbands of the Verdigris tribe on occasion challenge each other to spend a night on the mountain as a way to prove their bravery. Most do not return.”

Princess resisted shouting ‘I told you so!’

“The mountain’s name, do you know what it means?” Don’t Fail asked.

“No, it is not a word in either our tongue, nor that of the Eraka, nor the dwarf clans. I presume the name it is some remnant of whatever culture built that city.”

Hot Flanks turned to Battle Cry, “You don’t suppose that cave with the giant in it is the one from your first vision?”

“Shit,” was all Battle Cry said in response.

“Is there a room where we could sleep?” Don’t Fail asked. Hira nodded and showed them to one of many small rooms kept by the waystop, complete with a small iron woodstove and several piles of furs on the floor for sleeping. “Alright everyone, rest up, we’ll tackle the mountains in the morning…”

“I’ll commune with Hoar to confirm the location of our prey.” Battle Cry said, stifling a yawn.

Before closing the door, Hira remarked that she had business in Rhund and could accompany them as far as that northern waystop. Don’t Fail thanked her and the ladies all flopped down onto the furs to rest.

To be continued…

The Third Party: Session 15 (GMs notes)

18 Hammer

Our “heroes”, accompanied by the Blessed Afflictor, the Exalted Interrogator, and the Slaughterer headed for the shrine of the Sacred Parasite, discussing how they might destroy the thing and what might happen after. They learned that, while the Blessed Afflictor could count on the animated remains of his army joining them, and likely the various Noga who were sacrificed on the mountain, but that the Noga faithful to Duvan’ku would likely oppose them once their spirits were restored to their bodies. Realizing that “the faithful” meant most of the bodies buried in the compound, they decided to delay the assault on the Parasite until they were better prepared to deal with the fallout.

Resplendent-Calendar.JPGThe Interrogator informed them of a “back door” out of the compound—a vertical shaft from his room up to the surface. Mel scaled the shaft, fixing a rope in place for the others, and they went back around to the main entrance. The Interrogator lead them to the “Chamber of Pedagogy”, where they collected a few choice pieces of furniture—two 15-ft. diameter stone disks, a portable forge for melting metals, The Resplendent Calendar, and the Tome of the Exalted Interrogators (filled with a millennium of research into fascinating new forms of unnecessary misery).

Their first order of business was keeping the dead from acting too quickly. Grimnir systematically un-mounted the corpses in the Crypt of the Children. Then they sealed all of the vault doors on the crypts, locking them, spiking them with pitons, and waxing over the frames and joints to slow the entry of any errant souls. Finally, Ash magically shrank the giant stone disks and rolled out to block the doors to the warriors’ and priests’ crypts, then further warded the doors with lesser signs of sealing.

Grimnir, meanwhile, collected all the candles and loose skulls he could find and set up the mobile forge as an altar at the intersection between the corridor to the shrine and the Crypt of the Children, just beside the fountains of offering. Here, with some help from their undead “friends” and a monacle that the slaughterer gifted to the party, he began setting up the rituals they had collected from around the compound, preparing to trap the errant souls freed by the Parasite in “liquid time”.

Once these preparations were in place, Mel sat down at the organ in the chapel, ready to play, and the others threw open the door to the shrine.

Ash acted quickly, striking the Parasite with Yarash’s Spoon. With a hideous scream, the bloated mass of the Parasite shrank and twisted, reforming into an ancient-looking elf, and dropping the millions of spheres contained in its body into the abyss in the center of the shrine. Grimnir immediately lashed out at the elf with a pair of repelling blasts, lifting it into the air with one, then knocking it into the pit with the second, sending the writhing, screaming ex-Parasite hurtling into the depths along with the soul-containing spheres.

Many seconds later the screams were cut short and they heard the sound of the spheres shattering as they struck whatever was at the bottom of the thousand-foot-deep hole.

A moment after that vast swarms of millions of released souls poured out of the pit, like a swarm of strange, glowing, flying slugs and flew off in every direction. Traithe set himself at the edge of the pit, holding The Sword of Halfrek in their path and swinging it wildly. Dozens of the things vanished as they encountered the soul-consuming weapon, discharging fully intact corpses back into the pit as one soul after another was absorbed by the blade.

The swarm of souls surged down the corridor. A mass veered towards the Crypt of the Children only to be stopped by the magical seals that Ash had placed over the door. Seeing them briefly trapped, Dame unleashed a thunder wave, crushing thousands of the soul-slugs against the sealed portal. The wave of sound and force seemed to instantly freeze and then shatter the loosed souls. Grimnir quickly entoned the final words of his ritual, capturing the near-destroyed child souls in a small vial of liquid, which he quickly pocketed.

As the rest of the party held their ground against the wave of souls, Mel set his fingers to the keys of the organ and began playing Wish You Were Here, perfectly. Immediately the ground began to shake worse than on any previous occasion. Rubble rained from the ceiling and two large, writhing columns shot up through the ground by Grimnir’s makeshift altar, upending the forge and reducing the door to the crypt to rubble.

Remembering their oath to not allow the party to come to harm, the three undead grabbed Dame, Kevorkian, and Ash and began running for the exit at top speed, millions more souls—hopefully those of the Blessed Afflictor’s army—flying along with them. Traithe called on the powers of the most recent soul trapped in his sword and ran after them with a sudden burst of unbelievable speed.

Another squirming column burst up, crushing the organ. Mel pulled a small glass orb from his pocket and ran for the Water Clock, turning it forward and vanishing. Grimnir, taking some shortcuts via misty step, arrived at the clock just as the others streamed by heading for the ladder out. He grabbed the hands and turned them back, freezing his friends and the disembodied souls, though their undead companions and, more importantly, the earthquake did not seem impeded by the resulting time-warp.

He waved the Blessed Afflictor on and the three undead levitated up the shaft with his time-stopped companions. Grimnir then ran back through the compound as fast as he could, scooping up hundreds of thousands of soul-slugs with a tenser’s floating disk and shoving them outside in hopes that they would find purchase in one of the sacrificial victims burried in the mass grave above, and blasting major supports to ensure that the entire complex would come down behind him. He then ran back to the clock and blasted it…

Causing Mel to reappear. The gypsy-boy grinned as he smashed the globe he was holding onto the ground…

19 Hammer

The party found themselves suddenly outside, halfway down the crumbling mountain peak, and running for their lives. The Afflictor, Interrogator, and Slaughterer ran with them and thousands of undead shambled along beside, dodging falling rubble and boulders that rained down around them. Every heave of the ground sent another jumble of corpses hurling out of the earth down the slope—many were crushed, but more joined the fleeing undead army.

Behind them the top quarter of the mountain was gone—reduced to a pile of slag. A single massive forearm, nearly two-hundred feet from elbow to wrist, stuck up from the crumbling crest of the mountain thrashing slowly, as of a half-sleeping man trying to swat away an annoying insect. The dissolving remains of the temple complex was clenched tightly in the massive hand attached to it.

They skidded to a stop near the edge of the ancient city on the ridge, coming up against another horde of undead, twice again as large as the one following them. Standing at the head of this group was a ice-crusted silt-ghoul wearing a crown of emeralds and holding a sword which glowed blue in the frosty winter air.

The Blessed Afflictor asked for permission to engage. Traithe handed the undead general his oversized greatsword and Grimnir nodded his assent. The two undead armies charged into each other with abandon. The Slaughterer and the Interrogator peeled out to either side of the army to lead the flanks as the Blessed Afflictor and the party charged the undead king.

The king raised a hand and the warring undead armies suddenly gave the combatants very wide berth. Traithe let out a ebullient cry and charged, frothing at the mouth, drawing on the power of a trapped soul to begin raging. Traithe, Mel, and the Blessed Afflictor engaged the king in melee as Ash called in a trio of mephits to rain lightning down on the monarch and Kevorkian summoned a pair of floating spiritual hammers.

Blow after blow struck the king—magical swords, lightning, hammers—but he shrugged off all of them and quickly healed the worst, all the while slashing savagely with his sword which glowed alternately pure white and cold blue.

Melastasya leaped on the king’s back, clinging to him like a monkey and pummeled him with the wicked sisters—the only weapons which seemed to do any good. Grimnir took a different tack, using his repelling blasts to hurl the king, the girl still hanging on, into the wall of a ruined building, then dropping a massive stone column on him. Mel dived away, rolled and dashed back to grab the king again as he rose, battered from the rubble, deftly avoiding the blows of his sword. She took a single punch, but seemed unfazed by the necrotic energies engulfing the undead fiends hands.

The others rushed in and resumed their bombardment, attacking like a pack of wolves and whittling away at the king blow by blow. The Blessed Afflictor extended his hand and the icy sword disappeared from the king’s grasp, reappearing in the general’s hand.

Mel once again scurried onto the enemy’s back. Enraged, the king’s hand glowed brilliant white and he struck her, burning her with radiant energy and hurling her away with a clap of thunder. Traithe, though, was right behind, stepping in and felling the undead monarch with one last strike of Halfrek’s Sword. The king vanished, body and soul trapped in the blade, and his crown, jewelry, and armor dropped to the ground.

The Blessed Afflictor took the crown and placed it on his head, causing the two fighting undead hordes to immediately cease hostilities, before removing it and handing it to Grimnir.

Grimnir commanded the undead to build palanquins for the party and prepare to depart the mountain. He then asked for a unit of fifty of the strongest undead to remain behind in the ancient city, under the command of the Slaughterer, with orders that, should a group of buxom warrior-maidens appear, they should be battered, but not killed, painted blue, and carried unconcious back to Kryptgarten with a message that they should stay there and defend their new keep. The other party members, meanwhile, set to looting, raiding the king’s treasury and burial mounds.

Month of Alturiak

Riding in their palanquins and borne by the combined force of the two undead armies, as well as many stragglers who wandered into the city from their mountain graves while the party was looting (nearly two hundred thousand in total), the party made their way triumphantly down the north side of the mountain. As they descended they could see people fleeing on horseback into the plains to the north. At the foot of the mountain they found the Eraka town of Verdigris completely abandoned.

They noticed that, at some point, apparently, the Blessed Afflictor had gained some skin and now looked very much like the Eraka woman whom they had seen fighting the manticores in the city a few days before.

They took a long, winding route, north through The Ride, past lake Longreach, then down into the Glumpen Swamp and through the Vanishing Hills. They moved at the slow, steady, shambling pace of the zombie hordes, and met no resistance. Really they met no living creatures at all during the weeks of their travel, as nothing sentient or not, was willing to get within spitting distance of a marching army of two-hundred thousand of the living dead. Thus, they passed a leisurely month, learning new skills from their undead patrons and plotting how they might destroy both the Aboleth beneath Sorcerer’s Island for its attempts to enslave them and also bring ruin to the Phlan Council.


Eventually they came to the Quivering Forest on the edge of the Twilight Swamp, well to the east of Kryptgarten, but close enough to Phlan to find a small settlement. Grimnir used the staff given him by the Aboleth to enslave the farmers, and all of their livestock, hoping to “burn out” the Aboleth’s ability to dominate creatures, of which the staff was an extension. From there the army struck into the forest, cutting back north and west towards Sorcerer’s Island. Grimnir commanded the zombies to carve enigmatic messages and warnings into the trees for any who might be pursuing them, but such actions awakened the fey who ruled the wood.

It quickly came to blows and threatened to destroy both their army and the forest, but the druidess, Dame, made contact with the fey and brokered a peace, allowing their zombie horde passage if they refrained from harming any of the flora or fauna.

30 Alturiak

As the last snows of winter melted away towards spring, the party found themselves once again on the shores of Lake Kuto, having decided that killing the Aboleth and ending the river’s pollution was their first concern. The Blessed Afflictor, armed with the Noga king’s freezing sword, led the bulk of their force down into the water to engage the Sahuagin city they believed to be down there.

Meanwhile the party, along with the Interrogator and a “select” squad of some thousand ghouls floated their palanquins across to the Sorcerer’s Island and followed the maze of teleporters to reach Yarash’s chambers. When they informed Yarash that they had come to kill the Aboleth, the old wizard lashed out, only to be gunned down by a barrage of lightning bolts from Ash and his mephits.

Once they had secured the pumping chambers, the party psyched themselves up to confront the Aboleth and, joining hands with their undead helpers, stepped into the teleportal.

To be continued

Another Letter

A single, folded piece of paper, addressed to the temple of Tyr’s Waiting in Phlan. The letter (which is slightly scorched in places and bears the faint scent of ozone) bears a plain wax seal – lacking any sign upon it but for a single crude gouge.

To whom it may concern,

Infernal powers have amassed an undead army, the likes of which the world has never seen. For reasons I do not totally comprehend, the god Tyr has been named as a foe. Any who worship him are in grave danger. Be ready.

a friend

The Third Party: Session 14 (GMs notes)

16 Hammer

Grimnir, Traithe, Ash, and Dame (the ginger-haired druidess having finally told the party her name), were startled from their research in the library by the sudden shaking of the ground as Mel and Kevorkian played around with the organ. They ran to the chapel to find their two companions vanished, with the sheet music for the ‘Dismissal Fugue’ sitting out on the stand.

They discussed attempting to follow, then decided to look into the crypts and the “blob thing” that Mel had described before he and Kevorkian vanished. They wandered the halls, using their map to following in Kevorkian and the gypsy-boy’s footsteps until they saw the bloated form rising out of the pit in the shrine. Grimnir seemed very interested in the large book they could suspended against the far wall of the room by the thing’s mass.

They returned to the chapel and started experimenting with the music laid out on the organ. Ash sat down to play and, despite the unpleasant droning he urged out of the keyboard, vanished, along with Dame, reappearing in the small water-closet next to the library. A few more attempts from all of the not-so-musically-inclined party members revealed that the transportation was limited to within the complex but was basically random. Worse, each time they played the sounds were accompanied by strong tremors from the ground below.

Grimnir suggested that Ash and Traithe keep trying until they were deposited somewhere on the other side of the room with the blob, then open one of the secret doors indicated on the map and attempt to access the book from that side. After several attempts which landed them in toilets and mass crypts, Ash and Traithe found themselves in a small room with a high ceiling, a single unmarked sarcophagus, and a door with dozens of skeletal fists nailed to it.

Of course the sarcophagus was not empty and the occupant, the petrified remains of a squat, wide man in ornate, petrified, leather armor and a large warmask. Traithe hacked at it, only to receive rather taunting, though urbane, comments—“Your formation is preposterous, why do you not simply give in?” and "There is dignity in surrender.” Ash sent Zorch to grab the thing, only to have Zorch sucked—soul, body, and all—into the thing’s maw. Ash screamed, alerting Mel and Kevorkian who, excused themselves from their conversation with the Red Architect and came running. Mel quickly unlocked the door allowing Ash and Traithe to make a hasty withdraw from the room. Traithe and Kevorkian then held the door shut to allow it to be re-locked.

They made their way up the hall to the other side of the room with the blob-thing and Ash sent a message to Grimnir informing him that they had finally made it. Traithe threw open the door and Grimnir immediately tried to kick the book out of the room using a series of repelling blasts. Grimnir missed the books, but managed to eject a thirty-foot core sample of the gelatinous monster and the orbs floating in it out into the hallway where Traithe and the others were standing—shattering many of the orbs and sending numerous small slug-like spirits scurrying up the hallway.

Traithe set to work electrocuting the escaping souls via witchbolts. Seeing that Grimnir missed the book, Mel charged the room and, using the semi-solid surface of the thing as a wall, chimneyed up the back wall and grabbed the book. Dame lit the thing (and everything else in the room) up with faerie fire. Now presented with a larger and clearer target, Grimnir blasted Mel out of the room—book and all—and Kevorkian slammed the door.

The blob, awakened, turned its attention to Grimnir and Dame in the opposite corridor, spewing a stream of liquefied time over the two of them, freezing them solid. They quickly thawed and Grimnir teleported himself over to join the others. Dame ran for the organ and played the ‘Dismissal Fugue’ again, landing her in the Red Architect’s room, where she was drawn, apparently rather reluctantly, into a conversation with the undead lady—who was rather non-complimentary about Dame’s social skills.

The others wandered back in that direction, but when Grimnir saw the shadows in the Architect’s chambers moving independently, he snatched Dame out of the room and slammed the door. They continued to converse with the Architect, though Ash and Grimnir insisted that they do it through the door—Grimnir pointing out that Nazir An-azat was a well-known name in Hell and an ally of the infernal lord known commonly as ‘The Betrayer’ (often confused with ‘The Betrayer in Battle’, who may or may not be a distinct entity).

Trading story for story, they learned a bit of the history of the place: The original plan to awaken the ‘god’ that sleeps below the mountain, which she alternately referred to as ’Duvan’ku’ and ‘Aurgelmr’. How the first sacrifice became the ‘parasite’, collecting all the sacrificed souls meant for the god. How the Parasite was near the breaking point of becoming a god in its own right—and that it would be a very bad thing, for them, if anyone else were to die in this place. How she made a pact with hell to betray her former master (though she gave little in the way of details for this one), and how she was trapped in this place until willingly freed by a living, mortal human.

As Grimnir and the Red Architect chatted for over an hour, the others rested to recuperate from their encounter with the Parasite and Kevorkian and Ash set about translating the book. The title read The Million Violations and appeared to record, in disturbing detail, all of the Noga’s crimes against the gods and men. The two skimmed through the codex, looking for references to the acts of the Red Architect, only to be stricken with feeble mindedness from the experience—reduces to babbling imbeciles. Kevorkian prayed to the god(s) of Kryptgarten and was healed, but retained no recollection of the contents of the book.

17 Hammer

The party rested longer while Kevorkian and Ash recovered from their mind-numbing ordeal and then discussed what to do about the souls trapped in the Parasite, enumerating several possible options, none of which seemed good:

  1. Allow the souls to pass to Aurgelmr, awakening him and probably destroying the world.
  2. Allow the souls to remain with the Parasite, giving birth to some new, unknown god of evil.
  3. Deliver the book of names to one of the Dukes of Hell, allowing them to claim the souls and add them to the armies of the Blood War.
  4. Free the souls from the orbs entrapping them and destroy them as they come out, probably sending the remnants on to the fugue-plains of Hades where they would be added to the hordes of the fiendish Yugoloth.
  5. Kill the Parasite and allow the souls to inhabit and animate their bodies buried on the mountain, creating a legion of potentially millions of the undead.
  6. Find some way to siphon off and collect the souls and use their power for the party’s own benefit.
  7. Destroy both the bodies and the Parasite, but leave the souls intact and allow them to go on to their apportioned afterlife—which would probably have results similar to some mix of 1, 3, and 4, but with less predictability.

Unable to think of any positive options, and, with Grimnir’s prodding, leaning towards giving the souls to Hell, the party decided to question the other ‘Greater Repugnancies’ buried in complex in the hopes of getting better information.

Their next stop was the lone unbarred door at the end of the hallway, which bore a carving of a man holding up an infant that had been pierced by eight swords. Within they found the ‘Blessed Afflictor, Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus’ embalmed sitting upright on his war-throne. He greeted them amicably and invited them to rest freely in his chambers. The corpse explained that he was bound until such time as a living, mortal human invited him to once again lead the armies of this place on the field of battle as a result of his ‘betrayal’ by the Architect. He explained that he had had a change of heart with regards to the Nogese plan to awaken Duvan’ku—having grown attached to this world—and had lead his last army against his king, Vinjarek, in an attempt to stop the sacrifices and prevent the world-ending intent of the program. The Red Architect had somehow caused his army to turn on him, delivering him into her hands and then binding him to this mausoleum cum prison. He said he had overheard their discussion without and would aid them in destroying the Red Architect and the Parasite, and then raise up the dead of the mountain as a means of keeping the souls of the sacrificed from Duvan’ku.

After some negotiation, the party decided to go with option “5” above, with the assistance of the Blessed Afflictor—asking him to lead the undead army that would be created away from the mountain. They asked the Blessed Afflictor to remain in his chambers—or rather, refrained from letting him out—and went to corroborate his story with the others, leaving Mel behind as ‘insurance’ (knowing that if they took too long the crazy gypsy would probably free the Afflictor for the fun of it).

First they met the Testifier. Ash vowed “To bring honor to the house of Ellindir and restore it to it’s former glory,” and Grimnir swore to “Protect this reality and destroy the god Tyr.” Then they asked him to enumerate all of the oaths ever made by those entered in the complex.

18 Hammer

Twenty-four hours later, they came out of the trance of listening to this enforcer of vows, to realize that they could interpret very little of his archaic pronouncements. Instead they asked for a list only of those vows that currently bound the ‘Greater Repugnancies’.

He informed them that the Twin Inquisitors had sworn “to string up the Slaughterer from the Oak of Judgement by his own entrails”, and that all of the Greater Repugnancies were bound by the oath of the Red Architect’s curse to not leave their crypts until such time as “a living, mortal human requested that the Blessed Afflictor lead the armies of this place on the field of battle”. He explained that his role was simply as an enforcer of oaths under the laws of Hell, and that he neither knew nor cared why the oaths were made. He also explained that, should they be freed, he desired to see the destruction of the Red Architect as she was an oathbreaker, due “one million, one hundred and eleven thousand, one hundred and eleven years of torment”.

Next they visited the ‘Exalted Interrogator’, an ancient corpse wrapped in petrified bandages which cracked and crumbled as it moved, who asked each of them their reasons for coming to this place. Once satisfied with the truth of their answers, he informed them that the Blessed Afflictor never lied but that the Red Architect seldom told the truth. When the ascertained that his primary motivation was the punishment of those who speak lies, Grimnir quickly informed him of the perceived duplicity of Markos Mondaviak and the other council-members.

Sufficiently satisfied, and now knowing the scope of the undead-on-undead free-for-all that would result from freeing the Blessed Afflictor, they made their way back to his chambers. After some very brief negotiations and Traithe formally inviting him to lead the armies of the Noga once more on the field of battle, the Blessed Afflictor lead the way out and went directly to the chambers of the Testifier where he swore:

“I Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus hereby inculcate this oath to never, by means direct or indirect, nor by inaction, cause harm the mortals I now look upon, who are known by the names Grimnir Gylfaginning, Arasheth Ellindir, Elaira Nightfall, Kevorkian, Dame, and Melastasya. Second, I swear to obey any order given to me by one of these mortals, save where those orders would bring harm to any of those so named, and to extend the execution of any such orders to all those forces under my command. Last, I swear that if any and all of these mortals are by some means destroyed, I shall immediately take myself and all forces under my command to the Celestial Staircase in the city of Dekon Thar atop Mount Duvan’ku and thence commit myself and all such forces to the side of Hell in the eternal struggle known as the Blood War, until either time or our existence shall end.
For these concessions, I request the following oath from my mortal masters: That they swear to aid Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus in his flight from this consecrated mountain, and to protect his safety until such time as he is transported to a place occupied by no less than eight thousand and eight living and mortal human souls.”

His oath sworn, he placed his hand on the head of the Testifier, who crumbled, and handed the Skull of the Testifier to Grimnir. Grimnir swore the requested oath to aid the Praetor in his escape from the mountain and convey him to a human city, then passed the skull around the party. All save Melastasya so swore and the skull was returned to Grimnir’s care.

Stepping out into the hall, they saw the Red Architect coming forth bearing her bronze lantern and sending all the shadows in the hallway to dancing free from those who cast them, and the Twin Inquisitors rushing across the hall from their tomb to assault the Slaughterer.

The eyes of the Testifier’s skull flashed and the ground beneath the Architect’s feet opened up. Grimnir managed to snatch her lantern with a thorn whip and pass it to Dame just before Nazir An-Azat, the Red Architect, was pulled down into the flaming pits of Baator by hundreds of devilish hands. The party then rushed to the aid of the Slaughterer and were joined by the Exalted Interrogator.

The female Inquisitor, Eizethrat Nexx was a huge, pale woman with a somber, defeated expression and undead fetuses crawling in and out of her mouth. Her husband and brother, Gorgulos Nexx was an equally enormous man with the skin around his ribcage rotted away and maggots the size of cats writhing within in him and chewing his skin. The Slaughterer held his own, his armor sprouting new spikes, blades, and flutes with every strike landed on him, but seemed unable to harm his assailants with his undead, life-draining powers.

Ash levitated Eizethrat into the air, pinioning her against the ceiling where she was repeatedly buffeted by Grimnir’s force blasts and the Blessed Afflictor’s telekinetic powers. Traithe summoned grease which sent Gorgulos sliding to the ground where Mel and the Slaughterer proceeded to pound on him. Swarms of maggots and undead fetuses crawled over the two of them, but seemed unable to harm either.

The Interrogator encouraged Grimnir to “get them talking” and, in response to Grimnir’s subsequent taunting, Eizethrat, still floating on the ceiling cried “We cannot be defeated.” This, of course, was obviously false and the mere words in the presence of the Interrogator caused her flesh to begin melting away.

In the end, Ash ignited the grease on the floor around Gorgulos, burning away what was left of his maggoty bulk, and Grimnir crushed Eizethrat against the ceiling by launching the lid of the sarcophagus at her.

The battle over, both the Interrogator and the Slaughterer touched the skull of the testifier and repeated the Blessed Afflictor’s oath not to harm the party directly, indirectly, or through inaction, and renewed their oaths of obedience.

With their new undead allies in tow, the party then headed to go dispose of the Parasite…

To be continued

The Amazons: Session 4

Battle Cry awoke with a gasp and a scream. Four of her sisters in arms leaned over her with worried looks on their faces. “What happened?” she croaked out through her still raw and bloodied throat.

“You were killed…” Had Enough said.

“…?” Battle Cry replied.

“Princess too,” Hot Flanks added. “The white crocodile thing did it. We had the potion for you, but Princess…” she broke down sobbing, unable to continue.

Don’t Fail picked up where she left off, “We were waiting for you to wake up before burying her. We thought you might want to do the honors of sending her on.”

Battle Cry tried to sit up, but only ended up back on her back, wracked with pain as she coughed up more blood. She could feel the regenerative powers of the potion working, so she willed herself to remain still until the fit had stopped. “No!” she finally said emphatically. “Everyone break out your purses, her time here is not done.”

“The Bishop?” Had Enough asked.

“Yes,” Battle Cry coughed again, but there was no blood this time. “Tyr is an ally, his priests cannot refuse a fervent request to see justice done.” She tried to sit up again, then whispered, “Help please…”

Worthy of Armor and Hot Flanks each put an hand under her arms and held her between them. “Good,” said Worthy. “We’ll pool out funds to get our friend raised, then go back to the keep and finish the job.”

“Yes,” said Don’t Fail. “Councilwoman Mondaviak passed us a letter from one of the citizens of Kryptgarten. He says they can make sure the back passage is open to aid us in taking the keep.”

“Fuck the keep,” Battle Cry croaked. “We have no time for lands or politics, this is matter of vengeance, and Hoar’s vengeance will not be delayed.” She coughed a few more times wincing, then continued. “Once Princess is back on her feet, I will ask Hoar where these criminals are hiding, and we will go kill them.”

“Hear, hear!” Hot Flanks and Had Enough both agreed.

“Alright,” Worthy of Armor said, “to the temple of Tyr’s Waiting then.”

Roughly four hours later, Princess woke up to find all of her friends leaning over her, along with a fat, bearded old man in a funny hat. She was whole, awake, and just as confused as Battle Cry had been. The party quickly filled her in on the nature of her recently dead condition and Battle Cry’s plan to track down Squire Grimnir. “Fuck yes!” she said, “The Handsome Prince is so going to kill that guy.”

She was less enthused to learn that the party had spent all but a small pittance of their accumulated wealth to pay to have her raised from the dead and to regrow Hot Flank’s lost hand. “Really? All of it?” This finally made her cry. “Can’t we at least claim the bounty on these guys heads then?”

“No!” Battle Cry said emphatically, “This is a matter of Hoar’s vengeance now. They killed one of ours, so we kill them all…” Battle Cry bowed to the Bishop, “I have need of a prayer room.” The Bishop assented and she stomped out. “I’m going to find them. Meet me in the ladies’ dormitory at dawn.”

After a long night of railing against unrighted wrongs, unsolved crimes, and unavenged evils, and pleading for Hoar’s intervention, Battle Cry arrived red-eyed at the Tyrran dormitory where the girls were staying after their ‘generous donation’ to the church. “Found them,” she said through a yawn. “Almost due north, in a cave on a snow-capped mountain peak, with a lake at the bottom of the cliff-face…”

“What the…!” Had Enough said.

“The Dragonspines.” Don’t Fail said. “Though this is a rough time of year to be mountain climbing…”

“Sounds like the perfect place for fugitives to be hiding. Remote, uninhabited…”

“Even in good weather it’d take a week to get there.” Hot Flanks groaned. “How did they move so fast. They must have left before the notice of their crimes was even put out.”

“So they might not know that they’re being hunted?” Princess remarked. “Perfect! The better to surprise them in their cave and stab them repeatedly.”

“We’ll need horses. For all of us. Plus supplies, pack animals, weather gear, climbing gear…” Don’t Fail started to look worried.

“Can I help you dears?” The thin, white-haired, old priestess in charge of the dormitories asked. “I couldn’t help but overhear your friend shouting in the middle of the night. Sounds like you’ve got quite the quest on your hands.”

Battle Cry nodded, “Indeed Sister…”

“Theymr.” The priestess nodded. “The Council writ against these criminals you speak of bears the Bishop’s own seal and calls for the heads of the traitors. Normally our Lord Grimjaws frowns on those seeking to take justice into their own hands, but your concern about seeing justice done is admirable.”

“How can you help?” Don’t Fail asked.

“Why, just give me a list of what you’ll be needing and I’ll send my sisters to fetch it.” Sister Theymr said. “Tyr’s will and that of your own gods seem to be right in line on this one.”

The ladies thanked Sister Theymr profusely. By mid-day, the priestess of Tyr had acquired all they needed—requisitioning mounts, pack animals, warm clothes, tents, provisions, and tools for surviving winter in the mountains.

They rode out at once.

Even with horses, or perhaps, especially with horses, the going was slow. They stayed as close to the river as their senses of smell would allow, fighting their way through the deep snow and the biting cold. As Worthy of Armor reminded them, “There is a reason wars are always put on hold in the winter…”

“At least they probably won’t be going anywhere,” Princess suggested.

Battle Cry, again, got the worst of it. Each night she sat before the fire, loudly decrying the evils of the Squire of Kryptgarten and praying for Hoar to guide the way, and during the day she road slumped in her saddle, barely able to keep her eyes open.

On their third day out from Phlan, a storm picked up from the north. The wind blew head-on into their faces, stinging their eyes and biting their cheeks with airborne ice crystals. Now and again, when the wind blew particularly hard, they thought they could hear the sound of an organ playing faintly in the distance. They turned away from the river and sought shelter under the boughs of the Quivering Forest that night.

Some time around midnight, Battle Cry’s howling rancor against her quarry was cut off by another howl. Hearing a second howl, closer, she shook awake the others just as a pack of large, white-furred wolves appeared, circling their campsite.

Battle Cry, apparently not thinking strait due to sleep deprivation, roared and leaped on the nearest wolf, wrapping her arms around its neck and gouging at its eyes with her bare hands. Similarly quick, but still groggy, Hot Flanks and Worthy sprang out of their bedrolls and swung, ineffectively, at the darting wolves.

Two of the wolves charged, snapping at the horses, each taking a great bite out of one horse’s flank. One of them was sent flying away by a powerful kick from Worthy’s of Armor’s horse, ‘Boyfriend’. The wounded horse bucked free of its tether and went fleeing off into the woods, the second wolf on its heels. The remaining horses panicked, straining against their tethers, but were unable to break free.

A third wolf lunged at Princess, but she managed to roll out of her bedroll and plant her sword, ‘Handsome Prince’, deep into the wolf’s side.

The wolf which Battle Cry was holding onto threw back its head and howled, unleashing a burst of icy wind and snow, swirling through the camp, freezing Princess, Battle Cry, and Don’t Fail solid under a coating of ice and snow. Had About rose shivering to one knee and laid her sword into the side of the ice- breathing wolf, dealing it a terrible blow.

The fifth, and final, wolf lunged at the frozen Don’t Fail, baring her to the ground and tearing at her hamstring with its teeth, leaving a messy, bloody, frost-rimed wound.

Enraged, Hot Flanks shouted “Down!” and leveled the end of her enchanted club at the center of the clearing and slightly up. “May you burn in the fires of Flandal’s forge!” she cried, and there was a huge blossom of flames in the air as she, Had Enough, and Worthy of Armor dropped to the ground.

The flames engulfed the wolves, consuming three of them where they stood, and leaving the fourth singed and whimpering. The horses, likewise, stood little chance against the blast of magical flame, and all of them, save Boyfriend and one pack mule were slain. The girls, forewarned and either on-the-ground or shielded by their encasement in magical ice, fared better than the animals, and they were left smoking, but all alive.

As the explosion dissipated, Worthy of Armor rolled to her feat, and, with a mighty cry, chopped off the head of the last wolf with one blow.

Had Enough turned on Hot Flanks, “What were you thinking?! The tents! The provisions?! The horses!! It’s the middle of winter, we’re all wounded, three days ride from the nearest town, and you torch all of our food AND our mounts?!”

“Calm down,” Worthy of Armor pleaded, “her aim was off, but her thinking was sound. One more blast of that icy breath and we would all be dead…” As she spoke Worthy rushed to their three companions, thawed now, but unconscious. She layed hands on each of them, staunching the bleeding and helping with the worst of the burns.

Hot Flanks grabbed her polearm and began turning over the tents, tossing the flaming canvas away from the bedrolls beneath them. “Yeah, shut up and help, Had Enough. Everything close to the ground should be fine if we can put the fires out before they spread too much…”

Working together, the three girls tossed the flaming remains of the tents onto their campfire and sorted out those goods that had not been significantly damaged.

Had Enough finally stopped, panting from their quick work, and looked around. “Okay, so its the middle of winter, three of us down, everyone injured. We have two horses, also injured, bedrolls, no shelter, and enough food for two days…”

“Okay. Yeah. We’re fucked.” Hot Flanks admitted.

“You’re on watch for the rest of the night,” Worthy of Armor said. “Just remember to point those fireballs away from camp if more wolves show up…”

“So what, do we head back to Phlan in the morning?” Hot Flanks asked.

“We’re too far to make it back with what we’ve got and with Battle Cry out we have no idea where we’re going. And with the horses gone we’re not really equipped to drag Princess, Battle Cry, and Don’t Fail back to town. I think we should look for defensible shelter nearby, hole up, and try to get the others back on their feet…”

Had Enough looked up from where she was still checking their stores. “I hope you guys like horse meat…”

To be continued

The Third Party: Session 13 (GMs notes)
In which I let things get weird...

14 Hammer, 10:15 am

Melastasya and Kevorkian stood staring around the underground, Nogian chapel, then decided to explore the rest of the compound. They asked Radar (via Grimnir) where the ‘Library’ was and he directed them to the northern/left-hand exit from the chapel.

They passed through the big bronze doors and, of course, through the first right-hand door they encountered. The room was small and filled with petrified wooden cots and footlockers. Kevorkian found an ugly wooden mask on one of the beds, and promptly put it on. Mel grabbed a pick-axe and smashed open the lockers to find nothing of interest—whatever may have been in them had long since decomposed.

Across the hall they encountered another door, this one locked and covered by a sheen of melting ice. Mel opened the lock with little trouble and pushed through into a small antechamber with three more rooms leading off of it. The first was a small lavatory, and, as long-abandoned pre-germ-theory toilets in the subterranean headquarters of ancient murder cults go, it was alright. She spent an inordinate amount of time down in the cesspit, hacking away at the petrified feces. Her tenacity did, eventually, pay off however, as several feet down she encountered a piece of petrified organic waste so old that it had changed into a turd-shaped diamond.

The next room off the antechamber was a bedchamber, filled with petrified, though once nice, furnishings. The two of them searched the room thoroughly. Under the stone pillow, Kevorkian found a lovely gem-encrusted satin glove, which he also put on. Behind a wall panel over the bed, Melastasya found several drawers filled with thousands of small glass spheres, very similar to the enigmatic bauble found in Yarash’s maze (complete with the strong auras of magic and evil), each containing a small model of the mountain peak, along with the graveyard and old petrified shrine.

Kevorkian, ever curious, grabbed one of the spheres and began banging it against the wall. After three tries, the thing smashed, then promptly vanished. Mel seemed to have no memory of him smashing the sphere, but Kevorkian simply chalked that up to her inferior intellect [which was always the case, he was certain].

He explained how the sphere vanished, and Mel, also curious picked up a sphere and examined it closely. Inside she could see a group of tiny figures making their way up the mountain, then watched as one plummeted off a cliff. She, of course, smashed the thing. As before, the pieces vanished, and Kevorkian seemed to have no memory of the act. He did, however, suddenly remember the horrible fate the Grimnir had suffered, and he and Mel spent some time weeping over the loss of their friend who had fallen to his death.

Kevorkian and the young gypsy girl shrugged and began shoveling the remaining spheres into bags to take with them—figuring that if nothing else they might be useful as marbles. Kevorkian had a strange sensation that he had been talking to an old woman just a moment before, but neither he nor Melastasya had any idea who that might have been.

14 Hammer, 11:00 am

Once all the spheres they could carry were collected, they went into the last room off the antechamber to find, an actual Library! The petrified wooden shelves had long-since collapsed, leaving a heaping pile of dust and ancient, crumbling books. Feeling that they needed more time to study, they rushed back to the water clock. Melastasya set the clock forward twelve hours, and vanished. Kevorkian set the clock back twelve hours, and froze time.

15 Hammer, 11:00 pm

Three iterations of clock manipulation later (which is 3 seconds for Melastasya, 3 days for Kevorkian, and 36 hours of real time), Kevorkian, after a brief instance of being blinded, AGAIN, by the first page he looked at, and the rest of the party had managed to glean everything they thought they could from the books. Though most of the items were damaged by time, inexplicably abstruse, or recorded cult activities in code (in addition to all being written in Noga), eleven relatively intact and useful volumes were recovered.

  1. A scroll containing a chant which, when read aloud, would force lycanthropic creatures to remain at a distance of at least 10 feet from the reader. The scroll can be used (and re-used) by anyone able to read and speak Noga, and the effect lasts for as long as the chant is maintained.
  2. A book presenting a theory about how water can be transformed into liquid time, and used to trap souls. It is too vague and theoretical to be of practical use, but is clearly related to the workings of the time-stopping water clock, the spheres of liquified souls, and much of the other strange magics/tech found in the ruins.
  3. “Resonance Of The Bound Spheres”. A small pamphlet containing a Ritual (class-agnostic, spell level agnostic) usable by any spellcaster. The ritual allows the caster to commune with other alternate realities, as per the Contact Other Planes spell, asking up to three questions, but require as a medium a special sphere containing an experimental portion of the alternate reality to be contacted.
  4. A piece of sheet music titled “The Empyreal Hymn” (a slow march with a lot of base)
  5. A piece of sheet music titled “Devour Me” (and upbeat pop song with such catchy lyrics as “Devour me/drown me in your arms/abyssal wyrmwell/fathomless…”).
  6. The “Grimoire of Hybrid Flesh”, which Kevorkian took considerable time reading and thought might be a nice gift for Yarash. It describes methods for fabricating functioning prosthetics from the remains of humanoid limbs.
  7. A Cult record referring to rebuilding the western wall of the kitchen and to the tunnel beyond the High Altar beyond the fountains.
  8. A single page from a crumbled larger tome, containing the ritual names of 10 cultists buried in “The Crypt of the Warriors” and 1 buried in “The Place of Honored Sacrifice”. Melastasya wrote to Sorrassar to confirm that the names were “true and useful”.
  9. A second page from the same book, detailing the names and titles of notables entombed in “The Tombs of the Greater Repugnancies”. Including The Twin Inquisitors, Eizethrat Nexx and Gorgulos Nexx, Vorgen Pox the Slaughterer, Nazir An-Azat the Red Architect, Exalted Interrogator Aetheldredd Aleph, Aervik Narn the Testifier, and The Blessed Afflictor, Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus. It also refers to a rivalry between The Slaughterer, Vorgen Pox and the Twin Inquisitors.
  10. A mostly incomprehensible cult record with a reference to a curse upon those who fail to leave an offering in the coin fountains and those who lie to Aetheldredd Aleph, the Exalted Interrogator.
  11. A mostly incomprehensible book of prophecy or verse. The opening line is "I commandeth the nine million, I commandeth the seventy blasphemies, I speak through the worms in the heart of the Grey-Black Star”. It contains references to “The God Entombed Beneath The Mountain” and “The Symbiote God”, and explains that the souls of the dead are held in the body of the Symbiote God.
  12. map.jpgA map…

After finishing his three-day reading binge, Kevorkian went back to the clock to retrieve Melastasya. On their way back to the others, they found that the ice in the complex was melting. Most noticeably, the ice skulls hanging from the ceiling in the chapel had completely melted away. Intrigued by the names they had collected, they agreed to seek out the “Tomb of the Warriors”, but first decided to try the ritual for communicating with the enigmatic spheres first.

Grieving for Grimnir’s tragic fall and having surmised something of the nature of the spheres, their first questions were simple, boiling down to “Is anyone in our party dead?” As soon as they came upon one where the answer was “no”, Melastasya smashed the new sphere. Again the pieces vanished and Grimnir berated Mel for having broken yet another priceless magical and unspeakably evil treasure. Mel shrugged his shoulders and patted Melvin, Kevorkian’s beloved pet duck, on the head.

Radar informed them that the complex was still free of other beings, both living and undead, so Kevorkian and the cross-dressing gypsy boy left the rest of the party to continue their research in the library and headed for the Crypts, taking old-man Radar along with them to translate. They went back through the chapel, to a door with a basin full of human teeth mounted on the front and no apparent way to open it. Mel ran back to the area with the clock and pulled a few teeth from the skulls in there. When he returned to the chapel, he nonchalantly dumped the teeth in the basin, causing the door to open, and palmed a gold locket from the basin as he did so.

Beyond the offering door, they found a corridor with a number of large, bronze vault doors, but stopped first by a familiar-looking vivisection/embalming room, complete with four stone slabs stained with ancient blood, bandages, surgical tools, and oddly-shaped bronze instruments as well as a podium with a book on it. The book was titled “The Grimoire of New Flesh”, and detailed a process for the creation of "Unthings"—a form of semi-sentient, lesser flesh golem—taking about 2 weeks, a strong electrical charge, and at least 10 fresh corpses at least as large as a cat.

They then pressed on into the Crypts, turning the great bronze vault wheels to open the, otherwise unlocked, doors. First to the crypt of the priests, then the warriors, and on to the commoners. They were disappointed to find that the names seemed to have no power to animate the bodies in the crypt of the warriors, but were duly impressed by the thousands upon thousands of bodies mummified, petrified and stacked like cordwood in the giant split-level tombs. They poked around a bit, finding a number of valuable trinkets as well as two musical scores—the “Dismissal Fugue” from the crypt of the priests and “The Core Remains” in the crypt of the commoners.

eyes.JPGThrough the final vault door at the end of the hall, they found a giant stone eye, made up of millions of ever-smaller eyes, carved into the wall opposite the door. They were also immediately assaulted by blaringly loud, discordant singing coming from an open door at the end of the next hallway. They peaked at the far door to see a pale, aged, completely bald human head hanging off the front of the bloated mass like the knot in a dirty white balloon flanked by a pair of thin, feeble shoulders terminating in equally frail arms. A galaxy of glass-like spheres were clearly visible, interspersed throughout the creature’s vast, organless body.

Since the thing seemed to not be moving from the room, the decided to poke around the hallway before investigating the singer. Mel noticed a small hole, filled with water and a few coins, at the base of the eye carving and tossed a coin in. He immediately felt much healthier, so Kevorkian did likewise, only to find himself less wise.

The headed through the right-hand passage from the corridor, naturally, and found another large vault-door, flanked by a pair of fountains. The two fountains featured statues of children vomiting black unholy water into the fountain’s basins and were marked with a pattern of copper coins making the Noga rune for “Gift”. Mel tossed a coin into each fountain and the great vault-doors opened into the Crypt of the Children. Unlike the other crypts, here thousands of wrapped and petrified children, ranging infants and toddlers to pre-teens, were mounted free-standing on their own individual plinths staring mutely at the door, like some kind of grotesque museum. They explored a bit, descending to find the second level of the crypt much like above, and left Melvin to paddle happily around in the water collecting on the floor from the melting ice.

They then headed across the hall from the fountains into a small prayer room filled with pedestals, petrified kneeling pillows, and tablets, stained dark with old blood. The tablets contained the usual fatuous and esoteric blasphemies (“Annihilate, traduce, devour”, “I am healed and hollowed", "I am the house of insurrection”, etc.). An ink pot and a pile of rusting needles sat on a podium with a bronze plaque affixed to it, reading “My Gift Is Defiance, And My Gift Is Its Mark” in Noga. Mel read the plaque aloud and he and Kevorkian were both immediately compelled to tattoo the Noga sigil for “Death” on the back of their inhuman hands using the needles.

Once done getting their matching tattoos, they headed back out and went to check out the singer. Kevorkian stepped closer to examine the creature and got bitch-slapped by a disturbingly stretchy arm for his trouble. The sphere-filled gelatinous form filled the entire room, including a deep shaft cut into the floor and ceiling. The actual room could be seen by looking through the creature as through clear marbles in a fishbowl. The 30 foot ceilings arched above a giant carved skeleton on the west wall covering an intricately carved waist-high altar against which the bloated body pressed two golden goblets, and a large, ornate book.

16 Hammer

Not wanting to get hit again, they backtracked out, leaving the vault doors open so they could continue to listen. As they retreated, Kevorkian suggested that maybe playing something on the organ might placate the singing whatever-it-was. Mel suggested that they needed a back up plan and searched through the glass spheres, looking for one in which things were obviously going badly.

He settled on one in which the mountain had been reduced to a pile of rubble and the party was clearly seen fleeing down it. Using the Resonance of the Bound Spheres, he asked first “Are we all dead”, to which the answer was simply, “No”. Then, “Is anyone going to leave here alive”, “Yes”. And lastly, “Why isn’t the mountain a mountain”, to which the reply was “We woke it up”.

Satisfied, Mel pocketed that sphere away from the others, sat down, and rocked out ‘Devour Me’, resulting in another tremor and louder singing from down the corridor. Deciding that must be the wrong one, he followed up with the ‘Dismissal Fugue’. This was accompanied by an even stronger tremor, and, as the last note faded out, everything went black and he and Kevorkian found themselves suddenly elsewhere.

By elsewhere, they were, specifically, in a small room, sealed by a large bronze door covered with hundreds of tiny, barbed bronze hooks, over which a collection of withered faces were stretched. In the center of the room was a plain, unadorned sarcophagus, which Mel quickly popped open with his crowbar. Lying inside was a skeleton, a thing membrane of yellowed skin pulled tight across the bones, and a gold chain around its neck. It, naturally, sat up and asked “What oath do you take?”

Mel and Kevorkian found themselves unable to move anything save their mouths. Mel quickly blurted out “I will destroy this place and all that have brought it into being!” and found himself able to move again. Kevorkian then pronounced “I will enhance my race through trial, error, and self-sacrifice.” Once free, Kevorkian backed towards the door while Mel asked the creature if it was ‘The Exalted Interrogator’ and was corrected and informed that he was “Aervik Narn the Testifier”.

Suddenly they found themselves again paralyzed and faced with the question, “What oath do you take?” Kevorkian swore “To complete the work that I have been tasked to do,” then threw open the door and rushed into the hall. Mel said, “I will eat ten hardboiled eggs in one setting”, then followed. Just before Mel slammed the door behind him, the thing in the sarcophagus warned him, “Know that your oaths are bound by infernal law. If left unfulfilled, in that moment you will be drawn into hell and tortured for 1001 years.”

Mel shuddered and looked down the corridor they had rushed into. The right-hand wall sported several doors, each unique. The first covered with hundreds of sharpened bone spikes. The second was not only barred but painted shut—red paint covering the door and its frame—and bore a Noga inscription across the lintel reading “I will create a slaughterpen above the valley, I will create a place of injury and error.” The third had fifty skeletal fists nailed to it, and the next was painted with a flaking mural in which a robed woman on a pedestal looks on as naked slaves disembowel themselves.

Mel decided that the one painted shut was the least intimidating and proceeded to chip the paint away, then pop the lock. Inside Mel and Kevorkian found a bright bronze lamp hanging above a sarcophagus shaped like the ancient city below—complete with a scale model of the stairway to heaven. Within was a lean, dessicated, and petrified skeleton, draped in blood-coloured robes and bedecked with gold jewelry. The skeleton stretched and sat up, greeted the two of them in a friendly manner, and asked them to “tell me of your exploits.”

Mel and Kevorkian proceeded to expound upon their past adventures, with the skeleton occasionally interrupting them and adding details that they had left out. The skeleton eventually introduced itself as ‘The Red Architect’ and seemed amused by Mel, bored with Kevorkian, and oddly omniscient (or close enough to such).

Then, of course, Kevorkian noticed that their three shadows, stark and sharp in the light of the bronze lamp, were moving on their own…

to be continued…

Being a collection of letters which have appeared suddenly in the possession of various creatures...

In Traithe’s pocket:

We have entered the Nogian city and have discovered an ancient people-sacrificing civilization entering into its inevitable ghoulish nadir. They’ve been killing millions of people here for centuries when it was populated, but now they just have a ghost crew (11 of 16 left) of silt-ghouls things that continue to siphon life off wandering travelers and deliver the goods to their god. Nonmagical attack do not harm them. We are currently investigating the records they left behind, at the petrified wood lodge at the top of the other spire. Their god has a parasite that has been eating the life energies and may have made the pool. I wound a magical clock back some hours and time seemed to stop except for me and those involved in the sacrifice pact, apparently. There are a group of steppe folk and gnolls down in the valley engaged with spike shooting flying lions, and I tried to kill the the lions with sling stones, but I’m not sure how that went. Do join us, this clock is awesome.

Sorry about the pants,
— Mel

In Traithe’s hand:

There’s a note in your pocket.

In Eraka’s hand in Trade Pidgin:

Hope I was able to help with those lion things. There are silt-ghoul things in the underground places here that are only harmed by magical means.

&:& [sic: weird Aboleth symbol].

[Postscript in Gurri:]
Dacă puteți citi acest nume meu este Melastasya și aș vrea să fie prietenul tău.

[Translation] «If you can read this my name is Melastasya and I would like to be your friend.»

In Eraka’s pocket:


Open letter to Kryptgarten (30 copies printed in Phlan):

!. Kryptgarten is an estate of conviviality and peace.
@. Any that wish to work the soil or tend the bees are welcome to Kryptgarten.
#. They that attempt to despoil the land or hinder the workers there will be “reconciled to Pokey” [sic: made into soap].
$. Test the veracity of all proclamations.

Closed letter to the Amazons:

Let us know if we can help,

— Former people in charge of Kryptgarten.

The Third Party: Session 12 (GMs notes)

13 Hammer

The_Peak.JPGThe party stood on the mountain’s peak, shivering in the cold, winter air and staring down at the defile on the north side, wherein had been carved an ancient Nogian city. The dominant feature was a great spiral staircase that once reached to the heavens, now just a vast ruin stretching across the mountain ridge. Huge, ragged chunks of dull gray masonry lay strewn across the landscape for hundreds of yards in either direction, like the building blocks of some enormous and forgetful child, the largest sections easily ten yards or more across. The building were nothing but rubble, save for two structures near the center of the city that looked like they might have intact roofs. Nearby to the two buildings were seven large, earthen mounds. Silhouetted against the darkening sky to the north and east was was a second, even taller peak.

Ash, finally tired of his new form, doused himself in powder of reversal and, after several excruciating minutes of transformation, resumed his familiar, elven shape. As he and Grimnir discussed long-term goals and what to do about their new ‘allies’—aboleths, giants, and crazed wizards—Melastasya tied off a rope and rappelled down towards the city. Halfway down she noticed an old trail, winding its way up the cliff to the peak and pointed it out to the others, who took the less dramatic route down.

Mel made a bee-line for the center of the ruins and the more-or-less intact buildings she had seen from above, anxious to seek shelter from cold before the sun had completely hidden its face. The building they passed seemed to be of predominantly wooden construction and impossibly old, the wood having completely petrified. The last rays of the sun were fading behind the mountains when they reached the first of the intact buildings. An ancient stable by the look of it.

A quick search revealed nothing immediately dangerous, but did find a strange bevel-edged stone covering a hole in the ground in one of the stalls. Ash, still in the prime of his youthful strength compared to Mel, Grimnir, or Ginger, pried the thing open and sent ‘Zorch’, a brightly-glowing, electrified imp-like creature whom he had freed from its confinement in his wand of lightning, down the pit to investigate. The living lightning spouted some quick commentary about a tunnel at the bottom of the shaft before his speech was quickly cut off.

Mel dropped down the narrow shaft behind the mephit, finding nothing but a trace of ash smeared on the damp, bare-earthen walls of the tunnel. A discharge from her ring of shocking grasp was sufficient to revive the creature, however. As the light brightened from the reconstituting lightning mephit, Mel noticed a grim, gray, silent humanoid figure standing immediately behind where the mephit was manifesting. Ash’s sword erupted with black flames, and he and the mephit quickly gunned down the poor undead.

Mel did a quick examination, finding that the undead beast, like buildings above, had almost completely calcified—to the extent that even its stony eyelids were permanently frozen shut. Unperturbed by the presence of the undead, the party all climbed down and struck out to the west. After a shot jaunt up the twisting, curving tunnels, Ash heard the sounds of footsteps above. They backtracked and closed the stone hatch to the tunnels to make sure they were not followed, then pressed on.

They wound their way through the dark, narrow confines of the tunnels for close to an hour, mapping the many branches and intersections as best they could and occasionally hearing more activity from above. After passing several more vertical shafts similar to the one they came down, they finally came to a five-way intersection centered on another such shaft. Deciding that this must be some sort of hub for the city’s ‘sewers’ (as Grimnir seemed convinced they were in) they decided that Ash and Zorch should climb up and investigate the source of the sounds they continued to hear above them.

As soon as the brilliantly glowing mephit stuck its head aboveground, a squadron of gnolls who had been searching the ruins charged the hole Ash had opened, with nine of the creatures baring down on them, and one breaking off and running the other way (whether for reinforcements or because gnolls are notoriously unreliable is hard to say). Ash threw off the lid and dropped down the shaft. The party arrayed themselves in the many side-passages and waited.

When the gnolls poked their heads, and their spears, over the lip of the pit, Grimnir let loose with an eldritch blast, catching one of the creatures under its ample chin. The gnoll was hurled up into the air, only to land spread-eagled over the mouth of the pit. Ash lit the prone gnoll up with a firebolt and Melastasya planted a crossbow bolt in the it’s groin. When the gnoll curled up against the pain, one of its companions stomped on it, lodging it in the top of the pit, and another dropped the stone back in place, apparently uninterested in tangling with whatever was in the pit further.

Grimnir pulled the poor, stuck gnoll down and put it out of its misery. At the same time, another of the undead creatures had snuck up on Ash and tore into his back with its rock-hard claws. Grimnir disintegrated the thing with a pair of eldritch blasts and they all headed down the right-most passage.

After a ways, the passage opened up into a large chamber with three exits, in which were waiting a half-dozen more of the undead. Ginger strode nonchalantly out into the middle of the chamber, provoking the things to rush her en-masse, only to blow them back with a well-timed thunderwave. Then, protected by a protection from evil from Grimnir and armed with her shillelagh, she and Ash proceeded to beat on them soundly. Grimnir held back in the passage, keeping the undead from massing again with his repelling blasts, while Mel, unable to harm them with her fists or crossbow bolts, distracted them with her generally insane antics (up to and including dumping buckets of water on their heads).

Even with their magical, the undead landed a few lucky hits, draining Ginger’s life energy. Then finally fled when two of their were killed, dispersing into the many side passages. Two escaped, but one was made particularly easy to follow thanks to Zorch clinging to its back and glowing brightly. They ran down the mephit-burdened creature, as well as one of its companions. After a prolonged chase, the companion was plastered on the walls by repeated eldritch blasts and the one was curled up on the floor of the passage, cornered between a flaming sword and a shillelagh, and trying desperately to shake off the electrified imp clinging to its arm.

When the undead creature began moaning something almost intelligible, Ash used a comprehend languages to learn that it was signalling its surrender in the ancient language of Nog. Unable to respond in a traditional fashion, Grimnir used his staff of enslavement to dominate the creature and speak directly to its mind.

The creature, dubbed ‘Radar’, explained that it and its companions, fifteen in all, were the last remnants of the Noga. They were warriors, mystics, and leaders, slain and buried in honor in the heart of the city (called “Deckon Thar”) and that when they awoke as undead, their culture was many thousands of years gone. The undead Noga served their king, Vinjarek, collecting the souls of would-be looters or explorers as tribute for their king, who in turn gave them as tribute to ‘The Parasite’. Radar further explained that their king, as a great Mystic feared nothing from magic, being vulnerable only to sunlight and silver.

When questioned about ‘The Parasite’ and silver treasures, Radar explained that all items of silver were thrown into a bottomless pit as tribute to ‘The Mountain’, all else he said was collected for Vinjarek. The Parasite, he said, was an outgrowth of ‘The Mountain’, feeding on the souls of the dead that were once also tribute to The Mountain (The word used for the Mountain was “Duvan’ku” in the Noga tongue). Though Radar was rather circumspect, it became clear that he believed Duvan’ku was some ancient god buried beneath the mountain.

When questioned as to whether any books or writing had been preserved, Radar explained that they preserved their records in a ‘shrine’ on the second peak. Radar then informed them that sixteen living, sentient creatures had assembled on the surface, almost directly above them and that the other undead had massed in King Vinjarek’s throne room—revealing that, for all that his eyelids were petrified closed, these undead were apparently able to sense the presence of any living creatures, regardless of barriers, at great distance, as well as communicate telepathically with their own kind, and earning his name.

Radar lead the party up out of the tunnels through a shaft that led up into one of the burial mounds, and then another up to the top of the mound. From this vantage, they were able to see that the full moon had risen, illuminating a brilliantly glowing staircase of silvery light, reaching up to the clouds, superimposed over the foundations of the collapsed tower. Radar informed them that this stairway “lead to heaven” (with some admonishment from Grimnir that he should mind his language). Ash clarified that this was one of the mythical “Moon Steps”, a place where the Infinite Staircase which linked all plains of existence extended into the material realm.

Manticore.JPGStanding below them, staring up at the steps, but also scanning the skies anxiously with bows drawn, were nine gnolls and seven humans dressed in the garb of the Eraka horse nomads. The party stayed low, watching the gnolls and barbarians for some time, then saw a trio of manticores sweep over the northern ridgeline and attack the group. The gnolls and barbarians dove for cover amidst the ruins, and returned arrows for tail spikes.

While the gnolls, nomads, and manticores were all clearly distracted, the party followed Radar through the city and up the slope of the north-eastern peak. The wind picked up as they went higher, blowing flurries of snow and ice into their faces. Near the top of the peak they found a graveyard, with thousands of ice-crusted bronze markers, eerily reflecting the moonlight.

Radar informed them that ‘the library’ (as the party insisted on calling it) was underground, but that they would find the main log in the shrine at the top of the slope. They followed Radar to the shrine, a small building of petrified wood. The roof sagged, as if it were already weighed down with snow and dead centuries long before the petrification occurred, and the exterior walls were scrawled with neurotically minute calligraphic writing in the ancient language of Nog.

Griminir and Ash again used comprehend languages to read the walls (at least those sections not eroded away or buried in snow), making out such obtuse sayings as “_Look Upon The Seven Faces of Immensity Look Upon The Breaker of All Things_” and “_This Is The Fifth Octacle, This Is The Greater Servitude_”. Bands of long-cancelled protective runes circled the building, indicating it was once defended like a fortress. As well as runes referencing a “bound and conquered god”. There were names that come up a lot: “The Twin Inquisitors Eizethrat Nexx and Gorgulos Nexx”, “Vorgen Pox the Slaughterer”, “Nazir An-Azat the Red Architect”, “Exalted Interrogator Aetheldredd Aleph”, and “Praetor-Pontifex Cyris Carnithrax Maximus”—all claimed to be “Resting in splendor”, “Gracing this place with death and that which they liberated from life” and other euphemisms for “buried here with a lot of stuff” in “crypts beyond the black tunnel”. There was also what appeared to be an (incomplete) formula for trapping and channeling the energies of tortured and obedient souls in some kind of liquid, which Grimnir hastily copied into his book of shadows.

The petrified and iced-over front door collapsed inward at a touch from Melastasya, revealing a single, large room, containing by a large, petrified desk, three ancient-looking bronze chairs (all arranged to face directly at the door), the taxidermied and petrified head of some kind of elk, and a tall mirror. The desk was dominated by a single, massive book, the size of a man’s torso, bound in bronze and covered with what Ash immedaitely recognized as elven skin.

Head.JPGGrimnir and Ash quickly moved to the book, taking advantage of their lingering enchantments to read it. The cover read “That Which Was Given” in Noga, and it contained what appeared to be a record of nine millenia worth of sacrifices, with dates written in sixty-seven different calendars. The handwriting and ink varied from page to page, and it was clear that the book had not been in continuous use, with time gaps ranging from a few years to over a thousand. Despite this, there were more than six million names entered in the log, with the most recent dating to the earliest days of Netheril, and some references to corresponding events (a historian’s wet dream).

Grimnir and Ash speculated that, given the ritual for trapping tortured souls in liquid inscribed on the outer walls, so many millions of dead might be the true source of the Pool of Radiance, especially given its supposed source being in a cavern just below them.

As they poured over the book, Ginger and Melastasya examined the mirror and were surprised to find that Mel and Ash were somehow not reflected in its surface. The glass was faintly bubbled and as cold as ice, and Noga heiroglyphs were visible in the scrollwork around the glass. Grimnir was able to translate the runes around the mirror as “Every Brother” “Every Sister” and “Unseen”.

Ash made his way over to the head hanging on the wall. He noticed that the eyes were clearly separate, looking like small glass orbs filled with some yellow liquid. Gingerly he pried the eyes loose with his knife, but shattered one, spilling the yellow, syrupy fluid on the ground which began flowing towards the door. The party chased the stuff, blasted at it, and threw things, but it managed to make it over the threshold and sink into the snow—or, more specifically, into a corpse that lay buried in the snow right outside the shrine.

The corpse began to making choked moaning sounds. Grimnir asked Radar about the body and was informed that the body was previously one of the Noga, by the name of Norquorve, and that he was still “more dead than undead”, lacking the other half of his soul. Just then Melastasya found a locked trap door in the floor, and Norquorve was left to his moaning.

Beneath the trap door was a fifty-foot shaft with rungs in the walls, leading down into the mountain. After being reassured by Radar that this was not the pit of Duvan’ku, Mel climbed down, followed by the others. At the bottom they found a pair of large, double doors made of solid ice and a table with an elaborate water-clock on it which used no reckoning they were familiar with. They watched in fascination as the clock struck the time, releasing a pair of taxidermied ravens—which seemed to enrage Grimnir.

Ash stepped forward and examined the birds, finding that their chests had been replaced with clear ice and filled with what looked like marbles. Mel slashed the birds open and carefully extracted the marbles, which, like the eyes of the head above, were small spheres of ice filled with liquefied souls, and stowed them.

Grimnir began messing with the clock, trying to set the time forward, and vanished. Mel jumped forward and tried to set it back, only to see everyone around her, except Radar, freeze in place. After waiting a rather long time, Mel found that everyone was still frozen, so she climbed back up the shaft, trekked down the mountain past unmoving snowflakes, and into the city where the nomads and the manticores were still locked in combat, the latter hanging unmoving in the air. Enjoying her prolonged time-stop, Mel stashed scribbled some notes and shoved them into the Eraka’s pockets, and pelted the frozen manticores with stones until they were black and blue.

Five hours, for her, after the freeze began, Mel climbed back down the shaft in the shrine to find her friends just beginning to move again. Mel explained what had happened to Ash and Ginger, and, with still no sign of Grimnir, sat down to rest. Ash had a good night’s sleep, but Mel and Ginger were plagued by nightmares. Nearly ten hours later, Grimnir reappeared standing directly in front of the clock, accompanied by Mel’s almost immediate shout of “Don’t touch it again!”

14 Hammer

faces.JPGReunited, they pushed open the tall ice doors into a long hallway. Every surface was carved with small twisted faces with tormented expressions and coated with a thin layer of ice which made the faces appear to writhe and move in the light. As they stepped inside, the faces began screaming in Noga. Radar translated, “You are a gift to Nothing!” The hallway terminated at a strange door, shaped like the head of a massive gargoyle, with a bronze key shoved into the space between its nostrils.

Mel turned the key and the jaws opened, allowing them into a room with a massive pair of bronze doors, and ten small tables, each baring a single skeletal left hand inscribed with the Noga words for “transcribe” and “replace”. Grimnir collected the strange hands and they pushed their way past the doors into what Radar said was a chapel.

14 Hammer, 10:00 am

The room was filled with three-foot plinths carved of ice and the sound of rattling chains could be heard further on in the darkness. The vaulted ceiling reached a height of thirty-feet, and around the walls were murals, an altar, and an organ, each behind a thin wall of ice, and twelve jawless, toothless skulls made of ice hanging in the center of the room from hooks on chains, dripping.

A wall mural depicted a man in a crown and cape from behind, with many demons bowing before him: the Bloated Goat, The Empress of All Widows, The Primordial Demogorgon, the Ringwolf, and many more. Another wall murals depicted unimaginable violations—one showed hundreds of women hanged from a single spreading tree, another showed hundreds of men impaled on leaning pikes. It bore an inscription in the Noga tongue reading “Name them yet build to them no monument”. Another mural depicted a man stabbed with nine swords being dropped into an hourglass—an inscription read “He is made holy, an eater of souls”.

Melastasya walked towards the organ, whose keys were made of fingerbones, punched her way through the ice-wall to reach it, and sat down and began playing Tocata and Fugue in D Minor. There was a deep tremor in the earth as she played and one of the skulls fell from its hook, shattering and spraying the party with a strange, icy-cold liquid which instantly aged Melastasya another 20 years. Grimnir only barely saved himself from the same fate by employing the all consuming shield (sacrificing much of his intellect to do so). The tremor also caused a panel of the organ to pop loose, revealing a small alcove containing an onyx bowl and a sapphire locket inscribed with the Noga heiroglyph for “death”.

14 Hammer, 10:10 am

Grimnir then shoved Melastasya aside and began playing The Entertainer, accompanied by another tremor and causing the remaining walls of ice to shatter and collapse, as well as the ice marbles the Mel was carrying. The souls released from the marbles quickly lodged themselves in Melastasya, who briefly referred to herself as Magen Eisenthrast before the possession was suppressed by another casting of protection from evil by Grimnir.

14 Hammer, 10:15 am
To be continued…

The Third Party: Session 11 (GMs notes)

11 Hammer

Ginger, Kevorkian, and the Drow finally made their way down the stairs to the third level. The party, reunited, stood staring around at the main piping room. Then Traithe led the way towards the right-hand of the three doors standing on the other side of the room. Finding it neither locked, nor trapped, they barged right in, where they found a stack of barrels, a large vat connected to an inlet coming from the pipe outside and with an outlet pumping the sludge up into a room above. Three lizardmen were chained to the walls—two systematically dumping the contents of the barrels into the vat, and the third working a large bellows-pump to mix the barrel-contents with the black sludge and send it top-side.

Grimnir tried, again, to address the creatures in Draconic. One, at least, seemed to speak the language. They freed the three prisoners and offered them large amounts of fish, and the old-man’s corpse, to eat. The draconic-speaker, ‘Experiment 321’, agreed to accompany the party in exploring the rest of the complex. The other two headed for the exit, but not before one addressed the party in halting Tharian:

scratching.JPG“Thankyou for freeing us. Yarasss has Been experimenting on our people, changing them in horrible ways. ’Every night we carry off another with his chest Burst open or his head mangled, Yarasss say he make us like Sa-Hag-An. He always say that he make us stronger, better hunters. ’But all he make us is dead. We were not allowed to speak when Yarasss was around but these marks were passed down to us and remind us of home. They represent the friendword used between our different tribes. If you meet us on the outside, this word may help you.”

The party let the two lizards leave and moved on to the next door. This one was protected by a complex lock with a constantly changing series of ten symbols on it, each morphing to a different shape after a few seconds, clearly connected to a complex magical trap of some kind. Mel, Traithe, Ash, and #321 put their heads together trying to disengage the FLUX-lock. At first it seemed like some combination of two of the symbols would work, then Mel, in typical Mel fashion, suggested that Ash should just hit all ten of the symbols at the same time—which, oddly, worked. Behind the door was a small, empty room. A little experimentation revealed that both the left-hand and right-hand walls were teleporters.

Deciding to leave the teleporters alone, the went to the last door and found a small appartment. An old, worn bed, that might have been comfortable at one point, dominated the room, along with a wash-stand filled with blackened water, a wardrobe hung with numerous equally threadbare robes, and a large desk piled with papers. Mel, Ash, and Traithe sifted through the many documents. Amidst various incomprehensible alchemical formulae, they found a few interesting tidbits:

A quick note on an often used piece of paper.
‘I must find some hardy allies in case this monster from Phlan sends his troops to attack my island. I need a small, intelligent party who can move through the civilized areas without notice, but who have the skill to traverse the uncivilized areas and the wilderness. I must watch the next groups to come to the lake and see if any would make, proper allies.’

An impressive announcement.
BOUNTY of 10,000 GOLD!
I will pay 10,000 gold pieces for a live sahuagin! I will pay 1,000 gold pieces for a recently dead sahuagin in good condition. I need a specimen of this man-like salt water aquatic creature for my studies. Bring your specimen to the shore of Lake Kuto and build afire as a signal. Your specimen will be examined. If it is truly a sahuagin you could end up with 10,000 gold pieces. But beware, I will know any forgeries, and I will punish any attempt at deception.
So, capture a live sahuagin, bring him to Lake Kuto, and walk away a rich man!’
yarash the Sorcerer

An official looking notice
‘The time has come for you to add your power to the growing legions of my followers. Come, and supplicate yourself to me and I will reward you as an important officer in my magical forces, you will serve as the advisor to the cohort of soldiers to be based at Sorcerer’s Island. Resist and you shall be crushed before, my almighty power. I expect your positive reply within the week.’
“The Boss”

And the unsent reply.
To: The Boss
Valjevo Castle, Phlan
I categorically reject your demand that I submit my island and my powers to your control. I am a free man and I will remain free. No petty tyrant can order about a true mage. If you or your troops make any move toward Sorcerer’s Island I shall send an army of my unstoppable aquatic creations down the Barren River and sink your precious castle. Until now you have been beneath my notice. If you value your empire, let us keep it that way.
Yarash, the Sorcerer

A preserved parchment covered with gigantic script:
’I am writing to you to describe my further inquiries into the legend of the Pool of Radiance. It seems the pool has moved several times. Long ago, our mutual friend Aumry actually moved the pool into his abode for a period of time to study it. however, the pool seems to return to its original location after every move. I am now watching the dry hole that is the pools natural location.
When it returns I will be ready. I truly believe that the Pool of Radiance is the key to the wisdom that we seek.
Yours in wisdom,


An unsent note written on sturdy parchment and a rough map.
‘An active dragon has made its home in the Dragonspine Mountains to the northwest. Keep search parties away from the area so as not to catch the dragon’s attention.’

Beneath all the papers they also found Yarash’s Spellbook, which both Ash and Grimnir seemed quite happy to abscond with, and an official proclamation from the Council declaring Grimnir and company to be outlaws, apparently signed that morning.

The party headed back to the center room and, of course, linked hands and jumped through the right-hand teleporter. They appeared in a huge cavern, standing ankle-deep in black water on the edge of a massive underground lake. A huge pipe, clearly the same one from the room above descended from the ceiling down into the water, sucking up the black liquid and carrying it up above. The same impossibly old-seeming, tattered-robed man floated over the lake, examining the pipes and muttering to himself.

Grminir and Ash tried to engage the old man in a conversation. Meanwhile, Kevorkian leaned down and took a drink of the black water and immediately began gasping, his lungs suddenly unable to process oxygen. Kevorkian dove into the lake and found that not only could he breathe under the polluted water, but he could see—a massive, glittering city rested on the bottom of the lake. He surfaced and tried to yell to the others, but only managed to blurt out “There’s a city!” before something yanked him down beneath the surface again.

877161.pngGrimnir addressed Yarash again, asking him to call off his aquatic army, to which he responded roughly, “I can’t do anything about it” and also “It’s not my problem”. #321 dived in after Kevorkian, then burst up to inform the others that he had been pulled down by an Aboleth.

  1. rushed in and stabbed the thing, only to get tail-smacked, flying, out of the water. She (apparently it was a she) was seized in mid-air by a spell from Ash, then grabbed by Megri the dark elf who ran back through the portal, dragging the levitating lizard behind her.

Grimnir snagged Kevorkian with his thorn whip yanking the struggling priest out of the aboleth’s grasp and up out of the water, dislocating Kevorkian’s knee in the process. Mel grabbed Kevorkian and also sprinted through the portal, Grimnir, Traithe, and Ginger close on her heels.

Ash unleashed a bolt of fire at the foul-smelling water, hoping that it might be flammable, which sadly it was not, and bolted after the others. As he skidded back into the room with the two teleporters, he pulled the black-water filled bracers they had taken from the old man they killed and slapped them onto Kevorkian’s wrists, restoring his ability to breathe normally.

As they discussed what to do next, most of which involved running away, the old man from the cavern below appeared in the room with them. Mel showed him the notice from the desk about needing a small, intelligent party, and Yarash agreed that they had proven themselves sufficiently resourceful. They discussed, at length, his need for better test subjects in his research to ‘improve’ the lizard men—ranging from any scaled beasts to thri-kreen, but ruling out most ‘soft-skinned’ humanoids.

Kevorkian asked the old wizard if he could do anything along the lines of giving him a new hand. Yarash’s eyes lit up and he and Kevorkian vanished. The others sprinted up the stairs and through the teleporter, which led outside, and then backtracked to the labratory-cum-torture-chamber that they had seen before.

Inside Kevorkian was strapped to a table. Again, he found himself somehow able to see, though he soon realized he was looking at himself in the third person—apparently seeing out of Yarash’s eyes. Yarash scurried happily about the room, rotating walls of shelves to reveal even more shelves behind them, lined with all manner of body parts preserved in glass jars. Kevorkian shouted suggestions as he mused over a wall of arms, and eventually Yarash picked a large, pincer-clawed monstrosity.

As Yarash began sawing the remains of Kevorkian’s left arm off, Kevorkian suddenly asked through gritted teeth, “Can you fix my eyes too?” Yarash smiled broadly, left the hacksaw half-embedded in Kevorkian’s shoulder and ran to open a wall, revealing a supply of preserved eyes. Just then the rest of the party walked in.

Ash saw the eyes and apparently saw a kindred spirit. He pulled out the basilisk eyes and showed them to Yarash, who immediately dropped the big jar of eyes he was carrying and rushed over to look. “Those will be perfect!” he said. Yarash took the eyes, quickly measured Kavorkian’s sockets with calipers, determined that his skull was too small, and proceeded to begin expanding Kavorkian’s eye sockets with some spreaders, inserting carefully cut slivers of other creature’s skulls as necessary, until there was room to install the basilisk eyes. Kavorkian, thankfully, passed out shortly into the eye operation…

12 Hammer

Kavorkian woke up nine hours later to find the party casually resting around the operating room, wearing blindfolds or hiding their faces behind books. He was seeing out of his own, newly installed eyes, and looking into the smiling face of “Yarash the Vivisectionist”. His arm still hurt horribly from where the hacksaw was still half-embedded, forgotten in his shoulder. Yarash shook his head, “Something’s wrong…” he muttered. He then made a slit in Kavorkian’s temple, inserted some gruesome spiraling piece of hooked metal, made a few very painful tweaks, and promptly turned to stone.

A moment later, the wizard shook off the effect and cried out gleefully, “THEY WORK!” He then proceeded to saw Kavorkian’s arm the rest of the way off. Just as he was about to attach the new one, Melastasya asked if he could replace her damaged arm as well…

Late in the day, the party reassembled in the room next to Yarash’s apartment with the pair of teleporters: both Kevorkian and Mel sported new arms (and Mel also had some strange stitches in her lower abdomen), and Kevorkian had a pair of dark glasses covering his eyes. They stepped through the left-hand portal and found themselves…

…standing in the middle of the Council chambers in New Phlan.

Luckily the Council was not in session. Traithe quickly disguised the lot of them as best he could given the situation and they casually strode out. Mumbled something about being lost to some confused-looking guards, and were escorted to the Council Clerk’s offices. Grimnir asked the Clerk about the bounty that had been placed on “The Squire’s” head. The Clerk informed him that two parties had sought the commission, but that she could not give them any more information.

They left, and asked around town about the accusations, eventually stopping by the Bitter Blade, where the barkeep informed them of a conversation he had overheard between Councilwoman Bivant and a group of lady adventurers she regularly employed, offering them control of Kryptgarten Keep in exchange for ‘The Squire’s’ head.

They took their leave and went to check out Kryptgarten. They found the place relatively peaceful and operational. Grinkle informed them that some women from Phlan had been by asking about them, but had not caused any kind of ruckus. Grimnir decided that Kryptgarten could certainly do worse than having the Amazons in charge, so they simply left (making sure to take Grinkle along with them). On their way out, they found ’Pokey’s’ burned-out corpse, which they decided to pack up and haul with them back to Yarash—figuring the massive crocodilian demon would please their new employer. If that’s what the crazy old wizard was.

As they walked back, they discussed some of the magics they had seen in Yarash’s spellbook, specifically the Clone spell, and how it might be useful for faking their deaths. They agreed to hole up with Yarash and help him with his ‘altruistic’ research into ‘improving’ the lizardfolk, then send Clones of themselves back to Kryptgarten in a few months to be killed publicly.

When they reached the shores of the lake, a glowing door was waiting for them, leading directly into the main pumping chamber of Yarash’s maze. Yarash was ecstatic on seeing Pokey. He praised the party, clapped like a giddy school-girl, and showed them that he already had clones of Mel and Kevorkian growing in vats in a newly carved out room (for spare parts).

Grimnir mentioned something about Pokey having been his own personal ‘Great Old One’ and asked if Yarash could craft something for him to remember Pokey by. Yarash was once again enraptured. He asked if Grimnir also served ‘The Great Master’ and the two of them were whisked off. They reappeared standing on the edge of the underground lake, where Yarash introduced Grimnir to the aboleth and gave him a staff made from one of pokey’s spines.

13 Hammer

ymir.jpgAsh consulted Yarash the next morning, asking about the Pool of Radiance and Yarash’s note from Sorrassar. Yarash admitted that he knew very little about the Pool, but that Sorrassar was an old friend who had “recently” taken up residence at the supposed “home” of the Pool to await its return. The party asked for directions so that they might go question Sorrassar, only to have Yarash simply wave them away.

Literally. He waved and they were away. Far away. In an icy-cold cavern near the top of one of the highest peaks in the Dragonspines. Sitting contemplatively beside a dry, empty basin was a very old looking, blue-skinned man, nearly thirty feet in height.

The giant, Sorrassar, seemed confused to see them, but otherwise fairly relaxed about their sudden appearance. When they explained they were from Yarash, he complained about the old vivisectionist not returning his mail. After some coaxing, and explaining the date, they learned that he had sent that letter to Yarash over six years ago, and, not only had he not received a response, but he had been sitting beside the empty pool all that time.

Sorrassar was very concerned to learn that his ‘friend’ was under the influence of the Aboleth, explaining that the aboleth had once been a shared experiment of he and Yarash. He explained about some brief experiments that a third of their group, a mage by the name of Aumry of Umbar, had done on the Pool of Radiance, but that Aumry’s ability to hold the pool in place had only lasted about fifteen minutes. Given the power expended for them to do that, he was very concerned that six years had passed without the Pool returning to its base location here in the cave.

Ash inquired how Sorrassar had sent his letter to Yarash, and how he expected to receive a response. Sorrassar showed them that simply addressing a note with his name, Sorrassar, would cause the missive to appear in his hand, with an admonishment that they not attempt to ‘conjure with it’, and that a message addressed in the opposite direction would work likewise. After some experimentation it was shown that “Ash” was clearly not Ash’s real name, and the elf seemed disinclined to give any other. Melastasya, however, seemed happy to begin correspondence with the giant, and not at all concerned about giving the giantish wizard her truename.

Convinced that they were unlikely to get any more useful information out of Sorrassar, the party decided to take their leave. Looking out the mouth of the cave, they could see the ice-choked lake that formed the headwaters of the Stojanow river, two-thousand feet strait below. They had a marvelous view of the river stretching away to the south—they could see sorcerer’s island, the dark line of the Moonsea coast, and, closer, a lush, green valley through which the headwaters flowed before leaving the mountains. Sorrassar informed them that this was the Valley of Thorns.

Rather than figure out how to scale the two-thousand foot drop to the valley, they climbed up and over the mountain, hoping to find a gentler slope on the other side. Instead they found the ruins of an ancient city carved into the mountain’s peak. Grimnir recognized enough of the symbols carved into the structures to identify them as being of Noga origin.

Next time, the Ruins

A Letter to Certain Councilmembers

Dear Councilman Mondaviak, and wife,

I hope this message finds you well.

My name is Tamn, and apparently I once again find myself on the wrong side of the law. This seems to be a perpetual string of circumstance for me. I began life as a slave in Hillsfar. I escaped to join the band of adventurers that liberated Thorn Island from the undead menace plaguing it. I then fell in with the bendit Noriss the Grey. From there I became involved in the invasion of Kryptgarten, and then found myself in the service of Melastasya, the lady-friend of the Squire of Kryptgarten. I have learned now that the squire and his have been exiled from the walls of Phlan.

Let me say, I’m not part of that. I have nothing to do with these Kryptgarteners, I just live here. Rumor around here is that you two were the Squire’s original benefactors, but the notice we found has you two signing the death warrant as well. I’m not going to poke that.

Yesterday some women, who according to public opinion are agents of the Lady Bivant and responsible for Lord Noriss’s demise, came to Kryptgarten. They appeared only briefly, causing something of a scene in the tavern, then departed. Later the sounds of several explosions were heard nearby and, later still, Squire Grimnir’s pet was found dead.

Let me say, if these ladies are in fact working for the Lady Bivant, and if they desire entry into Kryptgarten, you would do well to send them around to the back door. Certain subjects of the Squire might be inclined to make sure the door was left open and unguarded.

Best Regards,
Tamn Footstooler, The (Oh Shit I’ve Lost Count) Betrayor

O.O.C. Because, hey, you know, they left a few of our PCs alive and free inside this keep we are about to attack and I don’t feel like rolling a new character right now…