The Illithid, Part II

In which our heroes seek to destroy their mind flayer nemesis once and for all.

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Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Tasklar (plus Karth and Gil?)
Source: “The Hall of Harsh Reflections” (Dungeon 127)

NB. This was a bonus session I arranged at the last minute. I once again only had Berrian and Tasklar’s players but they managed things much better than last time.


Help Wanted
Berrian awoke to find himself safe. Karth had rescued him. The big half-orc had even managed to corral the befuddled Tasklar. They were hiding out in the safehouse Dorn the watchman had arranged for them.

Berrian insisted they go and find Eligos. They trudged over to the sage’s mansion, where the aged elven manservant informed them that his master was away on their business. He reluctantly allowed them to wait in the parlor, however, where he kept a close eye on newcomer Karth.

When Eligos returned toward evening, he was surprised to find the PCs waiting for him. They gave him a thorough recounting of their interactions with the doppelgangers and the mind flayer. The sage was genuinely concerned that such creatures were causing problems in his city and offered to extend what help he could. He offered his home to them for the night, as it was warded against magical intrusion and would thus be safer than the Crooked House, where the mind flayer’s minions had already found them twice.

Research
After dinner, Eligos summoned Berrian to his study. He had some good news! He had managed to find a journal that had belonged to an old archmage name Exethanter. The mage had written about discovering the existence of a remote temple that some well-intentioned wizards had built long ago. Dedicated to a lost god of secrets, they’d meant it to be a hidden vault to contain their collection of “vestiges” (the remnants of dead, malevolent entities). Exethanter wrote that he intended to find the temple in order to unlock its secrets.

Eligos was able to establish that the archmage had set off on a journey from which he had never returned. He did not know if Exethanter had found the temple, but he was fairly confident he could locate it with a bit more time. Berrian thanked the sage and encouraged him to continue the search.

As Berrian turned to leave, Eligos asked him if his friends were all right. One of them, the bard, seemed to be rather befuddled, and the half-orc seemed very attached to that axe. Berrian explained that Tasklar had lost his memory. He also said he was suspicious that Karth’s axe was cursed. Eligos offered to help on the condition that Berrian convince the half-orc to let him touch him while casting a spell.

Berrian succeed and Eligos was able to successfully break Karth’s attachment to the cursed axe. The sage then offered to hide it away somewhere for safekeeping. The PCs were most grateful.

Fourth Time’s the Charm
In the morning, Tasklar awoke feeling somewhat refreshed. He still couldn’t remember much about the past few days, but he was fairly sure that his lesser restoration spell might help. He gave it a try and was pleased when all his lost memories come flooding back! Well, until he remembered seeing Galindan getting his brain eaten by the mind flayer, at least …

Eligos offered to provide the PCs with a few minor magics that might be of use: a scroll of protection against aberrations, a potion of lightning resistance, and a potion of psychic resistance. Tasklar took the scroll, since the other two expected to engage the mind flayer in melee, while Berrian took the lightning resistance potion and Karth the psychic one. Eligos wished them good luck, mentioning that, should they be succeed, he would be interested in getting his hands on the mind flayer’s collection of books and its notes.

On their way back to the sewers, none other than Gil found them on the street! He looked completely unharmed and claimed that he had managed to escape all on his own. The others were somewhat dubious, and Berrian quizzed Gil by asking about his wife. When Gil assured them that he had no wife, they were convinced it really was him. He agreed to accompany them back into the mind flayer’s lair a fourth time.

They succeeded in creeping past the rejuvenated naga, which appeared be sleeping, and made their way across the drow cave. They saw the three surviving prisoners sitting around looking dejected on the other side of the prison grating but decided to leave them for now. Pausing at the threshold of the cavern with the mind flayer’s symbol on the floor, Tasklar decided to cast dispel magic in case the magical acid-spraying trap had been reset. Sure enough, it had, and his spell power was enough to deactivate it.

Surprise!
As Karth made to smash open the marble doors again, the three prisoners (the elven craftsman, the surviving barmaid, and the surviving merchant) suddenly showed up in their midst and started beating them up. Though Tasklar took quite a nasty beating, Berrian used his mark of healing to keep him up, while Karth flew into a rage and started hacking away at their attackers.

As the elven craftsman fell, with one of Gil’s crossbow bolts in his eye, his form shifted into that of a doppelganger! The game was up! The barmaid was the next to fall, and she too turned out to be a doppelganger. The merchant, in desperation, shifted into the form of a young street urchin, begging them not to hurt him. Berrian struggled, unable to harm the creature, even though he knew it wasn’t really a child. The deception only fueled Karth’s rage, however. “How dare you impersonate an innocent child!” he roared, as he cut the creature down. Spitting on the doppelganger’s corpse, he then turned to see where Gil had gone off to …

The rogue popped back into a view a moment later, having gone to scout ahead in the lair, and urged his fellows to hurry. No time for resting! The longer they hung around, the more time the mind flayer would have to prepare. The others agree and hurried after him. Gil suggested they split up, with the warriors taking the long ramp from the museum, while he and Tasklar went to the balcony beyond the scrying room.

Karth and Berrian drank their potions, then ran down the passage. They shivered as they noted the disturbing murals on the walls, depicting mind flayers marching across the world under a sunless sky. The mind flayers’ ultimate goal, perhaps?

Stepping into the lair, the warriors discovered that the last octopin was waiting on the wall nearby. They backed up into the passage, but it followed and attempted to paralyze Karth with its eye ray. The big half-orc shrugged it off, then Berrian had the idea of casting earth tremor so it would affect the wall instead of the floor. This worked, knocking the octopin onto the floor. The two warriors quickly finished it off.

Meanwhile, the mind flayer laughed. “Back for more, eh? I relish the thought of devouring your brains. Especially yours, Berrian the elf!” He then cast mirror image on himself.

Betrayal!
Suddenly, Berrian heard Tasklar cry out and looked up to the balcony in time to see Gil dashing away, a bloody dagger in his hand!

As “Gil” taunted Tasklar, the shocked bar retaliated by casting a fireball into the scrying chamber. “Gil” just laughed as he avoided the worst of the blast, mocking him for his weak power. But just then, Berrian showed up at the door, having raced back up the ramp and through the museum and laboratory. The angry elf hit “Gil” with three scorching rays, causing him to screech in pain and run up onto the ceiling.

Tasklar shot his cousin down, and as his body fell, it morphed into that of another doppelganger! This creature had all of Gil’s stuff and, seemingly, all of Gil’s memories! What had happened to the real Gil?!

The Final Showdown
Meanwhile Karth had made to follow Berrian but found himself trapped inside an invisible bubble, the mind flayer’s alien laughter echoing inside his skull. The mind flayer then tried to dominate him, but Karth called upon Tasklar’s inspiring words and shrugged off the magic. This also meant that he was free of the invisible walls. He charged back up the ramp and around to the scrying chamber.

The PCs took a moment to catch their breaths and down a few healing potions, the Berrian misty stepped from the balcony onto the monolith to engage the mind flayer and his illusory duplicates. Tasklar swiftly followed, bringing Karth with him via dimension door. Though they managed to eliminate the mind flayer’s duplicates, the creature just laughed and misty stepped over to the balcony, drawing upon the power of the monolith to heal himself as he did so.

Berrian stepped off the monolith and floated gently to the floor, thanks to his ring of feather falling. Tasklar attempted to follow by climbing down the side, but it proved to be too smooth and he fell the full 40 feet to the floor. Karth, meanwhile, was in a rage again and decided just to leap off into the pool, suffering very little damage in the process.

As the mind flayer then teleported back to the top of the monolith, Karth roared in frustration and proceeded to start attacking the monolith itself. Unfortunately, he couldn’t even put a chip in its smooth surface!

Tasklar wondered if he could disrupt its power with dispel magic but he wasn’t strong enough to affect it. He made to run away but found himself being telekinetically lifted up into the air instead. He fired a few spells at the mind flayer, then found himself falling back to the floor as the enemy turned its attention to Karth again.

The half-orc, in his extreme frustration, had decided to start attacking the wriggling tadpole creatures in the pool. The mind flayer clearly did not like this, as the PCs could hear its screams of rage in their minds. It switched its telekinesis over to Karth and left him out of the pool, pulling him all the way up to the ceiling, 80 feet up, where he let the half-orc go.

Karth hit the ground with a splat and stopped moving. Berrian rushed over to heal him using his dragonmark. The mindflayer then hit Karth with a confusion spell and the poor half-orc found himself crawling over to the wall and banging his head against it stupidly. Berrian shot some fire bolts at the mind flayer, then he joined Tasklar in the pool, where the bard was busy firing eldritch blasts at the tadpoles.

Unfortunately for the mind flayer, it was running out of spell power. In desperation to save its little colony, it made the mistake of coming down to the floor. Berrian and Tasklar both moved to engage it in melee, with Tasklar even pulling out his rapier! At that moment, Karth shook off his confusion and came back into the fray with a roar. The PCs hacked and slashed and stabbed … and then the mind flayer telepathically cried “You haven’t seen the last of me yet!” and vanished.

Berrian was pretty sure that the creature had plane shifted away and wouldn’t be coming back any time soon, so the heroes dusted themselves off, slaughtered the rest of the tadpoles, then set about looting the mind flayer’s private study. They found a ledger written in Undercommon, a locked chest full of bags of money and gems, and a familiar starry cloak that gave Berrian the sudden realization that they had just been fighting the same mind flayer that had been behind all the chaos in Brindinford! No wonder!

Hurrying back to the scrying chamber, they relieved the doppelganger’s corpse of all of Gil’s things, then stuffed as much stuff as they could from the mind flayer’s macabre museum and laboratory into the bag of holding before sneaking back past the naga and heading back to the surface.

They headed straight for Eligos, who thanked them for their services to the city and paid them a hefty sum for the confiscated books and sundries. He also offered to help them sell or trade some of the magic items they had obtained but didn’t want to keep, like the cursed axe and the wondrous figurine that could turn into an evil nightmare. They decided to keep the petrified pseudodragon, though, in case they found a way to restore it to life.

Now they just had to decide whether to go back to the Sodden Hold and root out the rest of the doppelgangers or not …

The Illithid, Part I

In which our heroes go head-to-head against a brain-eating alien mastermind.

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Tasklar (plus Karth, Gil, and Galindan)
Source: “The Hall of Harsh Reflections” (Dungeon 127)

NB. I only had two players for this session, but they were given permission to run Karth and Gil as well. I gave them a choice of two out of Karth, Gil, Galindan and Dorn. They started off with just Karth and Galindan, but later swapped Karth out for Gil …


Round 2

After the PCs revived him, a grateful Dorn led them to a safehouse where they were able to get a good night’s rest without interruption. On the way, they collected Tasklar from the Crooked House, as they did not feel it was safe to leave him there alone. In the morning, Gil suddenly remembered that he had something personal to attend to, while Dorn still needed some time to recover … so Berrian, Karth, Tasklar, and Bhára’s lover, Galindan, headed back into the sewers to delve deeper into the illithid’s lair.

As they passed through the naga’s lair, they caught sight of its ghostly form flitting in and out of sight. It was in the process of reforming, but in its current state could neither affect them nor be affected. They left it alone and moved on to the drow cave. Though the mage had survived their last attack, he was nowhere to be found.

Karth went up and searched the alcoves on the ledge. One contained a shrine decked out in spider motifs with a jade statuette of a strange spider/drow hybrid monstrosity. Karth took the statue, as it looked to be valuable, and destroyed the shrine. Galindan suggested that the statue depicted Lolth, the foul demonic being that the drow worshiped as a god.

The PCs then considered investigating the area beyond the locked gate. Tasklar, in particular, didn’t want to leave any enemies behind them. The others, however, were put off by the fact that four humanoid corpses with holes in their skulls were standing on the other side of the gate! So they moved on to the narrow passage down which the drow mage had fled before.

A short way down, they came to a wider area with a smooth floor, on which had been inscribed in glowing purple the same tentacle design they’d seen several times already. Galindan surmised it was the personal sigil of the mind flayer. Worried that it might be trapped, the PCs skirted around the edges of the chamber. As it happened, the room was trapped, though it was not necessarily the sigil on the floor. Acid rained down on the group from the ceiling. Both Galindan and Berrian complained about how their clothes had been ruined!

From there, the passage led to a large cavern with purple-veined marble doors barring the way to the north. In addition, a trio of strange octopus-like creatures with a single eye and two serrated claws came crawling into view from behind several rock pillars. The creatures had tough hides and a long reach with their tentacles, and they were able to fire rays from their eyes that caused various magical effects. The PCs had a difficult time until they opted to withdraw and have both Tasklar and Galindan toss fireballs into the cavern. That took out two of them, and then Karth finished off the third by bounding up the wall and hacking it down with his axe.

Karth then made short work of the doors, which were barred from the other side, by running up to them from the other end of the cavern and smashing into them full-force. The others watched as he continued into a circular room, at the center of which was a large slab of purple-veined marble carved to look like a brain. The barbarian suddenly stopped, and as the others drew closer to see what was the matter, he turned back towards them, a look of madness in his eyes, and charged towards them, his axe held high!

Tasklar reacted quickly and dispelled whatever magic was compelling Karth to attack. The PCs then proceeded to bombard the stone brain from beyond the doors. Once it looked to be badly damaged, Berrian bravely stepped into the room and stabbed his sword deep into its center. At once, it fell apart and the glow from the purple minerals winked out.

Up some stairs and the PCs found themselves in what appeared to be a laboratory. A large vat of murky green liquid filled much of the room. Berrian thought it might be filled with acid … and before anyone could stop him, Tasklar chucked a copper coin into it to find out! The liquid sloshed and a massive version of the octopus-like creatures they’d faced earlier came rearing out of the vat!

A might struggle ensued. The PCs were badly hurt, but Karth prevailed, delivering a terrible blow that not only slew the creature but also smashed the side of the vat, spilling the green liquid out onto the floor. After withdrawing to the drow alcoves for a short rest, the PCs returned to this chamber and gave it a good once-over. Galindan found some records on a desk that, with a casting of comprehend languages, turned out to be the mind flayer’s notes on the creation of the “octopins” and some theories on an as-yet-unfinished project referred to as a “mind worm”. The lab’s bookshelves contained a number of books that the PCs figured might be of some value. They decided to come back later with Gil and shove the whole collection into his bag of holding.

A door in the north wall of the lab led to a smaller circular chamber with a dark pool in the center. Galindan ascertained that it was some kind of scrying pool, so Tasklar attempted to use it. He thought about Gil, and sure enough, an image of his roguish cousin, sitting by himself in an otherwise empty room, appeared in the pool. Next they tried to think about the cave beyond the gate, and they found themselves looking at a number of zombies standing around doing nothing … but they were also able to see deeper into the cave, where they spotted a number of prisoners, along with the drow mage!

Back to the lab and then up some more stairs and through some more doors and they entered what appeared to be a rather macabre museum of sorts. The centrepiece was a life-size statue of what Galindan identified as a vrock. There were also several glass cabinets containing all manner of books and trinkets, all of a seemingly malign nature. On top of one case was an item that Galindan insisted was a petrified pseudodragon, but Berrian wouldn’t let him touch it as he was sure that the room was trapped and that the vrock would come to life if they touched anything.

His theory was proven correct when Karth snatched up a battleaxe. The vrock turned out to be no match for the PCs, though, and soon was nothing more than a puddle of foul ichor. Tasklar took a wicked-looking dagger off a silk pillow and decided it would be his forever. Galindan took down a book and, after one look, tossed it on the floor and started exhibiting signs of extreme paranoia.

Though they had not yet explored the whole lair, the PCs decided that now was a good time to call it a day. They made their way back through the various rooms and caverns, only to find the drow mage waiting for them, the illithid’s prisoners arranged around him like a living shield. He mocked them: “You didn’t think you’d be allowed to get away that easily, did you?”

As it happened, they did. Though the prisoners did little more than grab at the PCs as they dashed through the area, and the zombies came to join the fight, and the mage cast a nasty tentacle spell on Karth and Berrian, the PCs all survived and made it through to the naga cave and out into the sewers and back to Dorn’s safehouse.


Round 3
After another long rest, the PCs came back down to the lair entrance to find that the zombies had been stationed there. Karth lured them out into the sewer tunnel, then proceeded to hack at them with his new magic axe. One of the zombies hit him on the shoulder and, all of a sudden, the great half-orc was foaming at the mouth, with a berserk look on his face. He took a swipe at Berrian, who backed away, then went back to hacking at the zombies.

Tasklar got everyone to back up along the sewer tunnel then cast compulsion on Karth and ordered him to march off deeper into the illithid’s lair. After the remaining zombies had been dealt with, the PCs waited. Karth eventually repaired, having regained his senses. He claimed to have no idea what had happened to him but refused to accept any suggestion that his new axe might have anything to do with it. The others decided it would be best to leave him behind, and so they tagged him out and brought Gil in to scout ahead for them instead.

In the naga cave, they spotted a large egg by the pool but wisely decided to leave it alone. They didn’t find the drow mage until they got to the cavern with the marble doors. A few fireballs did him in.

They decided to chill out in the scrying pool room for a bit, only to have the mind flayer itself make an appearance, walking through the back wall as if it wasn’t even there! It attempted to stun them with a blast of psychic energy, and then, when it saw that they had all resisted, it retreated back through the wall.

It turned out a segment of the wall was illusory, and a short hall led to a balcony halfway up the wall of a massive room centered around a pool. The pool seemed to have things wriggling in it. At one end of the pool sat a large, squat stone column with glowing green runes on it. Hovering above the pool was the mind flayer! And clinging to the wall to either side of the balcony were two more octopins!

Berrian teleported to the far side of the pool and shot fire bolts at the mind flayer, while Gil turned invisible and crept along the walls and ceilings to get into a good position to snipe the mind flayer. Tasklar and Galindan stayed on the balcony and attacked with their spells.

Gil fired a shot at the mind flayer, hitting it hard enough that it lost concentration on its levitation and sank into the pool. However, it then teleported up onto the top of the stone column, looking like it had healed some of its wounds in the process. Berrian used his last teleport to come appear beside it, but the mind flayer then just teleported over to the balcony, where it – along with one of the octopins – pursued Tasklar and Galindan as they retreated into the scrying room.

Berrian had a hard choice ahead of him: stay and help Gil fight the remaining octopin or go to the aid of the spellcasters? He chose the latter, leaving Gil to his fate. When he arrived in the laboratory room, he found Tasklar on the ground and the mind flayer busily wrapping its tentacles around Galindan’s head. With a horrible slurping sound, it devoured the elf mage’s brain!

Horrified, Berrian hacked the octopin off the wall, then revived Tasklar, only to find that the bard was suffering from partial amnesia. Knowing who he was but not where he was or how he got there, and not recognizing Berrian or the elf whose brain was being eaten by a horrible tentacle monstrosity, Tasklar decided to make a run for it. Luckily, he chose the right route and soon found himself running through some caves. Berrian decided to run after him. He was stunned and knocked out by the mind flayer before he could get very far, but fortunately, Karth had decided not to sit around waiting up on the surface and had finally come to help his friends.

Having seen Tasklar run past with a panicked look on his face, the half-orc was expecting the worst. Sure enough, as he saw Berrian lying on the ground with the mind flayer closing in, he leapt forward, scooped up his fallen comrade, and made a run for it!

Tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion!

Down the Rabbit Hole

In which our heroes attempt to get to the bottom of things …

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Gil, Karth (plus Galindan and Dorn)
Source: “The Hall of Harsh Reflections” (Dungeon 127)

Not knowing how to proceed, the PCs dragged Tasklar back to the Crooked House, where they found a seriously inebriated Karth being looked after by a city watchman – the same watchman that Tasklar had given a bit of lip to after the fracas with the doppelgangers the night before! His name was Dorn Greywood, and he informed the PCs that he’d drunken half-orc rambling about his friends being in town. Did they know him? Why, yes, they did!

Meanwhile, Tarquin the innkeeper let the PCs know that, in gratitude for having saved his life, he would be giving them free drinks and rooms for the next month!

Once Tasklar and Karth were installed in their room, the others thanked Dorn. The watchman wasn’t about to leave just yet, though. He wanted to know more about the doppelgangers. He listened intently as the PCs related what they’d found in the Sodden Hold warehouse. Dorn told them he’d send some guards to check it out on the morrow.

Dorn stayed in the inn’s common room, chatting with Tarquin, long after the others had retired for the night. Well after midnight, he heard a commotion from above and raced upstairs to see what was the matter. As it turned out, the PCs were under attack from drow assassins! Two drow had snuck into their room, while a third drow was firing poisoned bolts at them through a window. Berrian was looking quite hurt, having taken a shot to the back of his neck! The two assailants in the room went down quickly, one of them only unconscious, and then Karth and Berrian smashed through the window and leapt across the alley to land on the roof where the third assassin had been.

They chased the drow across the rooftops and through washing-laden alleyways before Karth, with his superior speed, finally caught up to her and grabbed her firmly. Berrian came up from behind and ran her through. Searching her body, Karth discovered that she was wearing a nice pair of magic stealth-enhancing boots with a spider motif on them. They were also covered in sewer muck and residue from a fungus he recognized as Beggar’s Gold, which was quite common in areas where there was run-off from forges and smithies.

In one of the drow’s pockets, the PCs found a crumpled up note from someone telling his “thrall” to meet him beneath the cold forge. There were some “troublesome small minds” that needed dealing with. Small minds?! Berrian and Karth tried not to feel insulted as they dragged the drow’s body all the way back to the inn.

Dorn questioned Karth about having stolen the drow’s boots but ended up deciding it wasn’t worth fussing about. Instead, he turned his attention to the still-living drow, whom he’d made sure to truss up securely. As the drow came round, they attempted to question him, but a strange tentacle-like sigil materialized on his forehead and he grimaced in pain, then keeled over dead.

When Karth showed Dorn the note, the watchman was able to help them puzzle out the clues. He knew of a smithy named the Cold Forge. They decided they’d check it out in the morning. Dorn opted to deputize the PCs, which enabled them to enter the sewers beneath the city legally.

As they slogged through the sewers, following what signs they could of the drows’ passage and the presence of Beggar’s Gold, they came across a spillway where a strange telepathic voice warned them that some “spawn of the Faceless Lord” lurked ahead. Sure enough, a large black pudding and several gray oozes with psychic powers were blocking their way. After dealing with the monsters, another strange creature emerged from the darkness ahead: it looked a lot like a floating jellyfish. Dorn freaked and fired a crossbow bolt at it, causing it to flee, but Karth ran after it and convinced it to return.

It turned out to be a flumph – a good-aligned parasitic being that fed on psychic energy. It informed them that they were close to the lair of an illithid. The flumph was quite keen to show them the way to the lair’s entrance in hopes that the PCs would get rid of it. Wondering if the illithid was behind the attacks, the PCs were reminded of the illithid that had been behind all the strange goings-on in the town of Brindinford. But why was this one targeting them? What had they done?

The PCs agreed to let the flumph guide them the rest of the way. It led them deeper underground to a point where a hole in the wall of the sewer opened into a natural cave tunnel. Just beyond, around a slight bend, was a large fungus garden carpeted with yellow mold! Stepping forward, the PCs also discovered the presence of several shriekers in the garden. So much for the element of surprise!

After hacking apart the shriekers, the PCs then set about burning their way through the yellow mold, only to come under attack from some drow guards positioned on a ledge further along the tunnel. Dorn was knocked out (by drow poison) and woken up again several times before the drow guards were dealt with.

Pushing on, the PCs came to a cave with a little stream ending in a pool. Gil sent his bat familiar into the cave to scout ahead. Through the bat’s eyes, he caught a glimpse of some treasure at the bottom of the pool, visible thanks to some phosphorescent fungus illuminating the cave. He then also caught a glimpse of a large snake with a humanoid face just before it killed his familiar.

This snake-like creature turned out to be a naga. It was incensed that the PCs had disturbed its rest and demanded tribute. Karth decided to attack it instead, but it turned invisible and slithered away, so they decided to press on deeper into the caves.

Next up was a larger cave with a bunch of drow in it, who were now poised in a defensive stance, having been alerted by the shriekers. One of the drow looked to be a mage, and he had a strange winged shadowy creature lurking next to him. Karth used his dragonmark to turn invisible and slink up behind the mage.

The ensuing battle was fierce! In the end, all the drow were dead except for their leader, the mage, who had turned invisible and then retreated further into the caves. The naga, which had reappeared in the middle of the fight, had also been slain at Karth’s hand, although the half-orc knew, thanks to Galindan’s long-winded ecology lesson, that it would return to life in a day or so.

Still, everyone was hurting badly, and Dorn had nearly died, so the party decided to withdraw and rest up before returning. Gil made sure to steal the naga’s loot from the pool on their way out, though. And that is where things stand.

 

 

DM Note: Bhára’s player had not yet finished up her replacement PC by the time this session came around, so she ended up playing Galindan instead. He is a high elf evoker. Dorn was a last-minute NPC I whipped up for a friend of Bhára’s player who joined us on the night. Gil’s player was not present, but he was happy to have the group manage him anyway. Tasklar sat out this session, but he’ll be back next time. We’ll be missing both Karth’s and Gil’s players, though.

Amaranthine

In which our heroes discover there’s never a dull moment in the big city!

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Gil, Tasklar (and Galindan)
Source: “The Hall of Harsh Reflections” (Dungeon 127)

After hauling their asses out of the fire cult dungeon, the PCs went their separate ways. Tasklar headed back to see Aunty Wormtooth for some more restorative magic, while Karth headed off to the big city to see if he could upgrade his gear. Who knows where Gil went.

Berrian, meanwhile, lovingly wrapped his sister’s body in cloth soaked in linseed oil and alcohol and carted it off to Iriandel’s domain. Unfortunately, the unicorn and his wood elves knew of no way to restore Bhára to life in her own body. Not wanting to reincarnate her in a new body, nor willing to go home and tell his parents that he’d failed to protect her, he took a different path …

Back in Larchwood, Gil and Tasklar were hanging out at the inn when Berrian walked in with another elf, whom he introduced as Galindan Galanodel, Bhára’s lover. Berrian went and spoke privately with Kaylessa, who suggested he visit an old acquaintance of hers, a sage named Eligos, in the city of Amaranthine. She gave him a letter of introduction, wrapped up in a pretty little bow. The cousins agreed to accompany Berrian on his journey, and off they went.

When they arrived, Tasklar was able to talk the city guards at the gate out of searching them for contraband. Berrian led them into the swanky Garden District, where they found Eligos’ marbled mansion. He was shocked to see an aged elf acting as the sage’s manservant! Eligos himself was a rather impressive fellow. He agreed to help but said it would take him about a week to find out what he could, based on the rather vague clues Berrian had given him. He refused to say where he’d gotten these clues as well.

Eligos suggested they stay at an inn called the Crooked House, run by a friend of his, a gnome by the name of Tarquin Shortstone XXIV. The PCs spent the next few days wandering around the city, seeing the sights and getting to know the place a bit better.

On the evening of the third night, after Galindan had retired early to “study his spellbooks”, the elf suddenly came back down to the common room and proceeded to stab Tarquin in the neck with a dagger. Thinking it was very unlike a mage to use a knife, Gil leapt up and dashed after the mage as he ran back up the stairs. Berrian leapt over the bar and used his dragonmark of healing to save Tarquin’s life, while Tasklar found himself having to placate an angry, drunken crowd being riled up by a portly merchant.

After a bit of a scuffle, it turned out that the would-be assassin was not Galindan but a doppelganger who’d taken on his form! The merchant turned out to be one as well. Tasklar was convinced that Tarquin must be mixed up with the wrong crowd, but the gnome was equally adamant that it had had nothing to do with him. He suggested that someone had it out for the PCs!

The next day, Gil took a strange key he’d found on the body of the doppelganger assassin to a thieves’ guild friend of his named Archie. A few hours later, he’d learned that it unlocked the doors to an old warehouse on the riverfront called the “Sodden Hold”.

The PCs went to check it out. The main warehouse floor was filled with dusty crates and barrels. Some of them turned out to be mimics, much to everyone’s surprise. Gil found something he swiftly pocketed in a back room (a ring of swimming made of fire coral), and then Tasklar discovered that a section of the floor was trapped. Up on the catwalk at the back of the room, they found a secret door that led to a prison area! Two men dressed as city guards turned out to be more doppelgangers! There was also a human with a broken mind and a traumatized elf noblewoman, who let Tasklar keep her periapt of health as a reward for saving her life. She also told Berrian that her family now owed him favor.

The room beyond that was mostly broken apart, with river water swirling around below the few remaining planks and pylons that once held up the floor. An invisible stalker was guarding this room, but Tasklar lit it up with faerie fire and it was swiftly dispatched. Unfortunately, the good bard made the mistake of treading out onto a plank that tipped him into the water, where he ended up getting impaled on some hidden blades. Gil and Berrian fished him out and revived him, and that is where we left things.

Wedding Bells

Dramatis Personae: Calla, Gil, Keluak, Keth, and Tasklar
Source: “Wedding Bells” (Dungeon 89)

[DM Note: This was the first time all five of my players were at the table at the same time since the campaign started!]

Prologue: Kaylessa’s Gift
One fine autumn evening, the PCs all found themselves sitting around Kaylessa’s table, sharing a delicious meal she had prepared for them herself. Afterwards, Kaylessa explained that she had called them all together because she had a gift for them. She’d been keeping track of their exploits in the region and was quite impressed. They had more than proved themselves worthy of the name of “hero”, and she wanted to reward them for it.

Leading them into an adjoining room, Kaylessa had them gather around the large silver bowl they had found in Tamaich’s tomb. With a few words of magic, the half-elf conjured up a silvery fire inside the bowl. She then explained that by saying a vow and placing a hand in the flames, the PCs would receive a blessing from the Platinum Dragon. At this, the group glanced around the room, finally taking in the preponderance of draconic imagery within. “Kaylessa must have a thing for dragons,” they all concluded.

The vow was to swear to do good deeds, to cause no undue harm to the innocent, and to gladly oppose those who would commit evil acts or harm the innocent. If they were to ever break this vow, they would lose the blessing. Upon hearing this, Keth and Keluak were both a bit hesitant, given that they’d seemingly caused undue harm to that half-ogre priest who was now haunting them as a revenant, but Kaylessa assured them that wrongs committed in the past had no bearing on their commitment to the future. Both gladly placed their hands in the fire, as did Gil and Tasklar. As each of them spoke the words of the vow, the fire passed through their flesh and inscribed a silvery dragonmark on the backs of their hands.

Keluak received the Mark of the Storm, while Keth was given the Mark of Warding. Gil was given the Mark of Handling, while Tasklar received the Mark of Finding. The marks sparkled in the light for a few moments, then faded away. Kaylessa explained that they would only show themselves again when their gifts were activated.

Then came Calla’s turn. Nervously, she approached the flames. Boldly, she stuck her hand in … but before she could say the words of the vow, the fire turned an angry red and the roar of a dragon echoed around the room. Calla writhed in agony, unable to pull her hand away even as the fire burned through her flesh. When she was finally able to free her hand, she was horrified to find an evil-looking scar etched onto the back of her hand. Unlike the others’ marks, this one did not fade away. In fact, when she tried covering it up with her sleeve, it just burned the fabric away. It did not want to be hidden! At the same time, Calla felt a newfound source of power welling up within her – the power to twist and shape the flames, to burn all her problems away!

Kaylessa was distraught. This was not what was supposed to have happened! Something had gone terribly wrong! She asked everyone to leave so she could have time to think. As she ushered them out the door, she begged Calla for her forgiveness. Tears glistened in Kaylessa’s eyes. She had broken her own vows! How could she have been so stupid?

An Invitation
Some time later, the PCs received invitations to the wedding of Gil’s teenage sister, Ghenna. She was marrying a farmer’s boy, Avan, in the faraway town of Dockalong. Ghenna wanted Keth to officiate at the wedding, and she wanted Calla to be her maid of honor. She also wanted her cousin Tasklar to perform some music for the ceremony. There was no question of Gil attending, of course, and he was invited to bring his dwarf friend along too. The journey to Dockalong would take a fortnight, and there wasn’t much time – if they were lucky, they’d get there a day or two before the wedding – so the group gathered their things, found some gifts and some nice clothes, and set off.

Heading south, they skirted around the swamp in which they’d battled the corrupted lizardfolk and passed through a city or two. As they headed back out of the settled lands and into the wilderness again, they found themselves walking along a wooded trail in the hills. Suddenly they realized it had gone very quiet … but before they could react, they found themselves under attack as someone in the woods off to their right spoke a few words of magic.

Tasklar and Keluak, leading the way, both found their limbs beginning to stiffen. Though the human was able to shake it off, the dwarf soon found himself paralyzed. At that moment, a naked female gnoll came charging out of the woods, swinging a huge flail at the dwarf. Hot on her heels was a quartet of slavering hyenas. Off to the left, another gnoll barked out a command before firing arrows at the PCs.

Unable to move, Keluak was quickly battered and bitten into unconsciousness. Tasklar quickly followed, as the hyenas and the gnoll berserker turned their attention to him. At that moment, a thundercloud developed suddenly overhead, and sizzling bolts of lightning began flashing down onto the road.

The ensuing battle was fierce, as the PCs fought for their very lives. Keth worked furiously to keep his comrades alive, while Gil and Calla took aim at their attackers from the rear, taking cover in the trees to avoid the deadly lightning bolts. Eventually they succeeded in slaying the berserker and all the hyenas, at which point Keth set off to find the gnoll spellcaster slinging magic at them from the cover of the woods. However, he didn’t get far before she caused a field of nasty, sharp thorns to spring up all around him, slicing him up no matter which way he turned. He gave up moving, but she inched closer and lashed him with a thorny whip, yanking him through the field of spikes until he succumbed to the pain and drifted into unconsciousness himself.

Seeing his friend go down, Gil pulled a Tarzan and used his grappling hook and rope to swing through the trees over the thorn patch to attack the gnoll spellcaster. He paused to pour a healing potion down Keth’s throat, and together they managed to kill the gnoll spellcaster before she could escape. The gnoll archer, however, did manage to leg it away through the trees.

Exhausted, the PCs searched the bodies, finding a few potions on the caster and a magical cat’s paw on a silver chain around the otherwise naked gnoll berserker’s neck. The paw, though badly preserved, turned out to be a good luck charm. The group decided Keluak needed it the most and gave it to him to wear. A few of the more observant PCs noticed that some of the gnolls’ items reeked of something worse than unwashed dog, though they couldn’t figure out what it was.

Dockalong
After spending the night in an old abandoned farmhouse by the side of the trail, the group pressed on towards Dockalong. They soon came to a lookout where they could see a broad river valley stretching away in front of them. On the near side of the river lay many fields and small hamlets, with the largest – clearly Dockalong itself – situated on the banks of the river. On the far side, however, lay unspoilt forest. Elf country, they were told. In fact, Dockalong was positioned in the elven borderlands – a region where non-elves were permitted to live so long as they paid taxes to their elven overlords.

As they trudged down the path towards town, they came across a pair of middle-aged halflings. The woman was fiercely berating the man, brandishing a switch at him. As the PCs approached, the halfling woman asked if any of them had seen her son – or his good-for-nothing girlfriend. When they replied that they hadn’t, she sighed and turned back towards town, tugging the man, who turned out to be her brother, along with her.

Shortly after this, they came across a human woman picking berries. When she spotted them, she dove into the bushes to hide, thinking the PCs might be bandits come to steal the fruits of her labors. But no, the PCs only wanted to inquire about the impending nuptials in Dockalong.

Moving on, they encountered an older halfling woman riding a donkey. She seemed quite pleased to see them and happily answered all their questions. She introduced herself as Jikk Hardwalk, a Blessed Daughter of the Sisterhood (that is, a priestess of the trinity of deities worshipped by many halflings) and the honorary town priest of Dockalong. She explained that she was just doing her rounds of the outlying farms and villages, but she would be happy to meet with them when she returned to town later.

A little further on, the group came to an old stone arch marking the entrance into Dockalong itself. A human woman sprang to attention, brandishing a halberd. She asked the PCs to identify themselves and then informed them that people were not allowed to bear arms into the town without Sheriff Savil’s permission. The PCs were happy to wait for permission, so the guard asked some of the curious children hanging about to go and fetch someone named Honesty.

A few minutes later, up road a hobgoblin bearing the seven-pointed star of the Andarian Septry on his breastplate! He introduced himself as Honesty, representative of Sheriff Savil. He asked the PCs’ names and business in town, challenging their answers and deliberately mispronouncing their names in response. He then asked each of them to hand over their most powerful weapon. Some of the PCs were rather cheeky, especially Keth, who claimed his most powerful weapon was his faith. At one point, it looked like the hobgoblin and half-orc might come to blows, but just then another person rode up – a middle-aged half-elven woman in a green cloak. She wore a wooden disk around her neck bearing a stylized tree-and-arrow emblem – the symbol of her office as representative of the eld lord Ulurishay, ruler of this part of the borderlands.

After having a quiet word with Honest, Sheriff Savil welcomed the PCs into Dockalong. As they passed through the archway, Honesty returned their weapons to them politely and respectfully. With that, the PCs made their way into town to find accommodations – and, in Gil and Tasklar’s cases, their relations!

A Series of Intriguing Events
With the wedding ceremony planned for the following afternoon, the PCs had a little over a day to relax and explore the town. Plenty of locals were interested in coming to see them too, although not always in the most appropriate ways. For instance, Calla received a nighttime visitor in the form of a small dwarf child who, upon being caught rifling through the sorceress’s personal things, tried to flee. Calla used her magic to shut the door in the child’s face and then jumped on her. The girl screeched and pleaded with Calla not to tell her parents. She’d only wanted to have a look at a real mage’s stuff! At that point, Keluak awoke and went to investigate. Upon being filled in, he was insistent that the girl be taken home to her parents, despite her fear of being sent “under the mountain”. Calla, however, took pity on the girl and promised not to tell if she promised not to sneak into anyone’s room ever again.

Earlier in the day, the group had been approached by a nervous townsman who asked if anyone in the group might be able to cure his wife of mindfire. Keth agreed to go and have a look. He openly prayed to Freya (since Dockalong appeared to be open to religions other than the Septry) and the half-elven woman was miraculously healed! The couple attempted to pay Keth, but he refused, instead asking them to pay it forward, perhaps by making a donation to someone of the Old Faith.

Meanwhile, a contingent of dwarves came to visit Keluak. They were keen for some news from “under the mountain”. Unfortunately for Keluak, he wasn’t as up to speed on news from the dwarf kingdoms as Tasklar the bard. Having been listening in, Tasklar came over and told some interesting tales – some true, some improvised. The dwarves appreciated the human’s efforts, but looked askance at Keluak. What kind of dwarf was he that he would allow a human to show him up in such a way? The Dockalong dwarves went away troubled, and Keluak tried to drown his embarrassment with more alcohol.

Gil met up with his family and was presented with the wooden leg of his old, now deceased, Uncle Hasken. Gil had once stolen the leg from his uncle, so he supposed that this had been the old man’s idea of a joke. His mother was insistent that he’d wanted Gil to have it.

On the morning of the wedding, the PCs were woken up by a disturbance in the street below. The missing halfling’s girlfriend had turned up, surprised to find he wasn’t in town. They’d arranged to meet in the usual trysting spot in the woods across the river, but he’d never shown up. The PCs went with the halflings to see Sheriff Savil, who arranged to have a patrol go into the woods to investigate. They took with them a standard that acted as a sort of “pass” so that any elven patrols who saw it would know not to attack. The PCs followed along. Halfway down the trail, Tasklar noticed signs of passage off to the west but chose to kept that info to himself until later. He wanted to see the trysting spot first.

The trysting spot, while idyllic, was devoid of any clues. The guards concluded that the elves must have got poor Noddy, the missing halfling, and headed back to town. The PCs hung around a little longer, and Tasklar revealed what he’d found. Calla was fearful of being ambushed by elves now that they were no longer under the protection of the guards’ banner, but they reached the side trail safely and followed it to a large tree, where Noddy’s footprints suddenly stopped. At the base of the tree were some foul bird droppings, which a few of the PCs recognized as bearing the same stench as the items they’d picked up from the gnolls. Tasklar climbed up into the tree and found more droppings on a large branch. Wracking his brains, he came to a sudden realization, thanks to his newfound investigative abilities: there was a harpy about!

The PCs immediately started to plug up their ears, but Tasklar assured them that this wasn’t its roost. No, it appeared to have perched her just long enough to lure Noddy off the path and then snatch him up and carry him away. At this point, Calla was sure that ferocious elves would pop out from behind the trees at any moment, so the group headed back to town and made their report. Sheriff Savil took their information seriously and sent out some patrols to investigate the various old ruins from a past civilization scattered around the valley. She presumed it was possible that a harpy could have set up a nest in one of them.

The news spread around the town, and the PCs soon heard grumblings about how it must have been someone named Laggo who’d taken Noddy. The townsfolk seemed reluctant to talk about him, but Tasklar applied his charm and soon found out that Laggo was a satyr who’d been raised in town after being orphaned at birth. He’d seemed all right at first, but he’d grown up much faster than human children and got himself into enough trouble that Sheriff Savil had exiled him from town. Unfortunately, he still hung around the valley, occasionally causing trouble in the outlying villages and the like.

The Wedding
At this point, the PCs could do nothing more to help with the search for Noddy lest they miss Ghenna’s wedding. Calla went to consult with her friend (and inform her of Keth’s plans for various barbaric rituals, almost all of which Ghenna vetoed). The ceremony went smoothly, and soon the happy couple were greeting their friends and relations on the feasting field, where a number of games and activities had also been set up. The PCs bestowed their gifts upon the newlyweds, among them some of the jewelry they’d plundered from the ancient tombs and the magical mirror that always presented a flattering image to the viewer that Gil had taken from the evil lizard queen’s belongings beneath the ruined fane.

Keth and Tasklar soon found themselves competing to catch a greased pig (which Keth won), while Gil and Calla had a go at each other on a log with cushioned staves (which Calla won, although Gil insisted that he’d “let” her). Tasklar also got into a friendly musical competition with the local bard, an elf named Willon Evesimere. Afterwards, he struck up a conversation with the elf, learning a bit more about the town, its inhabitants, and its history.

Keth and Tasklar also went up against Honesty in a game of fisticuffs, though neither of them was able to beat the burly hobgoblin. He was impressed enough by the gesture to buy them each a round of drinks afterwards, though. Unbeknownst to their comrades, Gil and Calla had both bet against them and thus raked in a bit of extra money.

The Wedding Crasher
As the festivities began to wind down, Laggo the satyr showed up. Charming nearly everyone with his pan pipes, he proceeded to hand the bride and groom a well-made dagger he claimed to have found in the ruins outside of town. Keth, shaking off the satyr’s magic, recognized the harpy’s stink on the dagger and demanded that the satyr talk about the harpy. When Laggo balked and denied knowing anything about a harpy, Keth punched him. Some of the other townsfolk who’d resisted the magical tune cheered Keth on in an attempt to whip up a mob to drive the satyr away. Those who were still under the influence, however, tried to placate everyone, insisting that Laggo was a friend and should be treated as such!

Eventually the PCs were able to persuade Laggo to take them to the site where he’d found the dagger, but when they got there, he quickly and quietly slipped away into the woods, leaving them stranded … luckily, Keth’s survival skills were good enough to get them back to town, where they found everyone heading back home to bed.

In the morning, Keth was praying at the town’s non-denominational temple when he heard the faint strands of Laggo’s pipes coming from the woods to the north. Gathering up his companions (all except Keluak, who couldn’t be roused from slumber [his player had gone home early]), the group went to investigate.

Laggo revealed himself and apologized for his behavior the night before. He admitted to knowing a harpy named Arekla, whom he had thought was a friend. But he’d gone and confronted her and she had berated him as a fool, and he’d realized that she was completely right. He said he didn’t know for certain but thought that it was quite likely Arekla had Noddy hidden away in her tree, where she could torture him for days before he died. He offered to take the PCs to her lair but refused to fight with them, saying that even though he knew she was irredeemably evil now, he still couldn’t bring himself to hurt her.

The Harpy’s Lair
Laggo explained that Arekla laired in a hollowed-out old tree in a clearing in the woods to the north. As the group neared the harpy’s tree, he told them to plug up their ears so they wouldn’t be taken in by her song. The tree was about 40 feet high and had a hole in the side about 15 feet up. The ground around the tree was bare for about 30 feet all around. A large number of crows perched in the tree’s dead branches.

The PCs soon found out that the crows were allied with Arekla, as they swarmed to the attack pretty much as soon as the PCs approached. They also discovered that Arekla’s lair had a number of magical defences, included strong winds, clouds of stinking fumes, and patches of mud that would suck them down and then trap them as it hardened.

Eventually Arekla herself appeared, and while the PCs were mostly immune to her magic thanks to the wax in their ears, they still found themselves hard pressed to make any headway against the evil harpy and her magic. The swarms of crows proved to be particularly vicious. Tasklar was nearly pecked to death by them.

At one point, Arekla emerged from her lair – in the process revealing herself to be of fiendish blood, with a tough hide and leathery wings instead of feathered ones – and magically polymorphed Calla into a tiny field mouse. Though Calla attempted to hide in the forest underbrush, Arekla soon found her and snatched her up in her claws. She then flew high up into the air and waited … but there was to be no negotiating with Calla’s comrades, none of whom could hear the harpy’s demands, so eventually Arekla grew bored and let go of Calla the mouse.

Calla’s life flashed before her eyes, and she saw it ending abruptly as she slammed into the ground, but suddenly something else arrested her movement – Gil’s bat familiar had caught her up in its own claws!

Wounded and frustrated, Arekla made for her tree with the intention of grabbing her satchel of treasure and fleeing the scene. That was her last mistake, for as she flew into range of Gil’s magic, he placed her in a magical slumber. She plummeted out of the sky and landed with a sickening crunch. As Arekla breathed her last, Calla was released from the harpy’s magic and found herself back in her own body again.

Eventually freeing themselves of the mud, the other PCs brushed themselves off and then proceeded to climb into the tree to see if they could find Noddy. Braving the foul, diseased air inside the tree, they not only emerged with the sickly halfling but also the harpy’s treasure! Keth administered to Noddy, healing his wounds and curing him of his ailments, and the group then escorted him back to Dockalong, where they were hailed as heroes!

Iriandel, Part II

Dramatis Personae: Calla, Keluak, Keth (and Elia)
Source: “Iriandel” (Dungeon 83)

Tamaich’s Tomb
After ensuring it was safe to enter the ancient feasting hall, the PCs began a thorough search of the room. They discovered that the now headless statues sitting on the stools covered more pit-graves – those of Tamaich’s elite bodyguard, most likely. Keth also uncovered a cache of magic potions in clay jugs marked in Orcish in a cavity under Tamaich’s throne.

The party then proceeded to pry open the door at the end of the hall behind the throne. This opened into a circular chamber with a large stone in the middle of the floor. A passageway at the other end of the room was bricked up with stones – the other side of the wall they’d found at the end of the outer ring passage filled with the warriors’ pit-graves. The top of the stone in the room was carved into the likeness of a female orc’s leering face. Calla cast detect magic as a ritual and picked up a faint aura from the stone. Wondering what it might be, Keth and Keluak decided to lift up the stone to see what was under it.

Moving the heavy stone out of the way, the group discovered a shaft descending into darkness. Just then, the face on the stone called out “Tamaich!” A rush of air blew up the shaft, followed by several ghostly warriors who flew around the room for a few moments before vanishing into the ether. The group dropped a length of rope and climbed down into a conical chamber with a single passage leading off to the west.

After a short distance, the passage opened into a larger chamber filled with a strange mist. In the center of the chamber was a tall stone pillar carved into the likeness of multiple skeletal snakes, each one facing a different passageway. Keluak went ahead to scout the chamber. As he drew towards the end of the passage, he spotted a tall bas-relief of a mighty half-orcish warrior on the southwestern wall of the room. Just to the left of that was a passage heading south. Beyond the pillar, he could see another passage that headed west for a short way before veering to the north. Another passage stretched away to the north of the pillar as well.

The group decided to try the southern passage first, and Keth and Keluak decided to rope each other together just in case. As the group approached within ten feet of the bas-relief, however, they heard the sound of heavy boots coming down the western passage. The mighty warrior depicted in the bas relief approached and started silently casting a spell at them! Keth called out to Tamaich that they meant him no harm, but Keth rushed forward and took a swipe with his new magic handaxe. The axe went straight through the half-orc, revealing him to be just an illusion that soon vanished into thin air!

But the danger was real, for they soon heard the anguished cries of something no longer living echoing down the passageway, and three hideous creatures that might once have been Tamaich’s wives came rushing to the attack. Keth and Keluak stopped them in the passageway so that Elia and Calla could safely attack them from behind. The wights had trouble getting past the warriors’ defenses and soon all three of them lay dead on the floor, finally at rest.

Shaking their heads, the PCs turned back to the southern passage. They could see another stone block door at the far end. Keluak led the way and soon found himself falling into a deep pit that lay hidden just in front of the door. Tied to Keluak with rope, Keth was unable to arrest his own slide into the pit. They both soon found themselves breathing in yellow mold spores, but the green flame from Keth’s magic handaxe soon burned the stuff away. The ladies watched in amusement as the two boys struggled to get back out of the pit and then spent quite a bit of time debating how to reach the door on the other side.

Eventually they decided not to bother and went to check out the other passages. The one heading north soon ended in a cave-in, and Keluak the dwarf was able to determine that there wasn’t anything beyond it. It looked like a passage that had been abandoned. So they headed west. Soon they came across the wives’ chamber. Calla again cast detect magic, this time picking up a small aura coming from within the wights’ “bedding” on some stone biers. It turned out to be a small pearl, which she pocketed for later. The PCs found some other treasure in amongst the wights’ trash, including a matching silver comb and hand mirror set, which they gave to Calla. There was also a large, heavy bowl that looked to be quite valuable.

Before proceeding down the passage heading south from this chamber, the PCs opted to take all the loot they wanted and move it up to the benches in the feast hall above. They then came back down and headed into what turned out to be Tamaich’s final resting place. His skeleton lay, still in its fatally-pierced breastplate, on a stone bier, his longsword resting on the floor at its base. Behind the bier stood four rusty braziers.

Suspecting that Tamaich’s corpse would rise to attack them, Calla used her mage hand to pull the sword away toward her. As soon as she’d done so, the skeleton did indeed rise up, but instead of standing to attack, it just sat there for a moment before it began to vibrate more and more violently. The PCs winced as the skeleton fell apart harmlessly. Calla got the distinct impression that something had gone awry, but before she could figure out what, the undead spirit of Tamaich appeared and attacked Keluak, attempting to drain the very life out of the dwarf!

The wraith might very well have succeeded, too, if Calla hadn’t had the foresight to get Keluak to activate the daylight spell on his driftglobe. Tamaich’s spirit hated the light, and that was enough for the PCs to press the attack. The wraith was soon put to rest.

Keth immediately set about taking a look at his distant ancestor’s sword. The blade was fashioned from black iron and was carved with vile runes. The leather grip seemed to be fashioned out of the hide of fiends. Yikes! Nevertheless, Keth was determined not to throw it away immediately.

Despite feeling very drained and in need of a good rest, the group decided to continue down the passage leading out of Tamaich’s tomb to the south. It soon curved back to the east and led them to the other side of the stone door with the pit trap in front of it. Here they found Tamiach’s treasury! Amidst a great deal of loot, Calla found some ancient magic “scrolls” written on clay tablets. They also found the magic spear fashioned from Iriandel’s horn, partially hidden in a corner under an old cloth. They might not have ever spotted it had the light from Keluak’s driftglobe not reflected off its silvery tip. The weapon resembled the spiraling horn of a unicorn exactly, except that it was a full six feet long. It radiated strong magic. This was a powerful artifact indeed!

The PCs took the spear, along with the other loot, up to the feasting hall. They then resolved to head out of the tomb and get some rest just outside the entrance. Keth and Keluak went out first and soon discovered that they were not alone …

The Quarry
Six orcs emerged from their hiding places with arrows pointed at the two PCs. They had a bedraggled half-orc with bound wrists. When he began to speak up, one of the orcs struck him to the ground. Keth bristled but did nothing. One of the orcs came forward and informed them that their leader, the great Yventhu, wished to speak with them. Not wanting to start a fight then and there, Keth and Keluak agreed to go along with the orcs, leaving Elia and Calla behind in the tomb.

The orcs confiscated the PCs’ weapons and marched them off to the east. Not knowing where they’d gone, Calla and Elia stayed put until Tashek the owl returned a few hours later. He told them he’d seen their companions heading east, so they found the donkey, which Tashek had led to safety when he saw the orcs coming, and packed up all the treasure, then headed after the others.

The orcs marched Keth and Keluak hard, not giving them a chance to rest, until they came to an old, overgrown quarry with a cave entrance up near the top. They could see several other orcs patrolling the quarry and standing guard outside the entrance. They were led up to a platform in front of the entrance, where an aged half-ogre greeted them. He wanted to know who they were and what they thought they were doing invading his territory and stealing from tombs and the like. He also demanded they compensate him for all the deaths of his minions at his hands. The discussion eventually came to the spear, which Yventhu claimed to have in his possession already. The PCs knew he was lying but didn’t say anything.

In the end, Yventhu decided to take them captive and sell them as slaves. He stuck them in cages alongside the other half-orc, who later introduced himself as Wuhlap. He was an orphan (like Keth) who’d been compelled to act as the orc patrol’s guide to Tamaich’s tomb, since he’d been there once before. In the night, Keth was able to get a good rest, but Keluak was kept awake by the orcs, who kept prodding him through the bars of the cage with their spears and trying to set his beard on fire with torches.

Meanwhile, Calla and Elia spent the night out in the peat bog and arrived at the quarry the next morning. Deciding against a frontal assault, the ladies opted instead to scout around for a rear entrance. Sure enough, they found one hidden behind some scrubby bushes up in the hills. Elia snuck down the passage and found herself only a canvas wall away from the orcs’ cave. Peering around this wall, she spotted Yventhu heading around a corner to speak with his captives. She snuck after him and spotted Keth and Keluak in the cages. Reporting back to Calla, the two devised a plan: Calla would head around to the side of the quarry and use her magic to set it on fire, thus creating a distraction. While the orcs and the half-ogre were thus occupied, Elia would sneak back into the cave and free the boys.

The plan worked like a charm! They were even able to rescue Wuhlap. The party headed deeper into the hills, not stopping to rest until they found a nice, clean cave in which to spend the night. Come daytime, Tashek the owl informed them that the orcs weren’t following them. Instead, they were sending out emissaries and gathering the tribes for a war party! That could mean only one thing: they intended to sack Pebbleton!

Hunted
The PCs immediately decided to make for Pebbleton to warn the townsfolk. As they journeyed back across the peat bog, both Keth and Keluak began to have strange nightmares in which something was always following them and no matter how they tried to get away, it was always there on the horizon … Then, as they were getting close to the edge of the Brown Grounds, they spotted something drawing closer … and closer … and then it was on Keluak before he could say “zombie”!

Except it wasn’t really a zombie. For one thing, it was clearly intelligent. It appeared to be the reanimated remains of the half-ogre they’d slain in the peat bog several days before. And it wanted revenge! Keluak went on the defensive and was able to withstand its deadly attacks long enough for the others to destroy it. They cut off its head and then decided to burn both the head and the body just to be sure. They were able to rest easy that night. But on the following night, the dreams returned …

Pebbleton
Back in Pebbleton, Keluak headed straight for the common hall and ordered a drink. And then another. And another. Calla was amazed and couldn’t stop watching the dwarf attempt to make up for all the dry years in one go. Meanwhile, the others sought out Ruallin and the mayor and presented them with the spear. They managed to drag Calla away and she was just as amazed to see Treetrot the horse transform back into the beautiful and majestic unicorn, Iriandel!

But this was not the happy ending the PCs had hoped for. Keth quickly warned Mayor Thorngage of the coming orc warband and offered his assistance in defending the town. Iriandel said he would be heading back to his woods but would come to the PCs’ aid if called. Tashek hung around, trading stories with Ruallin the bard.

Some days later, the PCs were woken up by the thud of boulders being chucked over the town’s wall. They rushed to the parapet to see orcs and ogres spread out around the town. To the north, just out of arrow range, stood Yventhu the half-ogre, alongside a massive horned and blue-skinned ogre that was currently attempting to dig out a massive boulder, with the help of some orcs.

Without delay, the PCs rushed out onto the battlefield. Some orcs ran up to engage them and were mercilessly cut down. Another group of orcs and an ogre tried to intercept the PCs before they could get to the leaders but they too were slaughtered. Around that time, Iriandel appeared alongside Calla and encouraged her to climb onto his back. His horn and his hooves proved deadly in the fight, and his healing magic was welcomed by the PCs.

Eventually, the PCs crossed the field to where Yventhu and the massive ogre stood. The latter creature was clearly fiendish in nature. It lowered its head and charged at Keluak, bowling the dwarf over. It then smashed him to a pulp with its tree trunk club, but before it could finish the job, Iriandel came to the rescue and the ogre had another fight on his hands.

Despite Yventhu’s best efforts – attempting to alternately protect the ogre and himself with sanctuary, conjuring up a spiritual club to harass the PCs with, and summoning up his fiendish spirit guardians – he was quickly defeated. The fiendish ogre soon followed, although he nearly ended Iriandel’s life beforehand. The unicorn was forced to withdraw. With the fall of their champion and leader, the rest of the orcish warband quickly dispersed and the town was saved.

In the aftermath of the battle, the PCs were hailed as Pebbleton’s heroes and treated to much wining and dining. Iriandel pledged his friendship for life and told them they’d always be welcome in his neck of the woods. He also offered to do one thing for them to repay his debt. Keth asked if he’d restore Tasklar’s eye, and the unicorn agreed. The PCs then gathered up their loot and headed home to Larchwood.

Postlude
Back in Larchwood, Keth and Keluak were able to rest more easily again. They no longer suffered the nightmares, though they still had the sense that the creature was out there, waiting for them … so they decided to spend some time asking around. Keth prayed to Freya but got no real help from her, so he opted to hunt out someone who worshipped one of the old gods of the dead. He soon discovered that Baroness Wynne of Cromm’s Hold was a devotee of the Raven Queen. He headed off to speak with her.

Meanwhile, Keluak went to speak with the Andarian Septry’s priests in Larchwood. They told him that the gospel of the Stranger spoke of vengeful spirits coming back to haunt those who had caused them to suffer a “cruel and undeserving fate”. They suggested he seek out a larger temple or a knowledgeable sage to learn more.

Ten days later, the two PCs had all the info they needed: they were being hunted by a revenant, a vengeful undead creature that was very hard to stop. Unless it succeeded in killing them both, or failed to kill them both within one year, there was no real way to get rid of it. Each time they killed its body, its soul would just fly around until it found another suitable corpse and then come after them again. The two resolved never to go anywhere alone again …

Iriandel, Part I

Dramatis Personae: Calla, Keluak, Keth (and Elia)
Source: “Iriandel” (Dungeon 83)

Pebbleton
While out on a long patrol through the countryside, the PCs got caught in an autumn rainstorm and sought shelter in a fortified village called Pebbleton. The majority of the residents were halflings, but there were enough tall folk around to allow for buildings and furnishings that could accommodate them.

The guards at the village gates insisted on searching the PCs’ belongings, explaining that orcs were always a danger this year (looking pointedly at Keth while they said so). They then directed the PCs to Mayor Roscoe Thorngage’s house. The mayor greeted them warmly and invited them to share his meal and dry out in front of his fire.

After the meal, the mayor told them a story about a remarkable horse he’d come across in the woods nearby a year before. He then explained that a half-elf bard had recently come to town with an even more remarkable tale concerning the horse. He offered to take the PCs to meet her at the village’s common hall, a large, roomy area carved out of a low hill in the center of town. First, though, he took them to meet the horse, whom he’d named Treetrot: a fine, grey-maned stallion who fairly jumped with excitement upon seeing the PCs enter his stable.

There they found the bard, a “comely” half-elven woman with red hair, attempting to play her flute with accompaniment from two halfling drummers. The drummers were a bit bored, however, and ended up going off on a convoluted drum solo, so the bard sighed and wandered over to the PCs almost as soon as she’d spotted them. She introduced herself as Ruallin, and Mayor Thorngage asked her to repeat her tale to the PCs.

Ruallin launched into a lengthy legend concerning tribes of human barbarians and wild elves, as well as star-crossed lovers. A unicorn named Iriandel – the guardian of the elves’ forest – was also mixed up in the story. The legend stated that the chieftain of the barbarians, a man named Turiew, had fallen in love with an elf named Deleflin, who was the friend (and frequent rider) of the unicorn. Their love was forbidden, so they met in secret. Some time later, another barbarian tribe – said to have the blood of orcs and ogres running hot in their veins – came to the area to take the land away from the locals. The chief of the newcomers, Tamaich, challenged Turiew to a duel. Deleflin, against the wishes of her people, sought to aid her lover. She called upon the fickle elven gods for aid, and they granted her the power to turn Iriandel’s horn into a magic spear and Iriandel himself into a fearless stallion. But with the condition that if the horse and spear remained separated for more than three days, they would remain so for another three centuries.

Sure enough, while Turiew was able to kill Tamaich with the spear, he too succumbed to the half-orc’s poisoned blade. Tamaich’s people overwhelmed Turiew’s, and the spear was buried with Tamaich in a great barrow built over the tribe’s winter camp. Deleflin, overcome with grief, “went away to the place where elves are immortal”, and with Iriandel the unicorn gone, the forest and the elves that inhabited it dwindled away.

Ruallin was adamant that the halfling mayor’s horse, Treetrot, was the body of Iriandel. She urged the PCs to seek out the spear so that Iriandel could be restored to his true form and become the guardian of the forest once again. The PCs felt like it was Fate that had brought them here, so they readily agreed to help.

Keth decided he’d like to play a bit of music with Ruallin, so the two got up on stage and Keth accompanied the half-elf on his lute. The halfling drummers were impressed by the half-orc’s skills and got to chatting with him afterwards. One of them explained that he’d once found a strange glyph on an old oak tree in the woods to the southeast of town while out searching for inspiration. He warned the half-orc that it seemed like it didn’t want to be found deliberately … and sure enough, when the PCs went to look, it took them six hours just to find the old oak, even though it turned out to be less than 5 miles out of town.

Unsure of how to find the glyph on the tree, Elia decided she’d try talking to it. Everyone thought she’d gone mad until the tree seemingly replied. The voice had come from above, and when the PCs looked up, they discovered that it wasn’t the tree talking but an owl! It introduced itself as Tashek, and asked them what they were doing looking for Iriandel’s mark. This prompted the PCs to relate the story Ruallin had told them. Listening intently, Tashek expressed disappointment at having been left out of the tale before filling in the gaps. As it so happened, he had been a good friend of Iriandel’s and so had been around on that fateful day when the unicorn had become cursed to wander the woods as a mere horse for three centuries. He was pleased to hear that the time was now right for Iriandel’s restoration and offered to help the PCs. They asked him if he knew the way to Tamaich’s tomb, and Tashek said he could lead them straight to it!

The Brown Grounds
Unfortunately, this meant crossing a vast peat bog known as the Brown Grounds. The going was slow, but thanks to Tashek’s keen eyes, they were able to effectively surprise both a band of orc thieves and a band of ogrillons led by a half-ogre cleric of Grolantor. Although the priest tried to parlay with the PCs, Keth and Keluak were too overcome with bloodlust and struck him down while he was on his knees. This made Calla really mad and she shot a fire bolt at Keth’s head which luckily missed him.

The PCs took all the monsters’ loot for themselves – including the half-ogre’s cleric’s magical chain shirt, which appeared to be made out of an ultra-rare substance known as glassteel and which conferred resistance to force damage to its bonded wearer – and pressed on towards the Poven Hills, at the feet of which the owl assured them they would find the barbarian chieftain’s massive barrow.

As they drew closer, they discovered that the land was haunted. At one point, Keth glanced into a still pool and saw a number of mounted riders with lifeless eyes reflected in it. They all bore the mark of a blue horse leaping over a cloud on their wooden shields. As they raised their right arms in a salute, he saw to his horror that their hands had all been cut off. No one else had seen this vision, and when Keth asked Tashek if he recognized the symbol, the owl confirmed that it was the mark of the Iorai tribe – the people of Turiew, who had been slaughtered – man, woman, and child – by the Sya-Negan, Tamaich’s orc-blooded people. Upon hearing that name, a little shudder ran down Keth’s spine, for the Sya-Negan were the ancestors of his own people.

That night, while settling down around a campfire they’d built in a hollow, the PCs were roused from their sleep by sounds of fighting, although no one could see anything – not even the dwarf or the half-orc. Suddenly, their fire turned red and flared up, rising two meters into the air, and ghostly men and horses went running all around them, re-enacting a battle that had been fought here more than three hundred years before. This was too much for both Elia and Keluak, who turned and fled into the night, where they were set upon by a giant bat hunting in the darkness. Keth and Calla came to their aid and dragged them back to the campfire, where they were able to get some rest once the ghostly warriors had faded away.

The next day, Tashek guided them the foothills – an area the local orcs and ogres referred to as the Knuckles – to where Tamaich’s tomb lay: a massive mound over a 100 yards across, ringed by ancient standing stones. After a bit of searching, the PCs found the entrance, mostly buried. It took them a good few hours of work to unearth the stone slab blocking the entrance, and just as they were about finished, Tashek warned them that two ogres were heading their way.

Finding some adequate hiding places, the PCs were able to ambush the ogres, taking one down before it could react. The other, taken aback by the PCs’ ferocity, turned tail and fled. They decided to let it go, while they looted its dead companion’s sack instead. Along with some objets d’art and some coins, they found a vial containing a rose-hued, effervescent liquid in it. Keth dipped his finger in it and had a taste. Glancing over at Keluak as he did so, Keth suddenly found himself regarding the gruff dwarf more favorably. He decided he’d go over and help clean the mud off the dwarf’s armor. Both Calla and Keluak were taken aback by the half-orc’s strange behavior and wanted to know what was in the potion he’d just tasted. They surmised they’d come across a love potion of sorts and decided to keep it for later use.

Tamaich’s Tomb
Turning their attention back to the tomb entrance, Keth and Keluak managed to work together to move the massive stone slab enough that they could all slip past. The smell of damp earth emanated from the darkness beyond. Immediately inside, they found a circular tunnel running north and south – the remains of the outer edge of the old barbarian camp. They decided to head south first, with Calla’s dancing lights leading the way.

After a few moments, they came to an intersection which Keluak surmised was at the southern-most point of the circular mound. A ramp consisting of several large stone slabs led up into the darkness, while the outer circular passage continued on its curve, although from this point on, there were small stone slabs evenly spaced along the passage’s floor. Keth recognized them as traditional “pit-graves” in which the tribe’s elite warriors would be housed. Carved into each grave’s slab was a Dethek rune monogram indicating the name of the warrior interred within.

The PCs decided to head up the ramp. After 60-odd feet, they came to another intersection, with a tunnel heading west and a short passage leading into a circular room to the northeast. They chose to investigate the room first, in which a huge jumble of humanoid and animal skeletons were piled up against the far wall. They caught the gleam of something shiny reflecting the light of Calla’s dancing lights inside a hedgehog’s skull.

Fearful of traps, which Keth knew to be common in these old barrows, the PCs waited in the passageway while Calla used mage hand to retrieve the item from the skull. As the spectral hand closed around the item – which turned out to be a necklace of human finger bones set with precious gems – the skull glowed orange and the earthen ceiling melted and collapsed in a wave of mud. The PCs breathed a sigh of relief that none of them had been in the room, but then four stone statues that had been carved from the smooth stone wall of the room came to life, striding through the mud as if it wasn’t there. Since the PCs were huddled in the passageway, one even walked through the wall and appeared in the tunnel behind them!

The creatures’ fists were hard, as were their stony hides, but eventually the PCs won out and the creatures crumbled into pebbles. A further search of the room revealed a pendant bearing the horse and cloud symbol of the Iorai hidden in another skull.

Down the western passage, they came to another circular room containing a seven-foot-tall statue of an ogrillon, its visage menacing in the shadows cast by their lights. As they stepped into the room, the shadows seemed to come to life and attacked, draining the PCs’ strength away. Keluak took a gamble and activated his driftglobe‘s daylight spell, which fortunately sent the shadows cowering against the far wall. After two minutes, they all faded away and the PCs’ lost strength returned. It had all been an illusion!

Keth went up to the statue and swung his mace, Dragonthumper, at it. Much to his surprise, the statue melted and out oozed a horrendous monster covered in eyes and gibbering mouths! The horrible thing drove the PCs mad and blinded them on several occasions with globs of spit that flashed as they struck the ground. Keth suffered numerous bites as he tried to squash the thing with his magic mace. Against the combined might of the four heroes, the gibbering monstrosity stood no chance, and it too was soon nothing but goo. But by that point, the PCs decided they’d had enough, so they retraced their steps to the entrance for some fresh air and good night’s sleep. In the night, they heard wolves howling and retreated into the tomb to avoid them.

The next morning, they headed back in and continued on from where they’d left off, eventually coming to what appeared to be a trophy room, complete with rusty old weapons taken from the Iorai warriors. Keth noticed, almost too late, that there were a number of right hand gauntlets in the room … and sure enough, the hands were not only still in them, but they were also waiting for the living. A dozen crawling claws came rushing at the PCs, conjuring up bad memories of the necromancer’s cave near Lance Rock (see “Trouble in Larchwood, Part I”).

The foul undead hands proved to be little more than pests, however, and they were soon all dealt with. Keth vowed to take the Iorai’s things and give them a proper burial somewhere to put their souls at ease. Calla decided to take the time to cast detect magic as a ritual and, much to her delight, found some magical auras radiating from in and behind a rotten old chest. Inside the chest were two magic potions. Behind the chest was a handaxe made from stone with lots of precious stones embedded in its handgrip. Keluak took it for his own and soon discovered that he could will it to light up with green flames! A quick taste of the potions led Keth to believe they were some kind of strength-enhancing brew.

From here, the tunnel turned southeast and led into what was once the Sya-Negan’s feasting hall. Two long stone tables flanked a low, rectangular firepit. Seated on benches at the tables were clay statues of headless warriors. On the shoulders of these statues were actual half-orc skulls – with something in their eye sockets that was gleaming red with the reflected light from the driftglobe and Calla’s dancing lights. At the statues’ sides lay some rusty old longswords. At the far end of the room, the PCs could just make out another passage continuing east beyond a throne.

The PCs were immediately suspicious of a trap. They decided to backtrack all the way to the southernmost point of the tomb and continue on up the eastern side, where the Sya-Negan warriors’ pit-graves were. About halfway along to the eastern side, they came across a pit-grave with no marking on it. Elia knelt down for a closer look and discovered that the ground around it was unstable. Fortunately, there was room for them all to leap across that space. Unfortunately, at the eastern point, they discovered a passage heading west to a dead-end, where someone had walled up the passage with stones. Rather than try and take down the wall, they breathed a sigh and headed back to the western side of the feasting hall.

Concerned that the statues in the hall would animate as soon as they entered the room, Calla had the others wait in the tunnel while she attempted to gather all the longswords with her mage hand. Unfortunately, the moment she lifted one up into the air to pull it back towards her, it activated some kind of invisible magic trap that caused all the swords in the room to animate! A dozen longswords came flying through the air and started hacking and slashing at Keluak and Keth, who were standing just inside the entrance way.

After a few frustrating seconds of trying to fight back against flying swords, Calla ordered everyone to fall back deeper into the passage. She wanted to test out a theory that proved to be true – the swords couldn’t follow them out of the room! Calla used her fire to melt the swords down and then the PCs entered the room.