The Price of Generosity

Session 19
The Cursed Staff, the Haunted Cupboard, and the Festival

Tallendryl addressed Father Coleway while both sides sized each other up. After trying to convince the agents of the Prince of Shadows to leave peacefully it became clear that they had no intention of leaving without the item they hunted, so with a cry Weiss charged their line and a battle erupted in the alleyway. As the sides struggled against each other Tallendryl suddenly found the staff in his hands out of thin air. Lan’Lei checked her bag, and found it to indeed be missing. It had somehow spontaneously materialized into the wizard’s hands… The battle ended when all but the murderous Boss Grond were slain, and he escaped into the shadows.

Following the battle a note was found on Father Coleway containing an ominous rhymed code of how “when the dragons are away the thieves will play.” Lan’Lei and Brock reiterated their position on the staff, explaining that it is too evil to wield, and that the dragons must destroy it. Tallendryl held fast that it should be used for good, but agreed to see the dragons so that he could convince them and his party mates of his reasoning. Meanwhile Sister Catherine had vanished at some point during the skirmish and was gone. Rather than try and track her down, the party decided to prepare for the next morning’s appointment to seek the dragons regarding the staff, (as the reservation had been made by Catherine) and to settle the business in Laylen’s home.

It was nearly midnight when the party knocked on Laylen’s door. His servant almost refused them, but Tallendryl’s old friend allowed them in and showed them to his study, where his problem lay- a cupboard of flatware which would not budge an inch for some reason. Despite several people’s strongest tugs it would not yield in the least. What was more, Laylen reported that screams and moaning were heard coming from the cupboard at night.

It was soon concluded that the matter was of some kind of negative spiritual energy haunting the thing. Looking for clues, the plates were examined closely, (especially closely as Weiss dropped one in a failed attempt to shatter one) but no one knew enough about dinner items to be of much use, until, as luck would have it, Brock recalled that his retired Crusader friend Lawrence Colbert lived nearby. He owed Brock a favor, and was an antique flatware enthusiast. He was called upon, and he eagerly examined the items, and informed everyone that they were actually made of dragon bone! He noted how valuable they were.

Lan’Lei learned from Laylen that although the dinnerware had been handled, the serving bowl likely had not been disturbed. She seized this opportunity to divine knowledge of the last person who had touched it. She saw a vision of an individual known as a Herald of the Three. Little more was to be done for the night, so Laylen produced guest rooms for everyone except Weiss, who insisted on camping out in the library to hear the screams for himself, which he did indeed.

The next morning the party made their way to a potion vendor to purchase magical concoctions of endurance for the long trek up to the clouds where the dragons roost. As they walked there they noted an unusual amount of activity in Axis- people were everywhere milling about, banners were streaming, and music could be heard all around. The vendor informed them that it was the first day of the Festival of Spears. As such, his usual goods were in small supply, and were ten times their normal going rate. Tallendryl balked at this, and suggested that they simply enjoy the festival and see the dragons using Lan’Lei’s reserved time instead of Catherine’s. Lan’Lei insisted, however, that the staff be destroyed as soon as possible, and would not wait- she shelled out the asking price for the potions.

They next went to the temple of the Great Gold Wyrm, where they would be able to climb up to the dragons. The priest, informed them, however, that the dragons had not been seen in a day or two, and their location was presently unknown, except for one old brass dragon. He was overseeing the main event in the Festival of Spears, though. Tallendryl brought up the letter’s warning from the Prince of Shadows’ men, and suggested that they be at the ready for evil to be done during the tournament since the dragons indeed seemed to be “away…”

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Session 18
To Axis

A group of holy inquisitors, (Borr, Saint, Cora, and Father Coleway) arrived in Dunbarrow a few days later looking for Sister Catherine regarding her dealings with demons. They questioned several townsfolk about her before reaching the Peach Pit, where Tallendryl, like all of the others asked, denied seeing her recently. They left, but one of their number, a Brockwell the Resolute, stayed in the tavern, as he was now parting ways with them.

Eudora dropped everything she had been carrying when she entered the room, because apparently this holy man was also known as “Brock the Cock,” due to his fame in halfling culture. As she eagerly received his autograph Wiggledorf hurried over to Tallendryl and informed him that his money had been stolen. Apparently Sister Catherine had known in advance that there were people searching for her, and “borrowed” Tallendryl’s money, (leaving a note behind promising to pay him back) and mentioned something about being pursued, so she was heading to Axis.

Now knowing that the inquisitors meant to capture her, Tallendryl announced that she’d stolen his money, and Sister Catherine was headed for Santa Cora to throw them off her trail, when Brock interjected- apparently a paladin of Alathea, goddess of truth, he noted the lie, and informed them of her true destination. They thanked him for this, and Tallendryl countered by addressing Brockwell by his less dignified nickname, which alienated him from his fellow holy men. They took their leave for Axis by foot. The party gathered- Lan’Lei wished to visit Axis for her own purposes any way, and Wiess, like Tallendryl, wished to resurrect Hugh, owing him his life. Brock accompanied them, as he, too, wished to apprehend Catherine.

The group set out a few minutes later on horseback with Hugh’s coffin strapped to Fly-catcher’s back. After riding for some time without overtaking the other party they became suspicious. The group took a break while Lan’Lei examined the ground, looking for a sign of their tracks. She found what seemed to be their footprints, but they seemed to be in groups with large distances between them. This puzzled her, so she sent Vrace up into the sky to scan for them. He reported back that they were still ahead of the party on the road, and that they were somehow disappearing, then reappearing further ahead- blinking in and out of existence, and traveling very quickly as a result.

Night came, and the party had to decide whether it would be best to push the horses to their breaking point in an attempt to reach Axis at the same time as the clerics, or to rest and simply lose some time. They opted to set a camp, and watches were set as a dense mist suddenly drew upon the road.

Two figures appeared- a man and a girl he identified as his daughter, and they asked to sit for a while by the party’s fire. Of the two who were awake on watch, Tallendryl was immediately suspicious, and began grilling them on their particulars, but Brock welcomed them. They sat and made small talk, but then asked for a favor- they wished for Tallendryl to deliver a package to Axis for them- despite being very close themselves. Brock suddenly began understanding Tallendryl’s suspicion, but Tallendryl then asked what they could offer in return- they produced a scroll of mass teleportation which he could use to instantly bring everyone to Axis’ gates. Before the others could fully wake up, or Brock could object, Tallendryl accepted the mystery package’s delivery contract, and used the scroll, transporting everyone to Axis.

They began searching for Catherine right away, despite the hour. Axis seldom slows down, so there were plenty of people in the streets and places of business. Lan’Lei went off on her own and arranged for an appointment to go up to see the dragon flight in the clouds above Axis, Tallendryl hit a tavern named the Fighting Pawn in his search, and the two clerics began questioning people in the street.

Weiss questioned one man as to whether or not he’d seen any of the priests who were rivaling the search for Catherine, and indeed he had- right behind Weiss! Saint and Wiess exchanged insults until Saint insulted Ashquay, which was too much for Wiess to bear- he challenged the other cleric to a duel. The two squared off- Weiss offering Saint the first attack, but it soon became apparent that although the man appeared to be a cleric of the Gods of Light, he possessed powers more akin to a follower of the way of the Prince of Shadows- shadow-stepping here and there, and attacking Weiss with a thin blade, trying to shank him. Weiss, however, answered Saint’s attack with Ashquay’s holy judgement, and smote the man dead with radiant light from the heavens, leaving only one of his smoldering ash-filled boot behind.

Meanwhile in the tavern, Tallendryl bumped into a childhood friend of his, Laylen McKale. After briefly catching up Laylen agreed to share some information of interest to Tallendryl in exchange for his expertise in resolving an arcane matter in his home. Tallendryl agreed, and Laylen informed him that Sister Catherine was staying in a secret location down a dead end alley.

The party regrouped and located the alley. After encountering a few traps they gained entry and encountered a group of demons. The party dispatched them with relative ease as Tallendryl retrieved Catherine’s book of Demonology, and Catherine emerged from the next room, surrendering herself. She seemed surprised to see who had tracked her down, however. After talking with her, it was revealed that she had sought to destroy a demonic staff which had attracted the attention of some operatives of the Prince. It can only be destroyed with dragon fire, and so she had secured passage to reach the dragons using Tallendryl’s gold. She planned to pay him back by selling the last shred of her soul to the Diabolist.

Lan’Lei took the cursed staff, and Tallendryl debated the morality of what Catherine had done with the clerics, along with whether it was right to use demons while Lan’Lei left the building. As the men continued their discussion Vrace reappeared and told them in his own way that there was trouble outside.

The three emerged into the alley to find Lan’Lei facing a large number of white-robed figures, no doubt the operatives of the Prince of Shadows looking for Catherine…

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Session 17
The Golden Men and the Way Home

Bartholomew lead the group of Krovan’s Gate survivors back to the elf tower in the stolen city, and the rest of the party made ready to face whatever lay ahead in the glowing chamber. Filing into the group of block heads, the destination appeared as a glowing white sea of wispy tendrils. A loud condescending voice could be heard far away bellowing commands, and the party found themselves face to face with another of the stone brothers of the Stone Thief. This one, commanding the block heads where to sort their booty, as the block heads deposited their burdens in different piles amidst the milky white tendrils- being enveloped afterward. Spotted among the picked pieces of trinkets, fragments of stone, and masonry three of the golden men could be seen.

The party stepped forward and demanded their stolen treasures back in exchange for their peaceful exit from the living dungeon. The Architect, as he identified himself, was unimpressed with the threat, and suggested that the golden men could be bought in exchange for a service to be performed for the Stone Thief- he told the group to draw a magical signal on highly desired buildings of the Empire for the dungeon to devour. Instead the party decided that they’d had enough, and wanted to put the great head in his place. They attacked the Architect, his block heads, his “dungeon-born” orcs, and statues head-on.

The battle was fierce, but as usual, the heroes edged out their foes, and were triumphant after all we slain, and the Architect knocked from his high pedestal by Weiss after his prayer for great strength. The party interrogated him, but left him alive, opting instead to escape after he let slip that the glowing sea of worm-like protrusions comprised the sensitive digestive system of the Stone Thief- attacking this area with enough force might cause her to “vomit.”

The party attacked, causing some appreciable damage before a great rumbling and wind was sensed. Soon the ground quaked and a suction like none had felt before caused the party to be blown with terrific force. Before they knew what had happened the heroes found themselves laying in the ruined street of downtown Krovan’s Gate, along with several buildings that had been in the stolen city- all of the ones which had been stole from this town, along with a few extras that hadn’t been- the elf tower among them. Fortunately no everyone in the elf tower and all of the party members had survived the exit safely, and the group sighed in relief- they had escaped the beast.

The town emptied into the street to gaze in amazement and celebrate their reversal of fortune. Survivors embraced loved ones, and the mayor thanked the party, praising them as heroes. The party wished simply to move on to their final destination of the journey originally embarked on after leaving Scarsdale Fortress. All they needed was a coffin for Hugh’s body, a crate/“coffin” for Verlin, and a cart, and they were soon on their way to Dunbarrow once again.

On the road to town Lan’Lei stopped off in her secret lair to stow a great deal of plunder and send some communiques regarding the dragon egg Verlin had found and entrusted her with. Wiess and Tallendryl returned to Dunbarrow- much different from just a few months prior- travelers, merchants, and adventurers packed the streets, and new businesses were springing up on every plot of unused land.

The Peach Pit was a success- brimming with business and a line out the door, Tallendryl could scarcely recognize the new massive edifice, complete with puffing pipes, and decorated signage.

Tallendryl was about to let himself in, (upsetting a bunch of people waiting to get in) when Toll appeared at the door. He greeted Tallendryl and let him in… after paying the “Toll toll,” or cover price for entry. Inside much had changed- magical furniture seemed to appear and disappear out of the floor as needed. A crowded room with an expertly decorated interior made the tavern truly amazing. The bartender, Uurl, directed Tallendryl to Wiggledorf, who was in one of the private rooms… naked with two women. He was happy to see Tal, despite the interruption, and showed him the rest of the place- from the brewery in the basement manned by Thorgrim, (creator of the now-famous Schnappy Peach) to the luxury bedrooms in the upper floors, all adorned with the finest leathers and valuers by Drakkablak. Tallendryl greeted each, and told them of his travels, and introduced Verlin to his new basement home, and informed them of his idea to create a black spice laboratory next to the brewery. Wiggledorf mentioned that a number of fires had somehow kept starting in the tavern, but each time they were quickly extinguished. This news alarmed Lan’Lei.

Weiss meanwhile got right back to investigating the burned down remains of the Giant’s Flagon. Considered a cursed and haunted place, it is now avoided by all of the locals. As such, its remains were undisturbed from when the party had left for Scarsdale. After finding some evidence of demonic activity here, and learning of Sister Catherine’s past, he departed for his nearby monastery immediately to make a report.

At the same time the Peach Pit was preparing a grand festival for the sudden return of its patron and hero, and spared no expense- a feast was set out under pavilions, ales were brought out, and a great party was thrown. Tallendryl mingled freely with all who were there in very flashy garb while Lan’Lei stayed on the edge of the celebration, watching for signs of an arsonist.

Tallendryl was introduced to Lady Kaira, who had recently moved to Dunbarrow from Glitterhagen, and generally had a good time drinking competitively with other revelers. Eventually, however, Lan’Lei’s suspicions were realized when two fires sprang up- one at the tavern itself, and one on on of the streamers attached to a pavilion, which resulted in some damage to neighboring buildings. She spotted a shadowy figure attempting to run away during the confusion, but he suddenly and inexplicably vanished once she thought she’d cornered him.

The next morning Tallendryl collected himself after the party, learned of what had happened, and, from Lan’Lei’s description of the possible arsonist, learned that Draven Halfhand was in town and trying to destroy the Peach Pit. The threat must be addressed, and getting Hugh to Santa Cora is another journey unto itself…

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Session 16
The Gizzard's Prisoners

What laid before the heroes was a veritable city of ruined buildings of all kinds- elvish, human, and dwarvish all mingled in a ruined expanse of cavern. Torchlight could be seen here and there moving throughout the “streets,” and shadows moving in the darkness could be sensed, but a clear view of who or what was actually in the rubble was not to be had.

The party moved into the area cautiously- each member picking his own way carefully to avoid being too loud until a structure came into view that seemed particularly alluring- an elvish tower of white stone illuminated from within with magical light. The decision was made to investigate this place quickly.

Inside the tower faint voices were heard talking and laughing in elvish until the party made its presence known. All else seemed orderly and clean, despite the building leaning at an odd angle due to structural damage- even the direction of “down” was altered upon entering to make it seem as if it were completely normal- indeed there was much of magic in this place.

Investigating the room once all had entered, cookies and tea were found, and Weiss, availing himself of the treats, verified that they were not stale nor poisonous. As the party moved up its other levels, the tower proved to be devoid of occupants, but had all the furnishing and comforts of a kind of research facility or school- there were beds, elvish clothing , and books all in their properly ordered places.

The topmost level proved to be the most interesting- ghostly figures of elves worked on arcane and astrological calculations while fussing over a large bronze sphere with odd markings all over it, which filled most of the room. Glyphs and rings smoothly glided across its surface, and from time to time, after consulting a book or chart a phantasmal attendant would approach it and tweak one of its mechanisms, as if to correct it in minute degrees. All who were in the room puzzled at its meaning, purpose, and workings. The figures who moved about the room took no notice of the visitors, and were quite incorporeal to any who tried to touch them.

Meanwhile, Lan’Lei had discovered a secret passage as the others went upstairs, and decided to explore it on her own. She found a secluded library/bedroom where she found many books on the heavenly bodies, a suit of Imperial armor, and a chest which didn’t seem to have a mechanism to open, despite being obviously magical in nature. She took these items and headed upstairs to join the others.

When she observed the sphere Lan’Lei produced the chest to compare the glyphs which appeared on both items. This elicited a reaction from the spirits of the room- one approached it, moved the markings around the surface with ghostly fingers, and the chest opened, sucking the sphere and all of its attendants inside despite them being far too large to naturally fit in. It was deduced by Bartholomew that the sphere is a model of sorts, depicting the different planes of existence. It was theorized that it may allow for travel in some way, but far more study would be needed to test the idea.

As this was going on Weiss decided to act impulsively, as he is wont to do. While the windows of the tower in this room displayed an illusion of a pleasant, sunny day, he decided to stick his head out to see the actual outiside of the building. From his vantage point he could see a patrol of orcs carrying a torch a short distance away. He yell at them, issuing a challenge as loudly as he could. The orcs approached.

Now suddenly needing to leave, the party decided to jump from the window to a nearby temple ruin as the orcs went around to the front door. The party made the jump intact, and was able to reach the next building without the orcs’ notice. From the new vantage point the group was able to surveil the orcs, who seemed reluctant to enter the elf tower. Tallendryl crept to the edge to listen to their murmuring- they feared the tower, deeming it “haunted,” and resolved to wait for the party to leave the tower at the front. The heroes took this opportunity to enter the temple through its cracked roof. Tallendryl’s preoccupation with his golden men caused him to stick around a bit longer, overhearing their mention, and that their superiors were holding large amounts of gold and prisoners, as well.

The inside was badly damaged, and not much more than rubble was to be found inside the pitch blackness. As the group reached the ground floor their faint lights revealed shadows moving about with them inside! The shapes moving around turned out to be corpse-like beings with nothing but rocky crests for heads rummaging around in the debris. At intervals one would find a piece of a statue, a small symbol, or a semi-valuable-looking piece of stone and would then carry it away.

Once it was determined that these “block heads” were no immediate threat, and that they seemed entirely oblivious or indifferent to their presence, they resolved to follow them to their destination. As they traveled in an eerie march through the darkness of the stolen city streets it became apparent that there were many hundreds of the creatures all heading in the same direction, and each bore some piece of a building. After some time it became clear that they all traveled toward a point ahead of iridescent white light.

Orcs were spotted in a cave jutting off of the corridor the party now found itself in, however, and the tug of moral duty, (and the mention of looted gold assumed to be the original payment for the golden men) obliged the party’s immediate attention. The group followed the orcs who leisurely strolled toward their sizable base camp- fires burning here and there, scaffolding and wooden beams crudely constructed to create a level floor over craters, and whips cracking on the backs of slaves taken from Krovan’s Gate.

The heroes rushed into action, attacking the orcs head-on. A large battle ensued, but the orcs were overwhelmed by the might of the intruders. Several members of the Red Rock Tribe were spotted among the captives, so Lan’Lei armed them with a few magic swords looted from the golem smith. Though they were all slain by the orc captain, their efforts helped ensure victory, and at least some of their shame was undone. At the last all of the orcs lay dead, the civilians were freed, and the large sum of gold liberated.

After a short breather the party appointed Bartholomew the guardian of the townsfolk while the warriors set out on a search that seemed to be nearing its end- the golden men, and hopefully a way home…

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Session 15
Gateway to the Gizzard

Armand resurfaced after having been captured by orcs, and then escaping after the orcs had been swallowed by the Stone Thief. He joined the growing team as they debated how to try and get past the now-awake minotaur. As they stood thinking a band of orcs were slowly trying to sneak by. Unfortunately for them, the minotaur caught their scent, wheeled around, and began its attack. The party used this opportunity to scramble down yet another trap-filled hallway. This one shot darts from the corners of the squared corridor decorated with reliefs of squids. Weiss, recognizing this kind of device, identified it, and the party passed unscathed.

This corridor ended and a natural-looking cave system stretched out ahead of the heroes. Stalactites and stalagmites dotted the visible expanse. As they ventured forward a familiar-looking fortress wall came into view- that of Scarsdale Fortress! This heartened the party, as it signified that they were near their destination- they must be in the gizzard, where newly stolen structures were kept by the beast. The fortress was manned, however, by a small mob of orcs.

Tallendryl transformed himself into an orc with pieces of stone lodged in his skin he’d seen with Tuskgar, and walked up to the wall. He bluffed his way in, claiming he worked for Fangrot, and had news of Tuskgar’s mutiny by working with “the invaders.” No sooner than he’d gained their trust, however, then did Weiss lead a charge toward the fortress. The party attacked at a range, exchanging missiles with the fortification while Tallendryl maintained his deception. He tricked an ogre into helping pull down the portcullis, and turned on the orcs, trapping the monster’s leg under it. The battle was long, and involved orcish reinforcements, shamanistic blood magic, and hidden gelatinous cube grasping at the party as the crossed the murky water over the drawbridge. The heroes prevailed, and must now complete their mission: to recover their lost payload and escape the beast…

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Session 14
Denizen of the Deep

The party traveled forward into a hallway suspiciously lit, but devoid of any ornamentation or apparent danger. Synyster scouted ahead and noticed horizontal reliefs lining the walls. As he observed this the trap was sprung- buzz saws appeared and began sliding back and forth, making passage nigh impossible. Weiss was able to avoid most of the danger by walking on the walls by way of his dwarvish kilt. He helped the remaining party members cross without too much spoil.

Following the saws the party took a brief rest, and then resumed the journey into the now downward-sloping corridor. Around halfway through the hall the face of the apparently alive Butcher appeared, boasting his evil grin. He then caused a giant boulder to drop into the hall at the opposite end of the slanted hall, and the party had to dodge it. When it reached the end the hall tilted the opposite way, causing the boulder to roll back past the party once again. This continued, with a few feet being crushed, but all survived, and traveled on.

The corridor finally ended with a large dwarvish treasure chamber containing a number of pillars and a partially petrified medusa, along with a small group of harpies perched near the ceiling. The medusa attacked the party with her bow, but the party was unable to answer with ranged attacks of their own, as there was also an invisible magical maze of force barriers being generated by the runes inscribed on the pillars. The party rushed to the medusa as Tallendryl used demonic blood magic to dispel the maze. Once the gap was closed the foe was no match for the heroes, and was slain. Following the battle Lan’Lei discerned where a likely hiding place for a cache of treasure, and several items were obtained.

Behind this room was another even larger chamber with a high ceiling, dwarvish statues, a large anvil, and a tremendous crack leading deep down into an abyss. When inspected, a creature stirred, and a huge aged minotaur with matted hair and overgrown horns began climbing up the cliff formed by the crack, and the party opted to flee. Of the two possible exits, they chose one which seemed to be an uncovered secret door.

The door lead to a spiral staircase which lead up into ancient-looking quarters of some kind of temple. Though dusty, there were beds available, and all seemed quiet until a man was spotted. After some initial suspicion it was learned that Bartholomew, as he identified himself, was a cleric who had ventured into the Stone Thief with his own party, but became separated when they attempted to battle the minotaur. He fled from the danger while they remained, but it is unknown what became of them. He noted also that he had been living in this place for a month, and it was one of the elusive “safe zones” inside the dungeon. The party was glad to hear this, and decided to rest here before attempting to delve further into danger…

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Session 13
The Vampire and the Golem

The door led the group down a dampening and earthy hallway sloping ever downward. A new fork presented itself, and before Tallendryl and Lan’Lei knew what was happening, Weiss charged off to the left on his own. He ran into a dark room with a terrible stench of rot and many bones scattered across the floor in piles. A man was there, and turned to hiss at him- he was gaunt, unkempt, and sickly-looking, but nonetheless warned Weiss to beware his wrath, as he was facing a vampire.

Meanwhile, Tallendryl and Lan’Lei began to follow when they heard a voice yelling from the ceiling- a halfling fell out of a copper pipe that was hidden in a ceiling corner and landed on the elf. After they all realized that this was no doing of the Stone Thief the halfling introduced himself as Synyster Gates, a fellow adventurer. Seeing as they were not opposing one another, and could use help mutually, he joined the group.

The three joined Weiss as he and the vampire were facing off- Weiss, though unconvinced of any danger and dubious of the man’s claim of being a vampire, held up his shield and mace while the man bared long narrow teeth. Tallendryl calmed the tension in the room, and got Verlin the vampire to introduce himself, and learned a bit about his story. It became clear upon speaking to him that Verlin was merely traumatized and delusional, and so Tallendryl decided to take pity on him and convinced the “vampire” to join the party in exchange for “undead bread,” which, Tallendryl claimed, would allow Verlin’s hunger to be sated without the need to feed on the living. Verlin acquiesced finally- grateful for his hunger to be satisfied. He found his sole possession- a giant obsidian-looking egg, and followed along as the party ventured down the other path of the fork.

This pathway smelled more of brimstone than of decay. The heat grew, and a room illuminated by lava which filled the entire area laid ahead. Only a bridge of dark stones seemed to allow passage across to a giant face with a gaping maw. Weiss ventured out first. He found that as he stepped onto certain stones that the piece he was standing on would detach from the rest of the bridge and begin floating away into the pool of lava. Weiss manged to cross all the way to the demonic-looking face, but found himself stranded as his path floated away, and stuck at a dead end, as the face was no door- it was just a trap to fool adventurers into trying to enter its biting mouth.

The rest of the party now cautiously began to cross, as well. They were cautiously planning their path when arrows began flying at them from either side of the room- orcs in magical boats were emerging out of the steamy lava with murderous intent. Though at a serious disadvantage, the party braced for battle when Tallendryl overheard the leader shouting orders and mentioned the name Fangrot. Remembering what Hugh had told him of his childhood, though fast, and produced the red flag of the Red Flag Army. He addressed the leader, who identified himself as Tuskgar, and told him of General Ghuul’s defeat at their hands. He threatened to ditch the powerful item into the lava unless the orcs all disarmed immediately. This made the brutes fall into silence until Tuskgar finally ordered his men to throw their weapons away. He demanded the flag in return, but Tallendryl instead scoffed and told the vulnerable and apparently gullible orcs to be on their way- the flag was not for taking. They orcs were enraged but powerless, and left spitting and shaking their fists.

The party was then free to cross the bridge as carefully as they could- Synyster and Tallendryl hopping from stone to stone as Weiss had, and Lan’Lei floating across the way magically. As she did she noticed a hidden exit in the stony outcroppings of the far wall, and also discovered an unoccupied boat. She used the boat to gather the party and they exited the room.

The next chamber appeared dwarven-made- carvings and decorative statues decorated the walls here, and hammering could be heard in the next room around a corner. Synyster snuck ahead as Lan’Lei allowed the group to share senses, and they saw a golem hard at work in a smithy scattered with metal, armor, and tirelessly forging swords- all through the halfling’s eyes. Thinking deception to be a possible solution, Tallendryl magically transformed into the likeness of the dwarf king, and entered the room, greeting the golem in dwarvish. Instead of talking with it, however, evil spirits inhabiting some of the ancient relief pictures awoke, and spoke “Tallendryl” as they pounced. Several pieces of armor also suddenly animated and advanced to do battle.

The rest of the party sprung to aid the wizard, but the golem produced a sword with “Tallendryl” written in the blade. It tossed the weapon to one of the armors, and it dropped the elf in a single blow- the swords made by the hand of the golem were crafted especially to destroy any individual in its proximity by imbuing the blade with his name. A fierce battle ensued, but the party emerged victorious without any casualties. The golem never stopped its work, however, even after its allies were all slain. It kept producing weapons to kill members of the party. Tallendryl collected these swords and disposed of them in the lava of the previous room- though not before learning that Synyster’s true name was apparently Bon Winterthistle. Additionally, Lan’Lei discovered a few swords in the corner with others’ names inscribed on them- Gronn, Effricht, and Belfast. Another group of adventurers must have made it at least this far before this party had! Are they still alive? Can they be of any help? Or are they already dead? The party drew together to meet more challenges and find their answers or treasure as they continued onward…

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Session 12
The Butcher

The Doorkeeper’s mouth revealed a winding stairway going deep down into the living dungeon. Hugh noticed and avoided a pressure plate of unknown purpose. and the group continued around it. The narrow, dark, and winding path ended in a fork- one direction leading into a large open cave-like chamber with a large body of water, the other leading to another hallway. The party opted to try the hallway first.

The hallway was the first illuminated part of the Stone Thief. A lamp-like crystal hung over a circular chamber without a floor while the hallway continued across on the other side. The party, still low on energy, reviewed their options. Vrace scouted out the pit- it apparently emptied out into the large cave-like lake room. Dwarvish carvings decorated the shaft- what Weiss called a dwarvish burial hole- where dwarves deposit the bodies of their dead. Lan’Lei and Weiss crossed the pit by jumping across. Tallendryl, vocal about his concerns for the situation, jumped next, but did not make it- he fell down, down into the pit.

Hugh, reacting quickly, managed to lasso his companion, and Tallendryl was spared a drop all the way to the bottom. A mere uncomfortable drop to about 20 feet down, and he could see the dwarvish faces carved into the sides of the circular tube. The empty eyes of the bearded faces were home to a strange breed of undead creature- deadly venomous spiders which could shoot iron webs from either end of their bodies. Tallendryl was an easy mark for the spiders despite his attempt to climb the rope while Hugh pulled. Tallendryl was taken down by a few of the spiders while the others skittered up the wall. The spiders were quite nasty, and Tallendryl oscillated between life and death as he hung from the rope attached to Hugh, who was fighting a few spiders on his own, but eventually the threat was ended, and the wizard came to, more spent than ever. Talk of giving up was briefly entertained until Tallendryl examined the crystal, and found it to contain a magically sealed soul which could be used to fully restore everyone’s energy. Hugh and Tallendryl joined Weiss and Slept: Lan’Lei on the other side, and they continued to the end of the hallway.

The hall ended with a series of gigantic statues of dwarvish craftsmanship. A riddle carved in dwarvish challenged them to choose the statue depicting the “inspiration” for the sculptures. The consensus was reached that, as dwarves, it was likely the figure with a mug. They went up to the statue, and it began to move- it rose from its seated position, looked down on the group, and contorted its face into an evil, twisted grin, resembling slightly the Doorkeeper. This, no doubt, was the brother he spoke of who guarded “the gauntlet” as this room was known, who he referred to as the Butcher. The party had chosen poorly. The statue struck out with unreal force. No enemy encountered had yet been so powerful.

The party managed to badly damage the monstrous being when it stiffened and toppled over lifelessly. Tallendryl tackled Weiss out of the direct path of the gargantuan statue, narrowly avoiding being crushed himself as another rose up with the same contorted smile rose to attack. Weiss hoisted the mug from the fallen statue and hurled it at the new contender, causing substantial damage to its face. This enraged the Butcher, attacking him savagely in retaliation. Hugh, seeing that the attack would no doubt kill Weiss outright, intercepted the attack, which proved fatal. Hugh was crushed by the giant just as it was taken down by the rest of the party.

Tallendryl was particularly upset by Hugh’s death, and angrily defended the body from Weiss’s thought to throw it down the dwarvish burial hole. He resolved to bundle it up as best he could in the hopes of reviving him in Santa Cora for a resurrection ritual. Lan’Lei and Weiss observed that the statues had revealed doors leading to chambers containing a large amount of gold, and a cask of magical dwarvish ale with healing properties. In addition, the correct path was revealed.

After having come this far, and realizing that, (according to the Doorkeeper) they were nearing “the gizzard,” (where they originally had resolved to go, though they didn’t know it) the party made the decision to continue on to the final trial. Whether they can recover the treasure they sought, can rescue anyone from Krovan’s Gate, or even survive the next room themselves remains to be seen.

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Session 11
From Krovan's Gate to the Belly of the Beast

Tallendryl, Hugh, and Weiss followed some tracks that Hugh found that seemed to belong to Edwards while Lan’Lei guarded the cart and its concealed treasure. The footprints lead straight back to the Gilded Lily, where Edwards and a number of members of the Red Rock tribe were, looking for the golden men. They demanded the gold, but the party, fresh out of a large battle in the Frozen North, was unimpressed with the threat, and intimidated them into leaving without a claim on the treasure.

Edwards explained that they had overheard him negotiating a deal with the local temple, and wanted to steal the treasure by violence, forcing him to comply or be killed. He said that the deal was sound, however, and all that was now needed was to complete the transaction. As the wagon was being hitched, however, the ground once again began to rumble. Subtly at first, it became more and more apparent until there was no doubt- the Stone Thief was attacking again. A large portion of the town began to sink into the earth, and the party came to the grim realization that there was no escape from being engulfed.

The ground parted more and more, and the great maw presented itself. Buildings were being swallowed up, and the cart and party members were doomed to go down as much of Krovan’s Gate was being swallowed up. Surprisingly, a bridge was visible inside the mouth, along with a number of orcish humanoids standing on it, and “spear fishing” people unfortunate enough to be pulled down into the crushing and grinding rocks below. Occasionally they shot arrows at the party with surprising accuracy. The party was able to use the giant “teeth,” of the beast, which were large rocks protruding from the sides of the chasm, to lower into the pit and reach a door leading into the living dungeon safely- it was the only way for them to avoid being crushed. During the attack the golden men were lost into the beast. Aside from simply surviving, the goal became to recover either the golden men or the gold that was supposed to buy them. In the party went to an unsure gauntlet of a vast living dungeon.

The first room was a simple one- a large unlit rectangular room with four pillars, a gargoyle holding a key, and a single door on the far side. One of the walls was decorated with a mural of a dwarf king from a long past age fighting off hordes of orcs and the undead- clearly this was an ancient room of dwarvish make. Tallendryl snatched the key from the gargoyle at a distance, cautious of the nature of these types of rooms from his experience in the living dungeon outside of Dunbarrow. Sure enough, the statue came to life, and swooped toward the party along with another which was concealed in shadows above the exit. The party dispatched them only for the pillars, made of some kind of glass, to shatter, unleashing a pair of wraiths which continued the onslaught in this room. Tallendryl was felled briefly until the combat was ended and he recovered. The key allowed them access to the next room.

After a brief rest, the party cautiously entered the next room. Also of dwarvish origins, this was full of machinery- gears and pipes cluttered the low-ceilinged room. Ahead a large group of goblins were busy looting corpses of citizens that seemed to have been “fished” up by the bridge denizens from outside. At the sound of the approaching adventurers they scattered. Many fled into the pipes, disappearing into the depths, while others ran ahead. The party continued on unimpeded to a single exit.

The next room contained several ancient-looking sarcophagi, and several burial items and urns. It seemed too quiet, so Weiss examined one which was partially open. Through the crack he could see a milky eye following his movements. Unsure of the nature of the being, he opened the lid, which proved to be a misstep- this prompted all of the others to open, as well. Each contained a ghoul of some strange variety, and the party found a conflict once again. After ending their threat the urns were taken and the party moved on to the single exit.

The next chamber was very dark, and apparently used to be a manor house of the Dragon Empire. A large dragon statue adorned the front lawn, and a mostly dilapidated house took up the rest of the area. A general feeling of safety and security reassured the party that no evil would come of this place, though Tallendryl felt no such confidence, and was alarmed at how his magical light sources continually faded while in this room. Hugh, Lan’Lei, and Weiss all concerned themselves with the statue, which seemed to have a mechanism for rotating its orientation, and was magical, as well. They took turns attempting to figure out the “correct” direction, but also kept getting the same result- the person turning it would be burned by fire which spewed from the dragon’s mouth. After a period Tallendryl noticed a painting of the area before its destruction, and the rest of the party used its depiction to find the correct orientation. This resulted in a stair appearing that went down into the lawn. A few magical items and several gold pieces were the treasures found in the storeroom below. After resting a bit longer they carried on.

The next area was no room at all- it was a familiar sight: the bridge and maw, along with several orcish humanoids occupying themselves with their makeshift harpoon. A battle ensued, and a hard-won victory over the bridge enemies was won. The party now faced a choice- attempt to escape the same way they entered, as the quaking was much more tame at this time, or delve further in to find their lost treasure- doing so would risk being inside the beast when it decides to submerge once again, and potentially crush anything inside its body in the process. They opted to look for their lost treasure despite being low on energy and magic.

The next room was entered. This one had no apparent exit- just some menacing gargoyles, which put everyone on edge. Tallendryl tossed a rock into the room to test the statues’ reaction, but instead got a reaction from the wall the rock struck. It moved and contorted until it formed a giant stone face, which looked at the heroes, and introduced himself as the Doorkeeper. He spoke a bit with the party- asking about the outside world, where they had come from, and other small talk, and he revealed that he was something of a servant and captive of the Stone Thief, and that he, along with his “brothers,” who occupy lower levels of the living dungeon have certain jobs which must be done for the dungeon. Having enjoyed some rare conversation, he asked a riddle- the apparent test to pass into the next room, but made it a mere formality, (“what looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and sounds like a duck?”) and hinted at the possible location of either the golden men or the gold allocated for buying the golden men- beyond the next room, (“the gauntlet”). With that, the Doormaster opened his mouth wide to form a doorway, and the party ventured onward…

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Session 10
The Return to the South

With their work done in the Frozen North, the party began the journey home. Tallendryl collected some death root before departing, and their first stop was in the ruins of Ironvale to check in with the Iron Tooth Orc Feasters. The party was received well by Throgrim Grimspittle. He told them of his men’s plan to return to Anvil, while he volunteered to go to Dunbarrow to work in the Peach Pit as an ale brewer… in exchange for orc meat. The deal was accepted, and he left just after offering the treasure horde in the dwarvish vault to the party if they wished to face its danger.

The party accepted the invitation for gold, and found it- some alive itself, and also guarded by a gelatinous cube! The threat was dealt with, and the gold divided- except for the portion made of the melted-together human-like forms of the golden monster men. Faced with five large and suspicious human-like golden statues of dwarf gold, the party needed to find a logistical solution, and a way of offloading the booty for more traditional coinage. The solution was to use a hobbled together wagon from Ironvale’s wreckage along with a homeless ill-tempered ox found wandering the countryside. The process was slow and trying, but they eventually managed to transport the golden men with the broken wagon by the ox to Tradestone Tavern.

Here Hamish McBeard was glad to receive the party for stopping the threat of the Red Flag Army, and restoring peace to his homeland. He outfitted the party with a new wagon, (along with a few sheep) and the party set off for home… right after Hugh negotiated for Eudora Bitterleaf to become a barmaid at the Peach Pit.

Not wanting to keep a high profile or to have anyone ask many questions, the party next stopped in Krovan’s Gate to try and sell their golden men through Edwards Cervesa. He agreed to try and sell them to a wealthy eccentric, and the party rested for the night. Tallendryl thrilled the patrons of the Gilded Lily with tales of the party’s exploits, and hooked up with Talula again.

The next day Edwards was nowhere to be found where he said he’d be. Harn said that he’d seen Edwards be escorted away by a bunch of ruffians, though… Where has he gone off to?

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