Monday, April 28, 2008

Session 6: Rest and Relaxation?

After their triumphant return to Cauldron, the party spent a few weeks living a little. Thorne went into the arena, (barely) emerging victorious against Velga the dwarven brawler. Acturus spent his time rooting around the Broken Tower Republics embassy for information on the ruins beneath Cauldron, and dwarven contact with the ghoulish threat.

Mal went drinking with Thorne, then went to talk to Sgt. Hecl'eatl. The meeting went south when the Sgt. made a rude comment about Thorne's use of the orcish language. The Sgt. showed him a thing or two about bare-knuckle fighting, and Thorne mutely promised to return the favor another day.

Mal forwarded several invitations she had received from the Knights Morthane, inviting the group to the country manor of Sir Uckscot for hunting and entertainment. They purchased horses and some new clothing to appear a little more presentable.

Miguel brought the golden Olman ceremonial breastplate to Casorati for advice, and Casorati agreed to help him sell it for a commission of 25%. They brought it to Tygot's Old Things, an antique shop well known in Cauldron. Tygot and his blink dog companion welcomed the two, and a peculiar bidding war began. Tygot would inspect the item, mumble a bit, and then quote a figure. As Casorati and Miguel would nod sagely, the blink dog would growl. Tygot would then up his figure. The offer topped out at 2800gp for the breastplate, which turned out to be magical. Before selling it, they decided to bring it by Skye's Treasury and have it identified. It was revealed to be a very old piece, and having the ability to increase it's wearers bearing and force of personality (that is, Charisma). The next morning they brought it back to Tygot, and also had some very nice bacon sandwiches.

The session concluded with the party traveling to the town of Trader's Rest, where they will meet their guide to the manor.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Session 5: Grand Central Station

The previous session had ended with Casorati entering the Starry Mirror, and so this session began with the immediate aftermath. Casorati was in a hexagonal room, similar to the one he had left. All the walls were of a similar sapphire tint. On each wall stood a duplicate of the Mirror, showing a reflection of the room in a different color. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet were all represented.

Thorne entered the mirror as well, and spent a great deal of time marking walls and micturating on various surfaces in an effort to track his path. Each room he entered appeared to be a new room, with no marks or left objects from the previous room. After each six rooms he entered, he heard a soft sigh. He eventually grew bored with experimenting, and went to sleep.

Acturus believed he had discovered the secret, and walked into the mirror. After trying out several different combinations of colors, he decided to try out the spectrum, ROYGBV. He ended up in a sand-choked chamber on the edge of a great desert, with only the blazing sun and howling desert winds for company. He decided to return to the Starry Mirror instead. Thumbing through his notes, he found two combinations of colors he had transcribed from the floating runes, and tried out the first of those. It brought him to an underground chamber, filled with the nearly-mummified remains of a sacrificial victim and presumably his sacrifices. The room was barred from the inside. After working the copper-plated bar free, he explored the catacomb, eventually finding his way past several rooms to the great prayer chamber. A tall statue of a somewhat bestial man and a great serpent dominated the room, with the man swinging a sword made of fire and ice. A large slab of granite carved with Olman glyphs adorned the base of the statue. Daylight filtered in through cracks in the walls and door, which was covered in gold sheet. Three leering demonic faces adorned the door, with each demon's mouth forming a keyhole. Having no key, Acturus left downstairs to try and find his way out.

Meanwhile, the rest of the expedition took careful notes of the runes, their individual combinations of gems, and what lay beyond the portals. Mal found one portal that showed the silhouette of Cauldron in the distance, and organized the expedition to leave. Before they disembarked for the journey through the Mirror, Sir Uckscott and Miguel traveled back up the passage towards the sounds of voices they had heard earlier. They saw the ramshackle ruins of an ancient city bearing marks of the spellweavers, as well as more recent constructions of Dwarven and some other style. All over the underground city crawled ghouls, of all sizes and shapes. Groups of sentries marched back and forth, which Uckscott and Miguel avoided. A great bonfire was burning in the center of the cavern-city, and a steady stream of bound humanoids were being thrown into it by ghouls. Uckscott and Miguel were too far away to see details, and did not want to attract attention to find out. They ran back to the Mirror and joined the expedition on the other side. Miguel then took a detour, trying the list of possible combinations trying to find Acturus. Luckily, he found him on the second try.

The whole group then descended the cliff face, painfully aware of their exposed nature. The valley before them sheltered a great ziggurat, on which a tall spire was built of black stone. A stairway ran up the outside in a spiral, and around the top a great segmented stone worm curled. It did not bear marks of a dragon or serpent, and its origin and nature were a mystery that the expedition declined to investigate.

After coming across a warparty of palanquin-borne Yuan Ti and their human soldiers and avoiding them, the expedition beat a hasty retreat back to civilization, risking no open fire and praying for salvation. This session ended with their return to Cauldron, where they received their payment for the task completed and gracious thanks from the Council.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Session 4: Exploring their Environs

After being closed off from their previous path, the expedition had only one choice: deeper into the Underdark. After a short jaunt through the tunnel, they reached a three-way intersection.

The passage to the left led down to a water-filled crevasse, crossed by a gleaming bridge of greenish marble. A golden statue jutted from the ceiling, ruby light from an orb clutched in its hand illuminating the cavern and reflecting off gemstone eyes. A golden dome protruded from across the crevasse, and a set of double doors set into the cavern wall at the far end of the cave. At least 15 ghouls could be seen milling about.

The passage to the right led down a set of double doors, carved with a representation of a six-armed humanoid creature. Another set of bones and glyphs marked the extent of the ghouls' territory. A mystic zone of silence surrounded the door, and the party decided to avoid it.

After traveling down the center passage for a long period of time, they came to an underground cavern filled with the tangled roots of a deepwood tree. It was in this cavern that Mal, scouting ahead, encountered a small patrol of ghouls. Three armored warriors in helm and breastplate, a lean ghoul as scout, and a ghoul with a bloated stomach ran through the cavern, not noticing Mal. She opened the combat with a blast of firey doom, and the rest of the expedition soon found themselves in combat with the warrior ghouls. The bloated one hurled dark energy that burned Mal's arm, and when Miguel was immobilized, it tried to infect him with small tentacled growths that erupted from under its skin. After all the ghouls were slain, Acturus engaged in some swift surgery to remove the growths before they could take root in his flesh.

Soon after the deepwood grove, they came to an obviously crafted tunnel, leading to the left and right. To the left, they heard the echoing sounds of a great number of voices, and to the right was silence. The party went right.

The passage ended in another line of bones and glyphs on the wall. Acturus touched the glyphs, translating them as "This ends the domain of the Great Eater, death for our kind lies past here." The heavy stone doors opened to a touch, opening onto a large circular room split into several tiers. A hemispherical network of stone beams surrounded the inner circle of the room, with contained a ten-foot high black stone obelisk glowing with an inner golden fire. The stone beams were invisible from inside the circle, and 26 red runes floated in the air outside of them. Acturus touched the obelisk, and some of the golden fire spread to his hand. Every movement of his hand left glimmering trails of flame in the air.

He began tracing the runes that floated above. When he completed one, the floating rune expanded into a red-tinted view of some distant place. As he concentrated on the vista, six gems appeared in his mind. This pattern held true for all of the floating sigils he focused on, although only eleven of the twenty-six showed anything besides darkness or swimming fish.

The next room was a hexagonal room with a large stone throne, facing a dull, silvery mirror on one wall. Acturus sat upon the throne, and the mirror shimmered into life, showing a reflection of the room sans throne or people.

Casorati stepped forward and touched the mirror, and then found himself alone in a blue, hexagonal room.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Session 3 Epilogue

The grunts and calls of the ghouls echoed through the constricting cavern. Miguel ran through the tunnel, stopping and staring back every few seconds. Thorne and Casarati had vanished up ahead, and Wolf kept stopping and gazing at the surrounding stones as if he intended to pull them down by strength of will alone. Sir Uckscot and Sir Shatterhelm were trading places, one falling back while the other plugged the gap against the oncoming horde of ghouls. Mal was nowhere to be seen, her dark clothing and features fading into the shadows. Acturus maintained his position near the front line of defense, using his wand to heal the knights when he could.

Wolf let out a whooping call of victory. He had found a fallen chunk of stone, greater than man-sized but potentially movable. Thorne came rushing back, assisting Wolf while Miguel desperately dug smaller stones out of the way. The stone teetered up on its end, and only Miguel's quick assistance prevented it from toppling down immediately.

"Get back here, fools!" Wolf called, grunting with the exertion of manipulating the giant rock. Sir Uckscot and Acturus jogged past, and Sir Shatterhelm barely made it past before the stone came crashing down, smashing a pair of pursuing ghouls into foul paste.

"Wedge it in!" called Sir Shatterhelm, pointing at the smaller rocks thrown aside by Miguel. Sir Uckscot and Miguel stabbed through the gaps, cutting at any foolish ghoul that risked itself while Wolf, Sir Shatterhelm, and Thorne put their backs to the rock and wedged it up with the smaller stones.

After five minutes of frantic clawing from the other side, silence came like settling dust. The expedition had bought themselves some time to regroup. Heartbeats gradually slowed, and breathing soon became easier. A few questions were in need of answers: where were they, and how would they return to the surface? What significance was a pack of intelligent, speaking ghouls, capable of taking hostages? What ghoul had ever created art, even so much as a cave painting? And just where had those ghouls run off to?

Session 3: Expedition to the Underdark

The party joined an expedition of 14 men, led by Sir Uckscot (a squire of the great Sir Alek Tercival) and Sir Shatterhelm of the Knights Morthane. They met with five goblin Bucbens at the former site of the goblin encampment, who agreed to guide them to a place of a thousand ghouls, a strong fortress of their ancient Enemy.

It took days of spelunking until the party had reached the border of the ghoul's territory. A line of scattered, gnawed bones crossed the passage, and a mural of white smudged runes marked the walls nearby. Images of a fanged mouth were common.

Midway through their third "day" of the journey, they reached a vast underground lake. Long, ropy tendrils of fungus hung from the stalactites above. Small islands of the growth dotted the surface of the green, glowing lake, connected by the tendrils to globular pods far above. A series of five great waterfalls thundered water into the cavern. Sir Shatterhelm produced a series of wooden rods from the packs, which assembled into two long boats.

The crossing of the great lake was made more interesting by a great creature beneath the water. Its long white-gray body and baleful white eyes regarded them from beneath the waters. Casorati produced an illusion of a third vessel, which was promptly attacked by the great creature. The waves created by its gargantuan inhalation of water knocked several members of the party overboard, and it was only after some frantic swimming and rowing that everyone made it onto the far shore.

Two paths were open to the party: the goblins told of a passage under the water, that would bring them into the ghoul's territory without their notice, and a more dangerous path that led to the great cave-in that the goblins had engineered to seal in the ghouls. The party decided to avoid going back into the water, instead taking the other route.

That "night", Mal and Thorne found themselves on watch when Mal noticed a flash of pale skin in the darkness. One of the man-at-arms who has accompanied the expedition was ambushed and dragged off into the darkness by a pair of long-limbed ghouls, triggering a confused melee in which five ghouls were killed. Mal, Miguel, and Thorne chased after the abducted man. The tunnel led to a deep pit, with water at the bottom. The ghoul who had taken the man had him gripped by the neck, with a claw at his throat. It spoke quickly, gesturing at the man it held. As Thorne charged, the ghoul slit the man's throat and fell backwards down the pit.

A few minutes later, the Knights Morthane and the party stood gathered around the pit discussing the ghoulish incursion. A thrown sunrod revealed the scope of the threat: a tide of ghouls climbing up the tunnel at them! They fell back to a narrow tunnel, minimizing the advantage of the ghouls numbers. Many ghouls were slain, but they kept coming. After a few minutes of brutal combat and confusion, they began to fall back.