The Sowing of Death Continues

Dramatis Personae: Berrian, Saul, Tasklar (and Elia)
Source: “Feathergale Spire” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

A Few Surprises
As our protagonists set about discussing what to do next, the priest shouted down at them that he would give them 5 minutes to surrender or else they would regret it. “I reckon we don’t need much more than one minute,” Saul quipped to his companions.

But then, all of a sudden, Gil disappeared in a puff of black smoke, only to be replaced by a rather bewildered-looking Elia! She looked around at all the strange faces, then settled on Tasklar. “Where’s Gil?” she said.

“He was right there …” the bard replied, indicating the spot where Elia was standing. “You seem to have magicked him away.”

“Dammit! It was supposed to take me to Gil, not make me swap places with him!” Elia replied cryptically. She took a moment to compose herself. “Who are your friends, Tasklar? And where are we?”

After a brief round of introductory conversation, Elia got the feeling that she knew Saul somehow, but he wouldn’t admit to being Keth reincarnated. Tasklar also explained to Elia the current situation, and she agreed to help them out. As the group got back to planning the next phase of their attack, Bhára collapsed in a heap on the ground. No one had any idea why, and nothing could shake her out of her coma. Berrian decided to hide her body under the lord commander’s bed. He promised his sister he’d come back for her.

Hoping that would be the last of the surprises for now, the group resolved to tie a rope to the door handle, unbar it, then yank the door open in hopes that any spells or attacks the enemy had ready would be wasted. Then Berrian would charge out into the hall with his shield at the ready to protect the others.

Unfortunately, before they could enact this plan, a wispy form came down the chimney and whirled out into the form of an air elemental! It immediately attacked, attempting to pound the heroes with blasts of air and toss them about the room, but they proved to be too tough for it. Standing their ground, they slashed, poked, and magicked it away into nothing. During the fight, Saul was rather taken aback to see Elia using magic as well as she caused hellish flames to sear away some of the elemental’s substance. Where on Erathis had she learned to do that?!

The Plan of Attack
With the elemental dealt with, our heroes proceeded with their plan and yanked the door open from across the room. Nothing happened. Berrian advanced into the hall. Nothing. He checked the other rooms. Still nothing. As the others emerged from the lord commander’s room, the elven paladin gestured up the stairs. Tasklar turned Elia invisible and she snuck up to the pinnacle so quietly that no one could even tell that she’d gone. When she returned, she reported that a guy in white robes with a bird-like mask was standing at the ready on one side of the grassy lawn, while a bird-man was waiting on the other side. Several knights riding giant vultures were circling the tower. And it looked like a storm was brewing out there, too.

Nevertheless, they charged up the stairs, taking the fight to the enemy. Tasklar went up first and lost another eye to a readied magical strike from the bird-man. Ignoring his attacker, however, Tasklar turned to the air priest and unloaded fireballs on him. Unfortunately, the priest turned out to be quick enough to avoid the brunt of the blasts. Berrian ran out to engage him in melee, only to have the priest call down a bolt of lightning on him. The priest then flew up onto the roof of the pagoda, out of the range of Berrian’s blade.

Meanwhile, Elia was firing shots at the bird-man, who was blasting the group with spells. At one point, he swooped down and, as they were all nicely lined up inside the pagoda, sent a lightning bolt surging through them. At the same time, the knights on their vultures were flying past, taking potshots at the heroes with rays of frost.

Without Bhára’s spellpower, this proved to be too much for our heroes. They opted to retreat down to the armory by the entry hall. Grabbing bedding from the knights’ rooms (as well as the still unconscious Bhára) on the way down, they heaped it up in the stairwell on the ground floor and lit it on fire, then closed the doors to the entry hall and, at Elia’s suggestion, started cutting down the eagle-shaped battering ram with the intention of using it to barricade the inner doors.

Before they could, however, the doors burst open, revealing Whisper, the air genasi monk, and two initiates with crossbows. “Did you really think you could get away?” asked Whisper.

Tasklar attempted to parlay with her, but she was having none of it. She was dedicated to helping bring about the world’s destruction so that people could leave unfettered by physical things. She hit Tasklar with a fist of compressed air, blasting him back into the front doors and knocking him unconscious. The others moved in to retaliate, with Saul moving close enough that his guardian falcon spirits could do their work. The initiates died quickly. Whisper didn’t last much longer. The heroes rejoiced when the “blue bitch” collapsed onto the ground.

A Few More Surprises
While attempting to rest in the armory, our progatonists were surprised by another cloudy form slipping through the cracks. Only this one didn’t turn out to be an air elemental. It was Azoth the air priest himself! And in each hand he held a leather bag. “You must let go your earthly tether! Enter the void! Enter and become wind!” he shouted, as he shoved one bag into the other. Immediately reality was torn asunder and the heroes found themselves being sucked into a silvery void.

The priest was also sucked through, and then the rift closed. They were trapped! The priest continued to cackle maniacally until the heroes silenced him. They then tied each other together with rope so they wouldn’t get separated. Looking around, they found themselves surrounded by an endless silver sky filled with distant clouds. Here and there were strange roiling shapes of color. None of them had any idea where they were.

Suddenly the sky in one area started to rapidly darken, and the heroes found themselves being buffeted by a psychic wind composed of lost dreams and memories. All but Saul were able to resist the psychic storm; the halfling, however, was stunned by the overwhelming psychic surge. Saul was also dragged into a swirling pool of flaming red. Still attached to him by the rope, the others decided to follow.

They found themselves standing on a massive iron cube, cracked and pitted and rusty, floating in an airy void. It was cold here, unlike in the last place. They could see other cubes of varying sizes floating all around. As they watched, two cubes collided with a loud clang. They could also hear the sound of a massive battle taking place somewhere nearby. Wandering over to take a look, they found two massive armies of orc and goblin spirits attempting to slaughter each other. Not wanting to disturb them, they retreated to the edge of the cube and had a look over the side. They just found more of the same.

Where the hell were they?!


Horde of the Goblin Lord, Part II

Dramatis Personae: Keth, Sorrel, Tasklar (and Elia)
Source: “DDEX3-10 Quelling the Horde”

Down the Rabbit Hole Again
A few hours later, the adventurers felt rested enough to head back down the miles-long passage into the Underdark. At the T-junction at its end, they found that the narrow tunnels to the left and right had been blocked up by crude wooden barricades. It looked as if the goblins had torn down some of their hovels.

The adventurers split up and assaulted both barricades at once, drawing fire from the goblins hiding behind them. To the left, Elia poured burning oil on the wood and then Keth used his tinderbox to light it on fire. To the right, Tasklar lit up the goblins with faerie fire while Sorrel used brute strength to batter down the barricade. Both of the illuminated goblins died quickly, while the two behind the burning barricade went running off up the tunnel, hollering.

Our protagonists decided to let them go and pressed on down the right-hand tunnel, past the side passage they knew led to the fungal garden in the first main cavern. More than five hundred feet later, they came around to the south side of the cavern in which the goblins had set up their shanty town. Here was another, larger barricade, manned by four goblins. As Tasklar sniped at them with his blasts of eldritch energy, Keth charged the barricade with his shield and actually managed to smash right through it. The goblins on the other side were swiftly cut down.

As they made their way through the maze of hovels towards a large central hall in the middle, no goblins came out to harass them. The hall was shut, but a rope leading into one of the hovels was tied to the doors. They could hear grunting and snorting coming from within, and as they neared the hall, the rope was pulled, yanking open the hall doors and releasing two very angry giant boars! The animals charged the heroes and a fierce melee was joined. A few brave goblins took potshots at the heroes from the relative safety of their hovels at the same time. Ultimately, though, the boars were reduced to little more than large piles of bacon waiting to be cooked.

Rather than go hovel to hovel, our protagonists pressed on to the north, towards a large, ascending tunnel that they surmised led around to the goblin lord’s lair from the other direction from the cliff face. However, as they came out into the clear, a pair of goblins herded several suits of animated dwarven plate armor into their way.

Sorrel’s dwarven spirit was incensed! How dare they! Such sacrilege! He charged, aiming for the goblins. They were sneaky, though, and were able to interpose the suits of armor between themselves and their would-be attackers. Keth moved into the middle of the melee and summoned his guardian spirits, but he was soon hit hard enough that he lost concentration and began fighting defensively in order to defend his friends and stay alive.

A few of the goblins in the hovels fired arrows at Tasklar, who’d remained behind so he could attack the suits of armor at range. This prompted him to move into melee range, which proved to be a worse mistake, as he was quickly pummelled into the ground by the hammers the suits of armor were wielding. Elia managed to kill the goblins and then rushed to tend Tasklar, while the half-orcs attended to the suits of armor.

As the dust cleared, Keth scooped up Tasklar and the group beat a hasty retreat back through the goblin village and out through the tunnels to the surface again. Somewhere along the way, however, they lost Elia. They decided they couldn’t go back and search for her right away, so with heavy hearts they returned to their camp from earlier in the day and took a long and much-needed rest overnight.

The Kiss of Death
In the morning, they descended into the Underdark once more, only to find the caverns deserted! As they explored the place, our protagonists eventually found themselves back at the goblin lord’s blockhouse. Inside, they found a different fiend waiting for them! This one looked fairly human, except he had large, leather bat wings. Elia was with him, wearing very little and engaging in a bit of heavy petting with the fiend.

The creature looked gleeful as he informed the adventurers that they were too late! The goblins had cleared out, taking their prisoners with them! He had remained behind to let them know that his friend, Lord Agrak, sent his greetings. The fiend then pulled Elia close and gave her a big, passionate kiss. Her eyes grew wide and her skin went extremely pale and then she collapsed onto the ground, dead.

As Elia’s friends began to attack the fiend in their fury, he just shrugged and faded away, his laughter ringing in their ears. Keth rushed over to Elia and prayed fervently to Freya to revive his friend and protégé. He offered up some diamonds in payment, and as they vanished in a swirl of magic, Elia sucked in a deep breath and opened her eyes again! Keth had miraculously restored her to life!

Feeling somewhat deflated by their failure to slay Lord Agrak or rescue his hostages, the Arcrus family (who were most likely now doomed to a life of misery as slaves in the Underdark), our protagonists headed back to the Stop, where they reported back to Glenna the dwarven innkeeper. She was disappointed that they’d been unable to permanently stop the goblins’ depredations, but she thanked them for at least driving them out of the area. She was also saddened by the loss of so much innocent life, but still gave them their payment of 500 silver.

In the days that followed, Keth discovered that Elia was not her old self. Just as he and Keluak-cum-Sorrel had experienced, Elia had lost a bit of herself in the process of being brought back from the dead. The most obvious manifestation of this came upon their return to Larchwood, where Elia’s secret crush on Gil quickly blossomed into a serious infatuation. She seemed determined to make him hers no matter what the cost.

Horde of the Goblin Lord, Part I

Dramatis Personae: Keth, Sorrel, Tasklar (and Elia)
Source: “DDEX3-10 Quelling the Horde”

The Stop
As autumn progressed towards winter, Sorrel, Keth, and Keth’s protégé Elia found themselves in the Stop, a one-horse town west of Larchwood. Its tavern, the Plodding Plow, was run by a kindly dwarf woman named Glenna Moonsmith. As the trio made themselves comfortable at the bar, Glenna pushed some ales in their direction and told them they could have them free of charge if they let her give them a tip.

The PCs readily agreed, so Glenna related what two ranch hands who’d passed through the day before had told her: namely, that they’d been awakened in the night by goblins parading around as knights with crowns on their heads, lighting the place up and killing anything that moved. The ranch hands had fled through the night, not stopping at several neighboring farms that appeared to be under attack as well, before stopping for a rest (and a few drinks) at the Plow.

Glenna cautioned the adventurers that others in town would dismiss the ranch hands’ tale, as they were known to drink a lot, but she insisted that they were sober. She acknowledged that fear makes people exaggerate, though, so it’s possible they didn’t actually see any goblin knights with crowns. She pointed out that the ranched belonged to the Arcruses, a well-liked (and well-heeled) human family, while the neighboring farms belonged to the Lumbuses, a clan of hardworking halflings, and the Callidells, a family of humans who, it was rumored, were into witchcraft.

Goblins with crowns and rumors of witchcraft only excited our protagonists. After draining their drinks, they asked Glenna for directions, let her know a friend of theirs might be along shortly and to let him know where they’d gone, and then hit the trail.

Callidell Homestead
A light drizzle set in as the group approached the Callidells’ farm. Elia went to scout ahead and reported back that there were bodies lying in the farmyard. The group decided to approached stealthily through the wheat field west of the compound. Much to their surprise, the four scarecrows posted around the field animated and moved in to attack! The scarecrows were truly frightening, able to paralyze their prey with a mere glance! Three ganged up on Sorrel while Elia and Keth teamed up against the fourth.

As Sorrel reduced one to a lifeless pile of straw and sackcloth, Tasklar came running up through the wheat and started firing at scarecrows with blasts of eldritch magic. The bard’s arrival helped turn the tide, as the scarecrows were proving to be quite tough to defeat. With the help of Tasklar’s magic, however, all four were soon down.

Free to proceed into the farmyard, the group discovered seven bodies on the ground. All were clearly related (and quite probably inbred as well), and ranged in age from young to old. They looked like they’d been hacked apart while trying to defend themselves with weird knobby clubs wrapped in humanoid skin. [Before the adventurers left the farm, they made sure to burn the clubs.]

The Callidells’ house was burnt to the ground, but one of the outbuildings — a shed by the look of it — was still intact. As was the lock. Elia picked it, and inside our protagonists found a circle engraved on the stone floor, with fat black candles ranged around it. And a set of manacles screwed into the middle of the circle. It would appear that the rumors of witchcraft had been true!

Keth stepped forward and pissed into the middle of the circle. As he did so, he noticed that the piss was quickly sinking beneath some cracks in the stone. With some grumbling about the stink, Tasklar bent down and noticed that part of the stone could be pried up. Underneath, Keth found a wet wooden box containing some gems and jewelry and a nightmarish wooden idol. They smashed the idol to bits but took the other treasure.

They then moved on towards the halfling family’s farm.

Lumbus Farm
An hour later, they trudged into the halfling farm to find it deserted. Except for a goat that stuck its head out of the barn, bleated, then withdrew. The group went to check out the barn and found a small halfling boy hiding behind some hay bales. They coaxed him out with assurances that they were not going to hurt him. He asked them if the rest of his family was all right, so while Elia stayed with him, the others went to check. The rest of his family was not all right.

Their bodies were quickly buried, and the boy was escorted to another halfling family’s farm. Along the way, the boy told them that goblins had burst into the house while everyone was sleeping. He’d climbed out his window and hidden in the barn. He also told them, quite proudly, what he knew about goblins from listening to his uncle’s stories. These ones, he said, were quite unusual, in that some had crowns of spikes on their heads and metal armor on their bodies. Some of them were also riding on monsters, like giant frogs and two-headed dogs! One of them, the leader, had a giant centipede mount, and he could shoot fire out of his fingers!

Our protagonists stayed the night at the other family’s farm and warned them to seek shelter in the Stop until the all-clear could be given. They agreed to take the boy and leave home in the morning. As the new dawn broke, the adventurers said goodbye to the halflings and retraced their steps.

From the Lumbuses’ farm, they headed to the Arcrus ranch, where they discovered a fierce battle had taken place, in which some of the goblins had actually been killed. These ones were like normal goblins, with just piecemeal leather armor and no spiky crowns on their heads. They also surmised that only the ranch hands had been slain in the battle. The Arcruses had all been taken prisoner. Digging through the remains of the Arcruses’ house, they came across a strong box the goblins had overlooked. Inside was some silver jewelry that had melted in the fire, along with a few gems. They took this along with them as they followed the goblins’ tracks south.

Into the Underdark
Another hour’s travel south, our protagonists came upon a narrow cleft in the side of a hill. Lighting up the driftglobe so the two humans could see in the dark, they headed in. After a short distance, the entered a large cavern with several rock formations in it. A narrow passage descended into the dark on the far side. At that moment, two heavily armored goblins riding two-headed dogs moved out from behind the pillars and challenged the adventurers. One of them had a “crown” of spikes sticking out of his head, while the other did not.

The two half-orcs attempted to deceive the goblins into thinking that they were delivering two human prisoners at their leader’s request, but this ultimately failed when they could not even give the name of the goblins’ leader. (It didn’t help when the goblin knight pointed out that his tribe didn’t even normally have any dealings with orcs anyway.) The fight was on!

The adventurers decided the best strategy would be to unseat the knight and his squire from their mounts. While this proved relatively easy for the latter, whose death dog mount was swiftly slain, forcing the squire to retreat behind a rock pillar, the knight was adept at fighting while mounted and was repeatedly able to force his attackers to attack him instead of his dog. Outnumbered, the knight was soon brought low. Neither he nor his squire were shown any mercy. After the battle, Keth and Tasklar used restorative magics on each other, as the death dogs’ mouths had been quite dirty and they were worried about getting sick.

The group noted that both goblins were wearing chain shirts with bits of metal plating bolted on. They also discovered that the knights’ spikes had been hammered into his skull! Crazy goblins!

As the adventurers pressed on, Sorrel soon realized that they were heading into the Underdark! At last they came to a T-intersection. They chose to go right and, after a short distance, found another passage branching off their left into a garden of fungus. Hearing voices coming from beyond the garden, they snuck up amongst the mushrooms and discovered that they could all see into the large cavern as it was dimly lit by phosphorescent fungus. In the middle of the cavern was another goblin knight mounted on a giant toad. Three other goblins were rearranging barrels and ropes to create a course for the toad to navigate.

Being one for bold action, Tasklar charged out of cover, and the others were forced to follow. A savage fight ensued, with Sorrel at one point getting swallowed by the toad only to come bursting out in all his gory glory! One of the goblins managed to make it to a side passage, where he started hollering about intruders, before the group slew him from afar.

Fearing retaliation, the group headed to the north end of the cavern, where they had spied a small stable and corral that they hoped to hide in their long enough for a short rest. Unfortunately, the corral contained two large insectoid creatures that busted the fence down as our protagonists approached. They made a beeline for Sorrel in his heavy armor, and the former dwarf quickly realized that they were facing a pair of rust monsters! Luckily, both half-orcs were wielding magic weapons. Keth, too, felt safe in his new fire-resistant breastplate. Elia and Tasklar kept their distance. It was just poor Sorrel who was forced to deal with the rust. His chainmail will need a bit of repair when he gets back to Larchwood.

Much to their relief, after they’d dealt with the rust monsters, the adventurers were able to hide in the stable shed to catch their breath and bandage their wounds. No one came looking for them. The cowardly goblins appeared to be waiting for the adventurers to come to them!

Over the Wall
As our protagonists emerged from their hiding place and proceeded in the direction the fleeing goblin had taken, they found a wide passage descending towards another large cavern haphazardly filled with small shacks. Thirty feet up the left-hand wall of the passage was a ledge on which a crude battlement had been built. From beyond the battlement came a deep red glow. The wall even had convenient handholds.

The group decided to climb up and investigate the upper cavern. Fortunately, Tasklar’s dragonmark flared up as he approached, and he was able to see that the handholds were a trap! Each of them consisted of a sharp blade cleverly concealed by a layer of rock dust. Best not to climb up that way! Instead, Tasklar turned himself invisible and then scaled the cliff the hard way. Once at the top, he found another sizeable cavern with a chunky blockhouse to the right, an empty stable further along on the left, and two exits to either side at the far end. The blockhouse’s windows and door were shrouded by curtains. Several braziers filled with glowing coals were placed around the cavern.

Tasklar tossed a rope down for his mates but decided not to wait for them and made for the blockhouse. Shoving the curtain aside, he found himself looking at a decadently appointed bachelor pad, in which lounged a giant centipede thing (actually a carrion crawler!) and a tall, six-fingered goblin man with a crown of horns and coal-black skin. Sensing danger, the goblin flung rays of fire at the doorway. One of them struck the invisible Tasklar, who became visible once again as he hit the occupants of the room with a shatter spell.

The fiendish goblin laughed and attempted to charm Tasklar, but the bard shook it off and laughed in return. But then the carrion crawler lunged forward, its flailing tentacle striking the bard and freezing him in place. The goblin then leapt up and slashed at him with his scimitar.

The rest of the group reached the top of the wall just in time to see Tasklar fall backward out of the blockhouse doorway, a cheesy grin frozen on his face. Elia rushed forward and dragged Tasklar’s body back towards the wall. As she did so, he came back to life [rolled a natural 20 on his first death save and then successfully saved against the paralyzation!] with a gasp, just as the carrion crawler and fiendish goblin came dashing out in hot pursuit.

In the ensuing battle, the goblin managed to charm Elia into defending him. After Sorrel was also paralyzed by the crawler’s tentacles, the group focused their fire on it and destroyed it. As its carcass collapsed to the ground, the goblin let out a cry of anguish. He turned on the group in a fury, and they discovered that the had the power to teleport. As Keth summoned up some spiritual falcons to aid him, the goblin teleported up onto the roof of the blockhouse.

Sorrel slapped Elia back to her senses and she turned on the goblin. Sensing that he was losing the battle, the goblin vanished. The group waited a moment, then went into the blockhouse to loot it. They found some treasure, as well as a bottle with some red liquid in it. Keth tossed it to Sorrel, who promptly broke it, spilling the liquid on the ground. [‘Twas an elixir of health.] Keth also found a strange green crystal that, when he picked it up, made him feel uneasy. He decided to keep it, though, so he could show it to Calla or Kaylessa later. He thought maybe they might know what it was.

Tactical Withdrawal
At that point, our protagonists decided it was time to leave. As they descended the wall, several goblins started shooting arrows at them from the relative safety of their shanty town. Keth decided to jump down, rather than expose himself to such fire (having already been hurt quite badly — both physically and in terms of his pride — by goblin arrows earlier). The group then hightailed it back up the passage to the surface, then hunted around the countryside till they found a defensible copse of trees in which to take another short rest.

With the echoes of Tasklar’s restful music still ringing in their ears, our protagonists made ready to descend into the Underdark to face the horde of the goblin lord once again.

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!

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 …

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.

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)

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.

Trouble in Larchwood, Part III

Dramatis Personae: Gil, Keluak, Keth, Tasklar
Source: “Alarums and Excursions” (Princes of the Apocalypse), homebrew

A Thorny Proposition
On the way back to Larchwood from Tricklerock Cave, the PCs heard the sounds of a scuffle coming from just off the road. Someone was calling for help! Being the fearless heroes that they are, the PCs rushed through the trees to the site of a ruined farmhouse, inside which they discovered a colorfully-dressed halfling peddler caught up in a mass of writhing vines. Catching sight of them, the halfling called out: “Please make haste and free me from this place!”

As they moved to rescue the merchant, several clumps of dead twigs knitted themselves into humanoid shapes and leapt to attack. Two larger humanoid shapes, covered in sharp needles, shuffled out of the trees. Blights everywhere!

Tasklar turned two of the twig blights and one of the needle blights into kindling with his wand of magic missiles, while Keluak smashed up the other two twig blights with his warhammer. Keth ran through the mass of vines to assist the halfling, grabbing him by the feet and trying to pull him free as the vine blight continued to constrict tighter and tighter.

Gil got caught up by the vines himself as he went to chuck a flask of oil on the vine blight. He was then attacked by one of the needle blights, but he managed to free himself just before his cousin Tasklar could do it for him. (Tasklar was intending to cut the vines with his rapier, and Gil was worried that his cuz would end up cutting him instead, which gave him added incentive to get free on his own!)

Keth managed to pull the halfling free and then Keluak walloped the vine blight with his hammer, only to have the thing wrench his weapon out of his hand and grab him for good measure. Keth lit the oil on fire and watched the vine blight start to burn before it was finished off for good.

Out of danger, the halfling brushed himself off, straightened his clothes, and said, “My thanks you have, good sirs, for saving me from those miserable curs.” As he began the arduous task of gathering up his things, he introduced himself as “Bruce the Goose” and asked the PCs if they would like some “juice” (as he brandished a wine skin). He informed them that he was a “peddler of various sundries” who travelled “all over the country.”

Out of gratitude for the rescue, Bruce the Goose gave the PCs a small leather bag with six small beans inside it. As he handed it over, he warned them: “Be careful not to spill this on the ground, if you still want to be around. Plant them one by one and then you shall have some fun.” With that, the eccentric halfling merchant went on his way.

The PCs decided to plant a bean to see what it did. After a minute, a nest grew up out of the ground with six marzipan eggs in it. The PCs each tried an egg, and through a combination of luck, inspiration, and divine blessings, they *all* made their DC 20 Constitution saves and gained a permanent +1 bonus to their lowest ability scores. They even gave one to Keth’s protégé, Elia, who got a natural 20 on her save. She’s now slightly more charismatic. They’ve saved the last egg for Calla the sorceress.

The Tomb of Moving Stones
As the PCs headed back into Larchwood, another tremor shook the ground. A sinkhole opened up at the crossroads in front of them, swallowing up a cart and the children playing on it (one of whom looked like Pell). A woman ran out of the house and fell into the pit when the edge crumbled away below her. As more people came running, the PCs knotted their ropes together, tied one end around a fence post and dashed to the edge of the hole.

Despite the protests of several town elders, including quarry owner Albaeri Mellikho, the PCs and townsfolk made quick work of rescuing the frightened but unhurt children and the housewife. The PCs then decided to explore the exposed underground area, especially after Keluak recognized the stone door as being of dwarven construction. Their suspicions and curiosity were also piqued by a) the cloaks left by the door and b) the elders’ comments about not disturbing the “delvers” or “moving the stones”.

They opened the door and descended down a dwarf-made tunnel until they arrived at two stone sentinels set out from the wall aways. Keluak recognized them as symbolic guardians and also doorways. One guarded a tunnel that led to an ancient dwarven long drop. The other led to a makeshift charnel house, in which several giant rats feasted on the corpses of three murdered humans. The PCs made short work of the rats and inspected what was left of the bodies. The humans were all dressed in traveling outfits but were no one any of the PCs recognized. They all had a strange occult symbol cut into their foreheads as well.

Moving on, the PCs came to a room with a large black rock levitating in the center. Keth accidentally-on-purpose bumped into Gil, who took a dive under the rock so as not to crash into it. As he came out the other side, he was astonished to find some of the coins from his pocket were left hovering in the air beneath the rock. [Later they came back and found out that the rock wasn’t magical but that there was a magical cylinder of air in the middle of the room that allowed inanimate objects to levitate within it.]

From there, they discovered a large room with the broken, petrified remains of an ancient dwarf held together by a wooden frame. Around the frame, at a respectful distance, was a circle of fine gravel, inside which had been placed a number of coins and gems and a fancy dagger with a night-blue leather grip (and bloodstains on the blade).

They headed back the way they came and discovered another room, this one occupied by a boy held in place by stones. He protested when they went to help him, telling them this was his punishment for not delivering a message to Ilmeth Waelvur, the wainwright, from his father. At this point, they noticed that the half-orc village simpleton, Grund, was also here, staring at them in astonishment from the other side of the room. He told them they had to go, and when they wouldn’t, he levelled a heavy crossbow at them. They rushed him and banged on his head enough times to knock him out, then tied him up. Keth was adamant that Grund wasn’t evil and therefore shouldn’t be punished more than necessary.

They questioned the boy a little more, learning about the existence of the town’s secret society, the Believers, who interpreted the portents of the moving stones in the tomb of the Delvers. The boy also told them that the tomb was guarded by an old man named Baragustas.

Feeling a bit worn out and weary after a long day, the PCs decided to take a rest before pushing further into the tomb. Unfortunately, after only a few minutes, their rest was disturbed by a gang of six thugs in stone masks, who announced themselves to be the “Bringers of Woe” and who had come to “reward” the PCs’ curiosity. Whoa indeed.

Fortunately for the PCs, the Bringers of Woe turned out to be more bark than bite. Before pressing on to meet Baragustas, they donned the cultists’ masks and tricked Baragustas into thinking they were the cultists. They informed him that they’d “taken care of” the nosy adventurers, and he told them to put the bodies with the others. Keth then rushed him and knocked him out with a swift blow of his mace. The old man was tied up and left with Grund and the boy.

The PCs then ventured into the vast chamber of the Delvers’ tomb. Here they found a random assortment of menhirs and trilithons, as well as the bodies of six humanoids placed on stone biers around the edges of the room. Here they also found Larrakh, the stone priest. He saw through their disguise right away, considering that he knew that none of his accomplices were short and squat like a dwarf.

Larrakh opened with the slow spell, which caught up Keluak and Gil. Keth rushed into the room and got behind a standing stone. Tasklar fired the last magic missiles from his wand (which fortunately did *not* crumble into dust), but Larrakh countered them with a shield spell. He then tried to knock Keth prone with an earth tremor, but the half-orc would not be moved. To the PCs’ astonishment, however, all the massive standing stones in the room proceeded to rise up a few inches off the ground.

Larrakh then used shatter on Tasklar and Keth. Keth managed to hang in there with his orcish endurance, but Tasklar went down, one of his eyeballs exploding due to the magical vibrations. Ouch! Keth broke off his attack to save Tasklar from death, while Gil, shaking off his slowness, pressed in to attack with his sword. He got a crit on Larrakh, who cast expeditious retreat and ran to the back of the room, where he opened a secret door in the wall. Gil dashed after him, but the dastardly cultist wrenched a support beam out from the wall as he made his way up the tunnel, causing it to collapse behind him.

The Aftermath
The townsfolk were most grateful for the PCs’ assistance. Constable Harburk found the murdered travellers and launched an investigation. The Believers were all exposed and shunned and ended up turning on each other. Albaeri Mellikho and Ilmeth Waelvur were found guilty of murder and hanged. Marlandro Gaelkur, the village barber, was also found guilty but he managed to skip town. Several of the other Believers, including their leader Elak Dornen, also fled town. Grund was cleared of wrongdoing, since he was just doing what the elders had told him to do. Baragustas knew about the murders but hadn’t committed them himself, so he was thrown out of town.

In the end, the townsfolk of Larchwood opted to elect their first mayor. Their first choice was Constable Harburk, but he politely declined, so they chose his partner and the town’s butcher, Jalessa Ornra, instead.

Kaylessa, the half-elf proprietor of the Swinging Sword Inn, also revealed herself to be something of a sorceress and offered to mentor the PCs as they sought to become Big Damn Heroes.

Trouble in Larchwood, Part I

Dramatis Personae: Calla, Gil, Keluak, Keth
Source: “Alarums and Excursions” (Princes of the Apocalypse)

Bears & Bows
The PCs had spent the better part of a day searching along the Cairn Road for bandits. The Larchwood constable had suggested a number of likely spots but so far they’d all been dead-ends in more ways than one. Footsore and mosquito-bitten, the would-be adventurers were just about to give up and head back to town when they caught a whiff of roast boar emanating from the trees to the side of the road.

Spotting a trail that a wagon had recently been taken down, the PCs approached cautiously. Sure enough, in a little dell in the woods were some bandits, making merry around a campfire. There was also a black bear in a cage atop a wagon. And some crossbows within easy reach of the bandits. A quick huddle and the PCs decided that Calla the sorceress would stumble into the dell, looking for all the world like a lost and helpless maiden in hopes of drawing at least one of the bandits out onto the trail so Keth and Keluak could ambush him, while Gil circled around to take the bandits from behind.

This plan would’ve worked if Kel and Keth had done a better job hiding in the brush. Calla managed to get the bandits’ leader to come towards her, his intentions plain upon his face and in the hungry tone of his voice, but he spotted his would-be assailants as soon as he came within view of the trail. The game was up!

As soon as the fighting started, the black bear started banging against the bars of the cage and soon broke free! It immediately turned on the bandits and began mauling them. The PCs made short work of the leader, though they accidentally killed him in the process. They knocked out two of the other bandits and then rescued the fourth from the bear after she agreed to surrender if they got it off her.

The female bandit, a young human woman named Elia, pleaded with the PCs to have mercy on her. When she discovered that Keth was a true cleric blessed by the goddess Freya (which he inadvertently revealed when he healed one of his comrades), she professed to be a fellow believer. She gave Keth a big sob story about how she’d been forced into banditry by poverty and her big brother (the now-deceased bandit leader) and so on and so forth. Keth believed her and agreed to save her from the hangman’s noose if she swore never to resort to banditry again. Elia promised, and so when the PCs returned to town, they only handed over the two surviving male bandits to Constable Harburk, as well as the body of their leader, but made no mention of Elia. Instead, Keth took her to the boarding house he was staying at, where he asked the proprietor, a pipe-smoking prune of an old lady known as Mother Yolantha, to take her on as a chambermaid. Mother Yolantha, who also happened to be a secret adherent of the Old Faith, agreed to the deal, much to Elia’s and Keth’s relief.

In thanks for their efforts, Constable Harburk treated the PCs to a round of free drinks at the local tavern. Keluak politely declined any alcohol, asking for spring water instead. Keth, meanwhile, spent a bit of time getting to know the other two half-orcs in town: the older, retired mercenary Feng Ironhead, proprietor of the local arms and armor shop (who, Keth learned, had a great eye for gear but no head for business) and Grund, the village simpleton who lived by the market square, happily letting everyone pilfer his pickles. Keth vowed to ensure that some of his own coin found its way into their pockets.

The Haunted Tomb
The next morning, a bold young girl named Pell marched up to the PCs and proudly informed them that she’d seen a ghost. They asked her where, and she told them up in the hills. They were able to corroborate her story by talking to the local baker, a surprisingly thin halfling named Mangobarl Lorren, and promptly headed up into the hills in search of the old haunted tomb. There they discovered that there was indeed a ghost, but they also learned that they weren’t the only ones who’d been in the tomb – as the ghost couldn’t possibly have propped up that bucket of wagonwheel parts that fell on Gil’s head when he pushed open the tomb door.

The ghost kept asking them to leave and because they didn’t do so quickly enough, it attacked them. Despite the fact that their weapons went through it, they eventually managed to reduce it to a few thin wisps of ether. Gil then set about opening the inner door and discovered a sarcophagus and a chest. Letting their curiosity get the better of them, the PCs opened the coffin only to be attacking by a flying sword! Recovering quickly, they battered it into submission, then put it back in the coffin and shut the lid. Gil investigated the chest and found a secret compartment hidden under some rotten books and cloth.

The PCs took what little treasure was in the chest and left, only to be accosted by a goblin riding on the shoulders of a half-ogre who were waiting for them on the path outside the tomb. The PCs were certainly not about to let a pair of uneducated scum rob them of their ill-gotten gains! Inexperienced though they were, the adventurers proved more than a match for the would-be robbers and left them to rot on the path.

The Last Laugh
On the way back to Larchwood, the PCs came across an odd sight: a human skull stuck to a tree with a black arrow wrapped with what appeared to be parchment. Calla used mage hand to retrieve the parchment, which on close inspection appeared to be made from human skin. Written on it was a vague comment about being marked for the last laugh by someone named Valklondar. Nothing further would have come of it had not Keth stepped forward and pulled the arrow out of the tree by hand. He wanted to take it back to the village to see if anyone recognized it. That night, he experienced a nightmare consisting of the skull that had been stuck to the tree rushing at him hungrily.

Although Keth insisted on staying at Mother Yolantha’s, the other PCs had set themselves up at Larchwood’s only inn, the Swinging Sword. Keluak in particular was quite taken with the inn’s proprietor, Kaylessa, whom he swore must be an elf queen, despite her protestations to the contrary. She was, in fact, only half-elven, but she was nevertheless flattered by the dwarf’s attention. She was most keen to have Keluak and his companions in town, as she felt that the more monsters the adventurers slew, the safer the town would be!

Calla asked Kaylessa if she knew anything about the tomb they’d explored, and she said that it was one of many old tombs in the hills dating back to the days of the old empires. No one in Larchwood today was descended from those nobles, but nevertheless none would like the idea of goblins and other monsters getting their hands on whatever was in those tombs, so she thanked the PCs for their work in that regard.

The Necromancer’s Cave
Kaylessa also took the PCs aside later on and told them she’d heard of another source of trouble. The children of the town’s clothiers had been warned away from playing near Lance Rock because of plague! The PCs went to talk to the children and their parents and were duly informed that a gruff dwarf prospector (who didn’t live in town and therefore couldn’t be questioned directly) had warned the children about the plague. The PCs promptly volunteered to go and investigate. They soon found a sign warning of plague but decided to ignore it and pressed on. Next they found a cave with an identical sign posted outside it. Again they ignored it and went into the cave.

In the cave, the PCs found zombies. Lots of zombies. Including some zombies dressed rather strangely: one in a bear costume, another in a jester’s outfit, and a third in the get-up of a high-court lady. These three zombies danced an oddly mesmerizing dance that allowed them to get close enough to the PCs to attack them, though this proved to be a fatal move on their part. The PCs pressed deeper into the cave and found a mad necromancer and some freakish disembodied hands that crawled all over them, punching and slashing with their dirty undead nails.

Keluak succumbed to his injuries, and soon after the necromancer bewitched Keth and forced him to strike his downed comrade. Luckily, Keth pulled himself together and shook off the madness before he murdered his friend. As the necromancer’s skeletal guardians advanced on the PCs, Keth revived Keluak and the four adventurers decided now would be a good time to withdraw. And back to Larchwood they went!