Our cast of characters…
Dracon, human Beastmaster of the Wegwier;
Flavius, half-elven (Oerid/high) warrior (Rel Mord)
Kaganost, wemic apprentice shaman, originally from Hepmonaland;
Kendradell, female half-elf (Suloise/high) bard & initiate of Lydia (Keoland)
Kalik, halfling initiate-in-training of Avoreen (Duchy of Umst);
Milik, halfling sorcerer <absent>
Murray, nalshavel orc, wizard. <absent>
Nikolai, Suloise human initiate of Lendor.
We left our merry band preparing to open the secret door in the crypt they were exploring, and they did so, revealing another stretch of corridor ending in a door much like the others they had encountered. But as Dracon entered this chamber to magically translate the riddle it asked, he felt an unfamiliar tingling in his fingers and toes, and seemed unable to cast any spells within the hall. Upon further experimentation, it was determined that some anti-magical force guarded this hallway, so Dracon was forced to recast his translation spell and listen to the door’s riddle from the far end of the hall.
“Walks in the wind
Runs in the rain
Makes dry oceans in the sun
Counts time, stops clocks
Swallows kingdoms, gnaws rocks.”
Though they had to work to gather it, they soon procured some sand and placed it in the hands of the carving, which parted, revealing the next chamber. (I will admit at this point that I forgot to bring the map I had drawn of this place with me to the game, so I was acting purely on memory…)
The next chamber contained six chests and numerous urns and vases sealed with lead. While searching the chests for traps, Flavius was struck by a poison needle, which seriously sapped his CON and left him very weak. Healing was applied, but was mostly ineffective. Meanwhile, Kalik, attempting to lift one of the chests, triggered a trap meant for just such an eventuality, and was nicked by a scything blade from the base of the chest.
In the end, they managed to open one of the chests, and found that it was nearly full of heavy gold bars bearing what Kendradell believed were ancient Flannae numerals. While the rest of the group searched this room, Flavius wandered out towards the entrance, only to see several pairs of boots, some much too large to be those of men, standing around the outside of the hole they’d come down.
After alerting the rest of the party to their presence, Dracon quickly re-established contact with his wolf familiar as soon as he ventured past the dead-magic zone. The wolf quickly told him that many folk were about, and that he and Kendradell’s hunting cat had fled at their approach, not being able to reach their masters for some unknown reason.
Feeling weak (and perhaps a bit suicidal)* Flavius engaged the warriors above in conversation, actually inviting them to come down and “get them”. Soon, two human soldiers and an ogre were making their way down the halls of the crypt, as the rest of the party tried to form a defensive position from one of the stone tables in the room that had once held ghouls and the human-skin book.
Dracon made himself and Kaganost invisible, and while Kaganost tried peppering the oncoming foes with arrows, Dracon attempted a rear attack on one of the humans. The human possessed great skill with his sword, however, great enough to strike two heavy blows against Dracon, nearly crippling him. Milik used his sorcery to erode the ogre’s armor, which finally opened him up to the arrows of Kalik and Kaganost, as well as Murray’s magical flame arrows.
As the enemy drew ever closer to the group’s “last stand” position behind the table, Dracon finally struck a blow that crippled his opponent, and as the final soldier reached the table, Nikolai called upon him to surrender, to which he replied that it was he who should be accepting their surrender, not vice versa – and his next act was to drive his sword down through Nikolai’s shoulder, nearly to his groin.
Though the rest of the group soon managed to overcome him, it required one of Kendradell’s most powerful spells to heal poor Nikolai of his wound, as the rest of the group debated on what to do before more of the troops above could enter the crypt – these soldiers had nearly overrun them.
A search of the last room they’d entered revealed another secret door, which revealed yet another corridor and another riddling door, which asked: (thanks, Rasgon!)
“Common as mud
More vital than blood
Coin of demons and demiurges
It can’t be found in any purse
A burden, a curse.
After a life of toil
Released by dirges.”
This one held them stumped for awhile, as conversations with Dracon’s wolf above revealed that the other ogres accompanying the men above were felling trees, presumably to help smoke the party out of their hidey-hole. When they finally guessed the answer, they tried propping one of their bleeding foes against the door and finishing him, hoping that releasing his his soul in such a manner would satisfy the door, but to no avail.
Not wishing to surrender one of their bound spirits to the door, they chose instead to use magic to force it open, but doing so triggered the release of several of what the party decided were shadows within the next chamber – things were obviously not getting any better, and were rapidly getting worse.
While several members of the group fled towards the only exit they knew, Kaganost and Dracon quickly re-closed the door they’d opened, and then went to join them. Rather than setting the trees they’d felled alight, the ogres were closing off the exit with them – Kalik attempted to buy their freedom with the gold they’d discovered in the crypt, but another member of the party (which one escapes me) mentioned the shadows they’d found, which made the soldiers above (more of Capt. Elias’ Black Rook company, BTW) laugh and wager that the party had earned the fate they could expect to receive.
It was at about this time that Flavius, whose initiation to Darkon is known to the players but not to their characters, elected to (quietly) call upon his new deity for deliverance, and was heard. A darkness descended upon the scene above, and then there was only silence.
When Kalik climbed the rope they’d originally descended, and found that the stout wooden boles blocking their exit now crumbled away at the slightest touch – and when he reached the surface, the bodies of the mercenaries all lay frost-rimed and obviously long-dead about the scene. The grass, the trees, even the horses all seemed to have aged decades, perhaps centuries in the span of seconds, in a circle roughly 30 yards in diameter around the hole they had entered. Nikolai wondered at such an occurrence (time and aging being among his own god’s prevue), and took careful notes concerning the conditions and obvious effects of whatever had just happened.
Each member of the party carried with them a bar or two of gold, as their horses were now but bones and the cart they’d brought along with them to haul treasure was rickety at best. On the way back to Hardby, they espied what they thought must be Capt. Elias himself and a troop of his followers riding hard towards the city, but there was little they could do except try to blend in with the populace once they arrived (as if any group containing a wemic was likely to achieve this….)
Nikolai reported the strange temporal manifestations he’d seen to the temple of Lendor in Hardby, and was quietly ushered into an audience with an elderly priest, who filled him in on the story of Darkon and his birth to the avatars of Lendor and Istus before the Twin Cataclysms (all of this is entirely IMC, of course – YGMV). He was told to watch his companions, until he was sure of which among them served the Dark Son….
After several nights in the city, as they awaited river transport back to Greyhawk, a gnome came up to them in the inn they were staying at and notified them that the men several tables away were discussing how best to finish them off. Again, Flavius, in a fit of pique, decided to send these men a round of drinks, and through the barmaid managed to arrange a meeting between themselves and Capt. Elias’ forces a few miles outside of town at 10 the next morning. Naturally, they and the gnome (who seemed anxious for company, and was planning to return to Greyhawk anyway) all boarded the ferry at 6 AM and sailed north to Greyhawk, though at least one of their fellow passengers seemed quite familiar to various members of the group.
Once back in Greyhawk, the party fell to training and shopping. Flavius took the book they’d found in the crypt to the leader of his new faith’s hidden temple in the City, and was well rewarded for his find. Chancellor Y (as his high priest was called) then bade him to complete a mission of import, namely the slaying of a young girl who lived in a village a few miles outside of the city (actually, the lovely young woman Flavius was sent to kill was the only woman he was destined to ever truly love – her death both removed a possible impediment to Flavius’ loyalty, and bound him even closer to the cult by his action). By means of reward, Chancellor Y agreed to accept Flavius as his apprentice in sorcery….
Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Sabian, the gnome they’d befriended in Hardby was notified by his superiors in the Slayer’s Guild that the people he’d been traveling with had recently acquired a rather high price on their heads, and that while the guild would not accept a commission against one of their own (namely himself), the contractor (whose name was given as Elias) would doubtless attempt to contract his demise with those assassins who did not belong to the guild (all of these contracts were being paid for, BTW, with bars of gold remarkably similar to the ones the party had secured from the one chest they’d managed to open….)
Confiding this knowledge with Kalik, Sabian and the party began a rapid withdrawal from the city, not wishing to test themselves against the Slayer’s Guild (who had already slain their companion Ivan with frightening ease….)
And so ends another night of intrigue…