Chronicles of Azoth

Session 7 - Laboratory Larks

The seventh session began with most of our heroes in the village of Rannir, beneath the shadow of the mighty Tower. Meanwhile, Maeralya approached the village with news about the terrible Temple to the east.

In attendance:

Leandro Rebes, Fighter 3, a Mercenary from the Bargainer’s League with a powerful grudge. (Matthew)
Guillermo Acosta, Grand Alchemist 3, a seeker of secrets from the far-off city of Candleton. (Delwyn)
Marit, Explorer 3, a skilled Monster Hunter from the violent hills of Estiria. (Catherine)
Maeralya, Elven Enchantress 1, an Antiquarian from the far-off Elven Courts. (Asha)

Not long after the party arrived at the village, Maeralya also arrived, catching the group up on what she had discovered about the historical repeating of the current trouble afflicting the region. In turn, Guillermo let her know what they had discovered about the alchemical laboratory nearby; that the settlement of Red Oak no longer existed, but there was a well-known landmark known as Red Oak in the region.

Retiring for the night, the party were afflicted by strange dreams.

The party took the opportunity to visit the Spell-Wright Asandarin the morning. He was apparently waiting for them to arrive and invited them to his sanctum, where he gave them some information about the location they sought; it had once belonged to the local Vicearch, a title roughly equivalent to Earl, who had been an Alchemist of ill and dark repute, much given to experimenting upon the local population. Several adventuring groups had already attempted to locate the laboratory, though they had so far returned empty handed and some maimed by traps or passing monsters; and the location itself had from time to time become a stopping point for bands of beastmen. Still, Asandar gave the party his blessing to attempt the delve, in return for a promise of whatever spellbooks and research notes they could uncover.

With the local ruler’s blessing, the party headed off to locate the ancient laboratory.

Party Structure:

Marit (Expl 3)
→ Bob (Ftr 2 / Henchman) (+1 Morale)
→ Cullie (Hunting Dog)

Guillermo Acosti ( Alc 3)
→ Erasmus (Ftr 2 / Henchman)

Maeralya (Enc 1)
→ “Mook” (Ftr 1 / Henchman)
→ Keletheryl (War Hound)

Leandro (Ftr 3)
→ Bertram (Ftr 2 / Henchman)

The journey to the former site of Red Oak was short and uneventful. On arriving at the area, the party began to notice strange aberrations in the wildlife in the area; as well as the peculiar red-budding tree, the grass grew in peculiar shades and some of the smaller wildlife was mutated and strange. Guillermo suggested that the laboratory was leaking alchemical elements and reagents into the surrounding area.

Taking this as confirmation that they were in the right area, the party began to search for the entrance mentioned in the snipped of text they had seen. The only almost-standing structue was a couple of walls and a boulder supporting a small portion of remaining ceiling; Marit discovered a beam blocking then entrance (and supporting the roof), which she squeezed past. Inside, the mossy stonework floor was interrupted by a large stone slab. Attempting to squeeze out, Marit accidentally disturbed the beam and the ceiling collapsed, barely missing crushing her.

The party spent a while clearing the rubble from the floor, and then Maeralya noticed a lever in the wall. Using a rope to pull the lever (having been warned of traps), the party watched as the slab slid aside easily on oiled runners. The first thing the group noticed was the stink of kobold dung!

From beneath, the kobolds jabbered threats in their debased version of Beast-Hakk. Leandro threatened them back, and when challenged to “come down here and say that”, responded by leaping into the chamber. The following combat was mostly one-sided as the party above poured missile fire into the kobolds (Marit shooting three dead in a matter of seconds) and Leandro hacked through them; the last survivor obeyed the kobold champion’s order to open one of the doors and was immediately cast down by a massive, nine foot long weasel!

This was a somewhat more dangerous foe and even though the party hammered it with arrows and sling bullets, it managed to charge Leandro. He was ready for it, however, and set his halberd to receive the charge. The beast thundered into him and sank its teeth into his shoulder; yet even as it began to attempt to drink his blood, it started to fall limp, impaled clean through on the polearm.

With the cellar cleared of enemies, the party took a moment to get their bearings as they began to climb down, and Guillermo took the opportunity to treat Leandro’s vicious shoulder wound. The cellar had three doors, one of which was already opened; the cupboard behind was filled with weasel dung and pieces of regurgitated fur and bone. The northern exit was crudely boarded up, and the other door was stuck; Leandro easily opened it with a kick of his boot. inside lay a dusty wine rack in a darkened room. He then quickly noticed that the wine-rack was on a balancing platform, and poked the rack with his 10 foot pole; a crossbow bolt thudded from a gap in the wall and embedded itself in the floor. Examining the crossbow bolt, Guillermo determined that it had once been poisoned with purple worm venom, an extremely deadly toxin; but it had long ago expired.

Tearing the boards off the final exit from this room revealed a shaft heading downward and a set of rusted rungs, along with a smell of damp air. The party wisely decided not to attempt to use the rungs and instead descended ropes into the floor below.

Down below the cellar was a circular room forming a crossroads. A rivulet ran across the stone floor from west to east, while several of the party noticed a low but consistent humming sound coming from the south. On this basis, the party decided to head north, advancing carefully and leaving some of their number to guard the cellar.

The north corridor ended with a locked door. Leandro borrowed his henchman’s axe and made relatively quick work of the door as the others watched nervously around for ambushes. Inside was a room with painted, pinkish walls; another door waited on the opposite side. Entering, Marit realised with a sudden freezing feeling that the room had a fine notch all along the walls at roughly neck height; quickly ordering everyone out, the party watched as a pair of large serrated blades flashed suddenly from either side, slicing out across where their necks had been mere moments earlier.

Further careful investigation indicated that the floor was hinged in the middle; standing to either side at all caused the floor to descend slightly, setting off the trap. Leandro spiked the notches and advanced to investigate the other door, which had a handle but no apparent lock. Assuming by this point that the door must be trapped, he asked his henchman (who was a former lumberman) to fetch some chisels and a saw; and soon enough the team began to saw around the handle before malleting the handle into the next room.

The door hinged in the wall and opened into the pink-walled chamber, making it difficult not to step to either side. The light from the lantern revealed a large laboratory centred around a great operating table. Six niches containing corpses lay on either side of the room, while great permanent metamphora lay between the niches, and a huge piece of alchemical equipment of some kind stood on a metal gantry hanging over the surgical table. At one side of the equipment lay a storage cupboard, while a large, barred metal door lay at the other.

The corpses in the niches started shedding mercury as they slowly shambled to their feet, vicious-looking bladed weapons attached to their arms in place of hands. Quickly recognising the danger, Leandro moved everyone back across the antechamber, physically pulling Guillermo away as he tried to puzzle out the alchemical/surgical equipment. Taking a position on the other side of the trap room, Leandro blocked the door with the intention of allowing the alchemical “zombie” monsters to shamble into the trapped chamber. The monsters were extremely strong and surprisingly skilled; some of them began to land hits even despite Leandro’s armour and shield, but eventually the trap went off. Bertram landed an excellent charge with Leandro’s polearm, killing one of the creatures, though he lost the polearm in the attempt. Shortly afterwards, Guillermo released his powerful Burning Hands spell; 3 more fell to the ground in flames, and the party looked in wonder at the alchemist.

Leandro slowly retreated to allow the party to shoot at the zombies, and the two remaining monsters began to overrun the party a little, one of them getting access to Guillermo and only narrowly failing to gut him. But the party regained their composure and with Guillermo’s sap and Maeralya’s staff added to the battle line the tide turned once more; Leandro beheaded the burning zombie and Bertram took advantage of the gap to zip around the other side and bury his axe in the only one still standing.

Though there were worries about the toxic burning mercury (not to mention the huge pools of the stuff on the floor), the party advanced into the laboratory once more. One of the destroyed mercury zombies had a strange blade strapped to its thigh; on examination, this was determined to be an “elementally perfect” blade, with an effect similar to Mythril. A green-tinted potion sat on the surgical table; although on initial testing it appeared to be a Potion of Heroism, it was identified as a Potion of Delusion by the expert Alchemist. The four huge metamphora were found to contain a pair of Wyvern corpses and a pair of Ogre corpses.

Breaking open the equipment locker caused the tinkling sound of breaking glass, and suddenly the smell of mercury vanished as alchemical “anti-scent” filled the room. Inside the locker are the following items:

2 wrought gold chains worth 1000gp each,
1 orichalcum chalice worth 4000gp
1 set of finely wrought platinum scales worth 900gp.

Partly choked and somewhat battered, the party decided to grab what they had found so far and return to the surface to recover.

This added:
865gp of killed creature components
Two Wyvern Stingers (720gp)
Two Wyvern Wingtips (720gp)
Two sets of Ogre Knucklebones (280gp)

Total Treasure: 6,900gp
Components: 2,585gp
XP Gained: 9,485xp

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Session 6 - Trees and Treasure

The sixth session began once more in the fortress of Turos Tem, where our heroes were recovering from the mauling they received at the hands of a mysterious archer.

Leandro Rebes, Fighter 2, a Mercenary from the Bargainer’s League with a powerful grudge. (Matthew)
Guillermo Acosti, Grand Alchemist 2, a seeker of secrets from the far-off city of Candleton. (Delwyn)
Marit, Explorer 2, a skilled and scarred Monster Hunter from the violent hills of Estiria. (Catherine)

After taking a day to relax from their exertions and for Marit to finish recovering from her Wyvern Venom, the party then decided to make their next move. Maeralya declared that she would devote herself to further study of the Stone and the Temple in the fortress’ records, while Marit would travel to scout out the Owlbear lair that was blocking the new road south.

After avoiding a swarm of Stirges that were chasing a giant hawk, Marit’s scouting revealed that the great fir that blocked the flat gully was hollow at its base and inhabited by two Owlbears. When night fell, she was astonished to see the larger of the two emerge to spend some time checking a range of alarm tripwires and similar crude traps, before leaving to hunt. The other Owlbear turned out to be a twisted, misshapen creature with missing fur and a grotesquely deformed shoulder, as well as what appeared to be antennae barely visible against its feathers. After staying around long enough to confirm that the larger Owlbear was definitely gone, she returned to her borrowed horse (which was nervous but safe) and rode back to the fort.

Upon gaining this information, the party decided on a plan; they would travel to the lair, wait for nightfall, then once the larger beast had left, set light to the tree using military oil. Once the misshapen Owlbear emerged, they would slay it with missile fire, and then retreat before the larger Owlbear could return.

Party Structure:

Marit (Expl 2)
→ Bob (Ftr 1 / Henchman) (+1 Morale)
→ Cullie (Hunting Dog)

Guillermo Acosti ( Alc 2)
→ Erasmus (Ftr 1 / Henchman)

Leandro (Ftr 2)
→ Bertram (Ftr 1 / Henchman)

The journey south was mostly uneventful, except for the sighting of a mighty Treant heading south across a slightly different route. What set of events could cause such a being to head away from its beloved forests would remain unanswered, for the party decided not to trouble the Treant and let it on its way.

Bertram remained with the carts to keep watch, while the others moved into position. Things went mostly according to plan, though the twisted beast emerged earlier than expected; as Marit snuck around to another vantage point, the creature began using a large shiny brass plate-like object to dig a burrow. To the astonishment of those watching, the creature then retrieved a.sack containing clanking metal from within the tree, then began to bury the sack in the hole it had made.

As soon as the beast returned to its lair, the party struck. Marit threw the flask of military oil perfectly on target, setting light to the tree and the ground outside the entrance; the beast charged out only to be scorched by the heat. On that cue, the adventurers opened fire, peppering the monster with arrows and slingshots. It charged at the biggest knot of fighters, which was headed up by Leandro; the skilful Fighter dropped his bow and raised his pole arm to accept the charge. While the beast managed to scratch him with its beak, he cleaved the blade of the halberd deep into the Owlbear’s torso and felled the monster.

Realising that they would not have long before the Owlbear’s mate returned, the party very quickly dug up the sack buried by the monster, and brought it away to a safe place. Inside was a remarkable haul of jewellery! In addition, the large “dish” used by the Owlbear was actually a magical shield, which Leandro claimed with considerable relish.

The party returned with their loot to Turos Tem, and announced to the Quartermaster that they had cleared out the Owlbear nest and burned the tree. All the goods they had recovered were handed to the Reeve according to the Trove Law, and the party began making preparations to head west to investigate a clue unearthed by Maeralya regarding an old Alchemical laboratory near what had been the village of Red Oak in the region near the Tower at Rannir.

Everyone except Maeralya, Mook and Bertram (who was not in the raid) gained a huge chunk of XP, resulting in everyone jumping another level, including the henchmen.

The party travelled east, once again without Maeralya who remained behind to continue her research. Near the location of the village, Marit encountered a Rust Monster while scouting. Sniffing out the presence of her sword and arrowheads, she narrowly managed to lose the beast in the woodlands before circling back to the main party, who wisely decided not to tangle with the monster.

Arriving at the village was a welcome break for the party who settled into the Inn happily. Guillermo was asked to help out a man who was suffering from severe burns (caused by a lantern accident in the inn common room) and suggested that the man most needed treatment at a hospital; on realising that the villagers could ill afford such a thing, he offered to pay for it himself and in return the man’s wife gave him information about the “Red Oak” (a tree to the east) and a suggestion not to mention alchemy around the village, as it had a very poor reputation in the area. The rest of the night passed without incident, and as the sun rose the next day, the party made ready to talk to the Spell-Wright Asandar, the master of the Tower at Rannir.

Treasure Gained: 20,000gp
XP Gained: 20,200xp

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Session 5 - Towering Problems

The fifth session once again began in the fortress of Turos Tem, where our heroes returned victorious from their battle with the Ettin of the pine forest.

In attendance:

Leandro Rebes, Fighter 2, a Mercenary from the Bargainer’s League with a powerful grudge. (Matthew)
Guillermo Acosti, Grand Alchemist 2, a seeker of secrets from the far-off city of Candleton. (Delwyn)
Marit, Explorer 2, a skilled Monster Hunter from the violent hills of Estiria. (Catherine)
Maeralya, Elven Enchantress 1, an Antiquarian from the far-off Elven Courts. (Asha)

The session began with a great deal of book-keeping. After being reminded of the details of their hoard, the system of treasure distribution and the Estirian laws regarding recovered goods, the players began to discuss plans. They decided to set up a party fund to pay for general expenses, with half of their loot going to each of them, and a 15% share to each henchman, leaving 35% for the party’s funds. Maeralya, as the most comfortable with numbers, offered to take on the role of party treasurer.

The fort, meanwhile, had not fared well in their absence; a large party had been sent to bring the gnolls to battle, but had been defeated, with almost all the cavalry and much of the infantry lost. The mood in the fortress was somber and it was increasingly clear that no further aggressive action was likely in the immediate future, as the fort barely retained enough soldiers to man the walls.

The Legate-Duke of North Hold does not have a dedicated Trove-Master, so the party attended on the Reeve, who had recently returned from rousing the levy from the Duke’s vassal territories. He looked over their goods and after some discussion and appraisal, declared that three of the items needed to be taken into custody pending investigation into their original owners, and once their trove status determined would either be returned to their owners or to the party. The total value of these goods amounted to roughly half the treasure. The remaining non-coin loot was placed in trust with the Merchant Prince, who declared he had no intention of charging them for the service (as he intended to collect significant profits over the base value of the goods).

With the financial situation resolved, the party began looking to equipment and hirelings; though sadly there were few of either. To the great delight of Leandro, the primary exception turned out to be an Armourer who had a recently-completed suit of plate armour (intended for a client who had fallen in battle before it was finished), a polearm and a longbow to round out his collection of weapons. The party also gathered provisions for their upcoming journeys, purchased an additional mule for their carts, and Leandro acquired a medium riding horse to improve his (now greatly diminished) moving rate. Finally, Maeralya was lucky enough to find a villager willing to part with a mighty War Mastiff; inspired by this, Marit decided to take on a skilful jet black hunting hound.

Seeing the large cut of treasure earned by Bob, Mook and Erasmus, the mercenary Bertram decided to take the plunge and become an adventurer himself. Leandro agreed to his terms and as a Veteran Heavy Infantryman, Bertram became a (very well equipped) Level 1 Fighter Henchman.

Since he was now the same level as his employer, Mook had to take a morale check to see if he would stay with her. It surprised nobody, however, when he chose to remain with the fay Enchantress; in truth, it is unlikely he could even perceive the similarity in power between them.

FInally, after a couple of days of study and rest, the party decided to move on their next target – the fabled Farahavar ruin to the west. Maeralya’s studies had indicated that the Farahavar were an ancient civilisation of bird-people that had existed even before the elves came to this continent; they were known for their personal might, and for their dedication to truth and righteousness. Legend has it that the first Paladin Order was led by a Farahavar, or possibly just by someone named after them. The prospect of exploring a Farahavar ruin was just too tempting to refuse.

Party Structure:

Marit (Expl 2)
→ Bob (Ftr 1 / Henchman) (+1 Morale)
→ Cullie (Hunting Dog)

Guillermo Acosti ( Alc 2)
→ Erasmus (Ftr 1 / Henchman)

Maeralya (Enc 1)
→ “Mook” (Ftr 1 / Henchman)
→ Keletheryl (War Hound)

Leandro (Ftr 2)
→ Bertram (Ftr 1 / Henchman)

The journey there was mostly peaceful. While walking a long gully-ridge, the party saw another group heading towards them, accompanying a large wagon and a mule-train carrying large bundles of goods. A rider rode out toward the party, approaching unarmed and asking news of the road ahead. The rider and his friends were perturbed by the news of the fall of Sakkara, and declared their intention to take the party’s advice to head south after visiting Turos Tem to replenish supplies.

Continuing on, the party travelled around a hill before sighting the ruin of which they were told; a black spire of rock rising 150 feet into the air from the middle of a small area of forest. As the evening was drawing in, they decided to camp and investigate in the morning.
When they entered the forest in the morning, they quickly discovered a great crater where the trees had been smashed flat by some disaster. The tower was twisted and blackened further by the explosion, though it still stood. Near the top of the tower was a rotunda, its openings strangely dark in the morning light. No ground floor entrance could be seen.

The party advanced into the wide open area created by the crater, but almost immediately found themselves under attack by an archer, hidden by the darkness above. Bob the Henchman was almost slain, his armour only just stopping an arrow whose head proved to be smeared with a greenish substance quickly identified by Guillermo as Wyvern Venom, a deadly poison. Retreating to the treeline, the party argued about what to do next; should they concoct a plan to defend themselves while approaching the tower, or simply abandon the mission as a poor job they could not yet achieve in the face of an inaccessible tower and an invisible archer.

Eventually the party decided to deconstruct one of their two carts into a makeshift mantlet to ward off the attacks. Yet not even the benefit of hard cover could hold back the archer, and all too suddenly Marit was scratched and left shaking and sweating as the venom began to take effect in her body.

Bereft of one of their fighters, the party retreated once more. Shortly afterwards, Marit began to convulse and spit foam; the venom had hit her heart and she lingered on the edge of death. Yet something in her refused to simply give up, and as Guillermo stood monitoring her condition, the venom began to burn its way out of her body. She became covered in weals, pustules and weeping sores as her body began to purge the awful mess.

(rolled a 19 on the Mortal Wounds table. Total mod was -1, so she was gonna survive.)

Dejected by their failure and the near-miss with Marit, the party returned to Turos Tem with little fanfare. This expedition had not gone so well; but Marit healed quickly with the assistance of Genelen in the Hospital. Yet she remained scarred and hideous; the mark of the group’s failure, this time. Marit being Marit, she declared these scars a mark of honour; for she had suffered wyvern poison and lived to tell the tale.

(I ruled Marit could have a +4 bonus to Wyvern Venom from now on, having survived it once already.)

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Session 4 - Choices and Victories

The fourth session began back in the fortress of Turos Tem, where our heroes must make difficult decisions about their future.

In attendance:

Leandro Rebes, Fighter 1, a Mercenary from the Bargainer’s League with a powerful grudge. (Matthew)
Guillermo Acosti, Grand Alchemist 1, a seeker of secrets from the far-off city of Candleton. (Delwyn)
Marit, Explorer 1, a skilled Monster Hunter from the violent hills of Estiria. (Catherine)
Maeralya, Elven Enchantress 1, an Antiquarian from the far-off Elven Courts. (Asha)

With all of their members recovered from their injuries, the party took the opportunity to take stock and decide what to do next. They concluded that barring significant reward, the risks of the raid suggested by the Duke were too high and that they should focus on areas of reward outside of the Temple for now. They agreed to spend a couple of days in Turos Tem, engaging in various forms of maintenance; Guillermo recognised a need for more Metamphora in which to store the valuable parts of the party’s victories, while the others spent some time in and around the fort speaking to the locals and looking for clues about nearby lairs and monsters to slay.

They received three clues.
- The priestess Genelen informed them that some kind of explosion or collision had created a crater to the west of the fort, and this crater had uncovered a ruin that bore resemblances to the fabled Farahavar civilisation that once ruled the peaks to the northeast.
- The fort’s quartermaster informed them that the army was attempting to forge a new supply route through the gully-lands, avoiding the dangerous route through Sakkara. However, progress had been stymied by a great tree blocking a convenient gully route; cutting down the tree was not an issue, but the two owlbears living within it were. If the route could be opened, a prize piece from the first supply route would be theirs.
- While enjoying the bath-house (with innumerable social faux pas by the Elf, who is not used to such things), the party encountered the cavalry subaltern, who told them of an Ettin that is was known to lair to the north of the fort. While it was not known to raid, the fort’s staff were worried that the rising power in the forest might find a way to make use of the beast and would appreciate seeing it slain.

After discussing it amongst themselves, they decided to mount a hunt for the Ettin, figuring to move in a circle between the lairs if the opportunity presented. They then went on a short recruiting spree, hiring two new henchmen and ensuring both were outfitted with bows and spears.

Party Structure:

Marit (Expl 1)
→ Bob (NM 0 / Henchman) (+1 Morale)

Guillermo Acosti ( Alc 1)
→ Erasmus (NM 0 / Henchman)

Maeralya (Enc 1)
→ “Mook” (NM 0 / Henchman)

Leandro (Ftr 1)
→ Bertram (NM 0 / Heavy Infantry Mercenary)

The Ettin’s lair was only ten miles from the fort; travelling there with the carts took much of the day but by late afternoon the party were in position. The lair lay within a portion of the woods where firs took precedence over the oaks and ash that make up most of the Viaspen, and the undergrowth was significantly easier to traverse, so the party rapidly located the destroyed and crumpled area that indicated the beast’s lair was nearby.

Marit and Leandro scouted ahead, hunting for the Ettin’s lair, and both discovered a trail of destruction leading to a hollow in the ground. Marit carefully crept into the lair, discovering it lacking in occupants but filled with sacks and rugs, stones used as furniture and crude trapping gear; meanwhile Leandro stumbled across the Ettin itself, continuing a conversation between its heads as it butchered a large deer using a sharp stone knife.

After gathering together, the party developed a plan. They would set a trap for the Ettin; a pair of strong ropes would be used to develop a trip-snare to immobilise the beast while the rest of the party poured missile fire into it. Marit set up the trip-snare (as well as some sharp stake-traps to injure the monster once it fell) and Maeralya and Guillermo, being two of the swiftest, moved forward to act as bait. Soon enough, there was a yell and a rumbling of heavy footfalls; 15 feet tall and armed with two crude but brutal looking clubs, the Ettin came storming through the ferns. The two scholars ran for their lives, keeping pace ahead of the Ettin, while the others waited anxiously to see if the trap would work.

And work it did! The beast fell to the ground, thrashing and yelling as the mighty Fighter and his Heavy Infantryman aide Bertram worked at keeping it under control using the ropes. Meanwhile the rest of the party (and their new hirelings) poured arrow after arrow after arrow into the flanks of the beast and one of the stake-traps lanced into its side. After perhaps half a minute of this treatment, the beast finally thought to use its sharp stone gutting knife to extricate itself; yet even as it did so, it took an arrow to the eye and fell to the ground dead.

With the beast slain, the party moved in to claim the loot. Guillermo began gathering as much of the monster’s y-shaped spinal column as he could (for that was of use in many magical processes), while the rest of the party took torches and lanterns into the tunnel-lair and discovered a veritable king’s ransom in treasure!

(Enough wealth, indeed, to raise every one of them to level 2; except for Maeralya, who learns slowly as an Elf. In addition: Bob, Mook and Erasmus all became Level 1 Fighters, while Bertram became a Veteran Heavy Infantryman.)

With their carts laden with loot and no injuries sustained, the party headed back to Turos Tem with a song in their hearts! Victory was sweet and the rewards sweeter yet.

Treasure gained: 10,500gp in total value
Experience gained: 8400xp (plus XP bonuses from prime requisites)

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Session 3 - A Temple In The Dark

The third session began in the deep wilds, with the party camping to rest after their fight with the white apes.

In attendance:

Guillermo Acosti, Grand Alchemist 1, a seeker of secrets from the far-off city of Candleton. (Delwyn)
Marit, Explorer 1, a skilled Monster Hunter from the violent hills of Estiria. (Catherine)
Maeralya, Elven Enchantress 1, an Antiquarian from the far-off Elven Courts. (Asha)

With Leandro beaten and bruised, the party entrusted him to the Dwarves who took advantage of the cleared path forged by the adventurers back to their cart, where the soldier Bertram could take care of the injured Fighter. That done, they continued to follow the tracks of those who had taken the merchants from the caravan.

Party Structure:

Marit (Expl 1)
→ Bob (NM 0 / Hireling) (+1 Morale)

Guillermo Acosti ( Alc 1)
→ “Assistant” (NM 0 / Hireling)

Maeralya (Enc 1)

The first thing the party did was note that the location of the beastman lair they had been given was significantly to the south-east, while the tracks continued east; yet the woods to the south were less dense and easier to travel. Suspicious of such a detour, Marit led the group carefully to the south, where they discovered a cleared area; trees felled as if by a large creature.

Dung and bones lay scattered around the clearing, and near the centre stood a mount of trunks piled seemingly haphazardly upon one another. It was then that the party were riven by indecision; the seasoned Marit and crafty Maeralya both suggested that discretion was the better part of valour and the clearing was clearly the lair of a dangerous monster, while Guillermo wished to investigate, for such discoveries were the purpose of his journeys in the north.

Sneaking forwards, Guillermo was not particularly quiet but as he grew closer he realised that a beast slept within the log-pile! 15 feet long and with green-brown scales, a Very Young Dragon lay asleep, green poison leaking from its nostrils as it slumbered. Around the other side of the mound lay an unusual find; a half-shell of leathery and dry eggshell almost two feet across. Realising how valuable such a rare find would be, Guillermo sneaked around the back of the log-pile and almost woke the dragon stepping upon a branch; yet fortune smiled upon him until he reached the shell. There he grew a little over-confident, for it transpired that the shell was very old and fragile and splintered apart on touch. Retrieving what he could, Guillermo retreated back to the edge of the clearing and the party returned to the circuitous path.

With no more encounters, dragon or otherwise, the party arrived at their destination; a great hill rising from the forest, a thing of black granite cliffs to which clumps of trees clung. One of these black granite cliffs was torn open by an immense crack, an opening 30 feet high and 120 feet wide. Sneaking forward into the rubble-filled area in front of the opening, Marit was able to see into the cavern by the sunset light and was surprised to see a great set of bronze doors surrounded by a brick-fired mosaic depicting a two-headed serpent strangling the world. In front of the bronze doors, four kobolds with short bows stood guard.

Retreating to the treeline where her friends waited, Marit reported what she had seen. As the party discussed what to do next, a small band of 3 gnolls appeared from the south; two armed with bows and one with a sword and a shield bearing the icon of the Black Fang. The kobolds challenged them in almost indecipherable Beast-Hakk, but the gnolls responded only with a casual backhand swing and pushed their way through the great bronze doors.

Realising that this information needed to make it back to the fortress, the party retreated to camp and make ready to move on the next morning. As the light faded and the night proper began, not long after the other party members were asleep, the first watch (being taken by Maeralya and Assistant) were suddenly assailed by a hideous monster! A huge carnivorous fly, a full 3 feet long and twisted and vile with four segmented eyes, two withered legs and venom-dripping spines along its abdomen, leaped from the shadowed undergrowth and would have landed upon Maeralya; but the brave henchwoman flung herself at the Enchantress, moving her out of the way at the last moment. As the rest of the party scrambled to their feet and shook off the sleep they had only recently gained, Assistant threw herself into the fray, wounding the fly with her short sword before the beast clamped its hideous mandibles upon her side and flung its spine-riddled abdomen against her; the brave henchwoman went stiff suddenly and froze in place even as the awakening party gathered weapons and flung themselves into the fight. Within moments, Marit’s spear charge spitted the great fly in a single blow, yet the damage was done; even with Guillermo’s best efforts, the poison and shock had stopped Assistant’s heart almost immediately. The party had suffered its first casualty.

A somber and sleepless night followed, then the party began the long trek back west to meet up with their carts and their injured Fighter. Along the way as they passed Sakkara Cutting, they heard shouting and loud noises from the south; investigating they were spotted by a party of 6 riders accompanying a wagon, upon which rode a driver and a heavily armed and armoured warrior. The group were suspicious of the adventurers and challenged Marit where she hid in the undergrowth, but when the Maeralya the Enchantress appeared they quickly shed their suspicion and began asking her how they could help. She convinced them that she worked for the Lady Below, and that she was leading a party on a mission to infiltrate Turos Tem; believing her favoured by the Lady, the bandit group became even more fawning. Their leader, Antonius, was sufficiently strong-willed to order his men to head on to the Temple (as they named it), while he left one of his soldiers to help his new friend get to her destination through the dangerous woods.

Grilling the bandit for information revealed that Antonius was a more organised leader, while most of the bandits hated Drusus, the self-styled “Bandit King”, but he held them in check with fear and intimidation; meanwhile the bandit seemed more afraid of someone he called “The Priest” than the Lady Below, whom he seemed to hold more in reverence than fear. He also mentioned that prisoners would disappear “downstairs” and on occasion the bandits would be made to corral weird, twisted monsters that emerged. As the party approached Turos Tem, he made his goodbyes and made ready to leave, at which point Guillermo attempted to prevent his exit; the bandit stabbed Guillermo through the shoulder, dropping him on the spot, and asked Maeralya if he should finish the “traitor”. She indicated that they would patch him up and interrogate him, and Gari the Bandit headed off back towards the Temple.

Guillermo awoke in the Hospital, having been relatively fortunate to receive only a minor scar and a day’s bed rest for his injury. He and Maeralya discussed their findings regarding the Temple with the Priestess Genelen and they spent some time looking at hospital records before finding a couple of minor clues involving something called “Abominati”. Genelen somewhat reluctantly suggested that Maeralya pursue additional clues with the Annalist, Malyn.

Meanwhile, Marit reported back to the Duke, who to her surprise attended on her in the waiting room. She related the incidents of their journey, and while the Duke was visibly worried by much of what she had to tell him, he was enraged to discover that Antonius was working for the Lady Below; for Antonius had been the subaltern he had sent to reinforce Sakkara before he decided to remove the population to a hiding place to the south. Angered by this betrayal, he offered Marit a small purse for the information, announced an additional bounty of 200 gold on the head of Antonius, and asked her to undertake a raid on the Temple to determine their true strength and hopefully thin their numbers a little. With some trepidation, Marit agreed.

Maeralya headed to the Chapterhouse, home of the Fort Annals. The great oaken door was locked and when she knocked she was answered by a nervous, cringing teenaged man who led her in and asked her purpose in the Chapterhouse. Once it became clear that she had the right to be there, he retreated to a room at the back and shortly afterward Maeralya was greeted by “Malyn the Magnificent”, a handsome if somewhat slimy man who enquired as to her aims in searching the records. When it became clear that she was seeking deep knowledge of the area’s history and secrets, he closed the doors with a wave of his hand and took her down to the basement, where the Vaults lay. Excited by his obvious magical skill and still suffering from the fear and shock of seeing her ally fall to the Twisted Fly, she was tempted to accept his offer to become his apprentice and give up the adventuring life; but she stuck to her current task and the two of them searched for the next hour, albeit fruitlessly. Then something odd occurred; he panicked suddenly and bid her leave before rushing back to his sanctum. His apprentice ushered Maeralya out of the chapterhouse and she was left wondering what strange or arcane reason he could have for such a sudden change in personality; she suspected lycanthropy but it was the wrong phase of the moon.

Yet our heroes have discovered this much: That there is a Stone, that twists flesh, and that it is under the power of the Lady Below and the Priest of the Stone; and that this is not the first time these twisted monsters have appeared. As the party rested at the Fort for the night, questions remained, and worries too.

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Session 2 - Walking the Woodlands

The second session picked up where the first left off, with the party gathering clues as to what aid they could provide to Turos Tem and the northern reaches of Estiria.

In attendance:

Leandro Rebes, Fighter 1, a Mercenary from the Bargainer’s League with a powerful grudge. (Matthew)
Guillermo Acosti, Grand Alchemist 1, a seeker of secrets from the far-off city of Candleton. (Delwyn)
Marit, Explorer 1, a skilled Monster Hunter from the violent hills of Estiria. (Catherine)
Maeralya, Elven Enchantress 1, an Antiquarian from the far-off Elven Courts. (Asha)

The party split up to consult with the various members of the fort’s staff. Leandro garnered written permission to recruit from the Centurion, along with a description of the bandit leader named Drusus for whom a bounty of 750gp was offered.
Meanwhile Marit consulted with the Merchant Aeropos about the missing merchants in the area. A purse of 250gp was on offer for the return of the merchants, while confirmation of their deaths was worth half as much.
Finally, Guillermo attended the Hospital and spoke with Genelen, Priestess of the Bringer of Peace, who informed him that the dreams which have intruded on his consciousness have wreaked havoc amongst the population of the fort and suggested it might be an “Omen Spike”, a time when the Ascendants of Gnosis and Fate would send revelatory dreams to the faithful to warn or guard them against evil.

Finally, the party put out word that they were looking for brave individuals willing to risk their lives with their band. They recruited three hirelings; two level 0 henchmen, and a mercenary Heavy Infantryman. With their new recruits, they marched off to attempt to locate the missing merchant caravan.

Party Structure:

Leandro (Ftr 1)
→ Bertram (NM 0 / Heavy Infantry Mercenary)

Marit (Expl 1)
→ Bob (NM 0 / Hireling) (+1 Morale)

Guillermo Acosti ( Alc 1)
→ “Assistant” (NM 0 / Hireling)

Not long after leaving the fort, the heroes discovered an area where a caravan had very clearly been taken off the road and taken through a path cut through the forest. Travelling this way, they encountered the Elven Enchantress named Maeralya, an old ally of Leandro and Guillermo; learning of their quest, she offered the information she had lately charmed from the locals in the area and suggested she accompany them to help keep them safe from the beastmen.

Their next discovery was a bear’s lair, but they wisely decided to pay it wide berth and marked its position for later.

Further up the cut path, they discovered the wagon they sought; torn open and clearly looted, along with the remnants of what had been the wagon guards. The merchants were nowhere to be seen, and Leandro’s sharp eyes and nose for coin led him to discover a secret compartment built into the wagon. The compartment had, however, been forced open and its contents were missing. Tracks led away from the wagon deeper into the woods, so the adventurers followed them to the north-east.

Camping for the night, the adventurers saw little action until the next day, though several were assailed by dark and frightening dreams. The Elven Enchantress told them of the Elven concept of such mutually-disturbing incidents; in Elven culture, such things are known as World-Wounds, times when events of such hideousness occur that the world itself cries out in pain, manifesting as disturbing dreams and portents.

Travelling through the underbrush following the tracks, Marit’s scouting revealed the stench of a small pack of White Apes lingering in a clearing. Deciding to hunt the beasts for their fur, the party constructed a plan to surprise the apes… which was somewhat derailed when Leandro charged wildly into the fray. Catching up as quickly as possible, the party’s missile fire quickly persuaded the apes to retreat into the treeline, whereupon a number of the apes turned to attack the still advancing Leandro and caught him in a pincer movement. While the party’s snipers downed one of the apes as it fled, the others clawed at Leandro and almost felled him; yet his counterstroke wounded an ape and caused the others to flee his frightening presence as more arrows and slingstones whirled by. A bolt and a stone felled another ape as the rest of the pack escaped.

Skinning their fresh kills and removing their skulls for potential use in alchemy, the party moved on to find a safe camping ground for Leandro to recover from his wounds. During the night as Marit slept, the party were surprised by a gang of a dozen Dwarves, yet it transpired that they were not enemies, but trappers travelling away from a raid they had suffered at the hands of beastmen that were emerging from a cave system in a hill to the east. After giving the adventurers gold in return for their white ape pelts, they joined camp for the night, though their distrust of the elf was palpable.

The following day was one of rest. The journey would continue soon enough, but for now, only the beauty of the Viaspen Forest in early summer remained. It was there were left it for the week.

Treasure gained: 80gp (plus alchemical components that may not survive)
Experience Gained: 160

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Session 1 - New Beginnings!

The first session was relatively quiet, though it began to pick up steam as the world grew in the players imagination.

In attendance:

Leandro Rebes, Fighter 1, a Mercenary from the Bargainer’s League with a powerful grudge. (Matthew)
Guillermo Acosti, Grand Alchemist 1, a seeker of secrets from the far-off city of Candleton. (Delwyn)
Marit, Explorer 1, a skilled Monster Hunter from the violent hills of Estiria. (Catherine)

Leaving Siadonos in order to travel to Turos Tem and investigate the forces attacking Sakkara, our heroes began the march north. Within a few hours of leaving the city gates, the sharp eyes of the Explorer Marit uncovered a nest of Giant Bombardier Beetles chewing at the roots of a bush.

Deciding that the acid glands of the beetles (not to mention saving the livestock of local farmers from bombardier beetle attacks) were worth the risk, the heroes plunged into the fray. Though the shells of the beasts were tough, the beetles were slow and possessed poor eyesight; Marit and Guillermo sniped with impunity while Leandro halted the beetle’s advance. Soon enough the beetles lay dead and their valuable acid glands liberated.

After visiting the famous inn at Lacksong, our heroes traversed the long and arduous road to the north of Estiria. Foraging and trapping along the way, they made their way along the slowly-diminishing Imperial road, and a little less than 20 miles from the village of Sakkara they discovered a terrible and grisly sight; a full double-patrol of Estirian soldiers lay dead, partially cooked, and decomposing in the early summer sun. A bleak symbol of the terrible Black Fang tribe of gnolls was left on a bank nearby.

After doing what they could to lay the fallen to rest, the heroes decided to skip Sakkara itself and head straight to Turos Tem. The Imperial fortress was impressive indeed, and the adventurers made their way through the collonades to eventually meet with the Duke himself, Ulland Valerian. With the Duke taking the educated Guillermo as a friend, the discussion was easy and the Duke let them know about several local secrets. As the Duke and Duchess retired for their late afternoon meal and our heroes considered their next move, we took the opportunity to end the session.

Gold gained: 80 (plus some silver from hides).
XP gained: 80

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