Two players couldn’t make this session, one pulling out at last minute. A “new” player (part of our usual gaming group, but hasn’t been free for this campaign until now) took over the monk for the session and I dropped his PC into the game as they were leaving the Keep, literally.
This session had a lot of careful exploration and lots of nasty fights. It’s nice when experienced players don’t know what they are up against. I’ve made a point of not naming creatures, only describing them. (The fast zombies, which are Pathfinder, had one player wondering if they’d just stumbled into juju-zombies or wights!) This game has quite a number of monsters drawn from other D&D sources (not Pathfinder) that my players haven’t encountered before. As such the players are paying attention to knowledge skills.
16th Goodmonth continued…
There is no sign of anything in the main passageway and the group continue west to the next door. The large room behind it has maps of Veluna and the areas to the south and east of the Lorridges. There are also four zombies, that prove to be unusually fast, but not any tougher than normal. A blood trail leads a southern door and they open it and head south a fair distance to a t-junction. There appears to be a large room quite a distance east and a corner close on the west side that turns back north. Thinking that this will link back to the long east-west passage, they move down to the corner where Lanliss sights a ghoul in the first of three small rooms and a zombie in the third. Hardaz and Bacon push forward into the room to avoid being stuck in the passage and find a second ghoul waiting. The ghouls attack the dwarves, one biting Hardaz. The noise draws more zombies who thankfully shamble slowly forwards, allowing more of the party into the first room. Seldrel fires a lightning bolt from a wand through the line of zombies and Merxif positions himself in the doorway and channels positive energy at the undead. Most of them go down. Things are looking good, but then Merxif is struck from behind by a by a zombie with glowing eyes and a short sword. Merxif is almost unconscious but is able to use a wand of cure light wounds and step aside. The group push in to block what Seldrel recognises as a JuJu Zombie – an intelligent undead that appears to have been a rogue in its past life. It holds the corner and can’t be flanked, but Lanliss executes a remarkable tumble past the creature, so that they can have more than one person attack it. The zombie attempts the same thing to pass Lanliss but is blocked. With two of the group steadily hacking at it, and Seldrel casting disrupt undead they destroy it. While some of the group rest and receive healing the others carefully search the three rooms that do connect back to the earlier passageway. An assortment of equipment and coin are recovered – much of it scattered about the rooms amid bloodstains, bones and body parts. Two or three humanoids appear to have died on this level in the last few weeks based on the remains and equipment that the party has found over the last three days.
The group heads east, entering a huge room with four doors. The centre of the chamber is dominated by a great hole in the floor. Earth and stone is pushed up at the rough edges, with cracks and indentations in the ceiling above. Most of the group remain where the passage entered the room, while Lanliss begins to search around the walls and check the doors. The remains of two old corpses (possibly ‘dead’ zombies) and a boot are near one of the doors. Nearly a score of undamaged arrows are scattered along the floor. Seldrel hears for a moment what sounds like distant singing and calls to Lanliss who moves closer to the hole. He is surprised to hear a fragment of elvish song, but not loud enough to distinguish words. Two tiny figures move stealthily into the chamber and attack Winter. Only 8” high, each appears composed of dirt, hair, bone fragments, rubble and cloth. Their bite only inflicts minimal damage, but they prove difficult to hit and harder to damage with mundane weapons. It takes considerable time to destroy them.
After some more rest and healing, the group starts to try the exits. Behind the first door is a room with a statue of a old man holding a key. Seldrel believes the figure to be a human deity, but can’t recall any more detail. They determine the key is a carved part of the statue and note the initials “AS” carved into the plinth. Seldrel recalls that the same were carved alongside the animal panels hiding the secret room on the level above and Merxif digs out a page taken from the Crimson Sage that mentions “AZ? AS?”. Lanliss and Bacon discover that the statue can be rotated, and also the presence of a secret door at the back of the room. It takes both dwarves to swivel the statue to face the secret door – which opens. Revealed is little more than a closet hiding two small skeletons, each with horns. A pair of masterwork daggers are happily claimed and a pouch holds an unusually shaped, magical Zircon gem. They suspect it may be an Ioun stone. Bacon stays in the closet while the others turn the statue again, hoping for a second hidden compartment, but nothing else is revealed. They get him out and return the statue to its original positioning, and try another door.
A small room with another door has messages written on the walls in a number of languages, most of which the group can read – “Warning”, “Keep out” and “Stay back.” Lanliss finds a small secret door in one wall and opens it – a small compartment has hooks on each wall and a magical cloak. While Seldrel examines the cloak he searches and finds another secret door on the opposite side of the box. Moving to push this opens drops the trapdoor in the base of the compartment. Lanliss grabs at the door edges and doesn’t fall. With rope to aid, he climbs down the 30’ pit and finds a skeleton, some coins, and surprisingly a pair of boots and short sword in very good condition. The cloak, sword and boots are all magical. Merxif claims the Robe of Useful Items – he removes a patch the becomes a minor divine scroll and is happy to identify other ”patches” that will become a rowboat, rope, 10’ pole and assorted other things. He is disappointed not to see a wheel-barrow. Lanliss claims the magical weapon – the first the group has obtained. The boots (which reduce falling damage) also go to him. Lanliss is able to jam the trapdoor shut and everyone carefully makes their way through the secret doors to a large irregularly shaped chamber with an altar made mostly from bones and a large shiny black arched door or window. The room is extremely dusty. Dark stains mark the walls, old fragile looking benches are in rows and all is dark except for a faint reddish glow from a large skull at the front of the altar. When Lanliss moves forward to examine it, he triggers a Symbol of Pain. Half of the group are inflicted with wracking pains and they retreat back to the chamber with the hole and wait. Both dwarves have shrugged off the effect and keep guard while Lanliss searches. He finds four small rounded protrusions in a pattern on the west wall of the shrine (which Seldrel thinks is dedicated to Iuz – an evil Demi-god of deceit, pain and oppression) and believes it will open a secret door if three studs are pressed in the right order. He spends considerable times making a list of combinations and trying them to no avail.
The pain subsides for Winter and Seldrel after an hour. Merxif has spent the time in additional discomfit – he’s being bitten and scratched all over, as if his new robe is full of rats, beetles and other vermin. He tries to remove the robe and can’t – he and Seldrel decide the robe is cursed. Once the symbol effect is gone, he at least feels normal again, but is very put out to find that none of the formerly magical patches on the robe now work. Merxif makes a new list of combinations that has multiple presses and hasn’t got far down the list when he gets one that opens the door. Another chapel is revealed; this one with symbols of Incabulous – a greater deity of plague, sickness, and famine. The benches here are worn and the whole chamber smells of smoke and appears to be used regularly. Lanliss finds a hidden compartment in the altar and removes magical scrolls and a potion. A note lists the combination to the secret door, and an odd brass plug or weight is also taken. A side chamber has semi-precious bloodstone bowls and cups. A locked casket contains a few silver and copper coins. The group also finds robes and plenty of candles. Stairs lead up from a third room and this time Lanliss spots the pit trap without activating it. At its bottom is a very bad smelling corpse. Lanliss climbs down and carefully loops rope around one leg so they can pull the body aside. It starts to fall apart anyway, but he is satisfied that it hides nothing of value. The group is then amused to locate a tripwire partway up the stairs and eventually reach a secret door and a lever which opens it. They find themselves emerging from the base of the Hold’s southern wall. On the outside the door is carved to resemble the rocky foundation of the hold and plants appear to have been encouraged to grow around to further hide it. From the outside it a appears that a diamond shaped object must be inserted in a hole to open the door.
The group returns to the shrine to Iuz. A seven foot high arch of small stone blocks is set into the wall. At the top is a mostly translucent square crystal. Within, the surface of the “door” itself is shiny black obsidian with faint veins of fiery orange jacinth. There is no handle and pushing does nothing. The whole radiates a strong conjuration aura. A small hole (1” deep, ½” across) is located on the left side and Merxif suggests the magical zircon may be a key. The 2” long, ½” wide orange cylinder fits perfectly and the crystal at the top suddenly glows orange. Removing and reinserting the gem causes nothing else to happen.
Moving back into the room with the warnings, Lanliss checks the normal door and opens it. A corpse (human male) lies just inside the small room with another door on the other side . Bacon moves in to look at the corpse – noting some scratches, but no obvious sign of death. The body appears to have been lying here for a couple of weeks. A ghostly shape peers out of one wall and Bacon yells an alert. He waits until it moves to him and strikes in a flurry of blows that sweep through the incorporeal thing with no resistance or effect. The shape reaches out to him, and he feels cold and weakened. When a second shadow emerges from another wall, the entire group is yelling different options at each other and they all start to retreat back to the shrine. One shadow follows to the first secret door, then sinks into the stone. Lanliss readies his magical sword; Merxif casts magic weapon on Hardaz’s axe and Winter casts magic fang on the monk. The shadows don’t attack, so after a pause they all head back into the room with the body. The shadows emerge and a fierce combat ensues. Seldrel casts bull strength on Hardaz when he is weakened, then mostly disrupt undead. Merxif strikes with the last of his positive energy bursts. The fight ends with the shadows destroyed and half the group drained of strength. They loot the body and head through the shrines and out of the hold. As they move around the walls, they here a shout and then a loud thump and the sound of things breaking. The noise seems to have come from in or near the corner tower. As they enter it, they see signs that goblins have been in it recently and then up on the second level lie two humanoids, amid copper coins scattered from a large broken wooden box. A half-elf in blue robes lies dead on the floor, and an unconscious, bleeding human lies partially on top of the elf. Both have recent wounds from bladed weapons, but appear to have just fallen from a great height. Merxif heals the human bringing him back to consciousness.
He appears extremely dazed, his memory hazy. He introduces himself as Boris. He recalls being under attack from small creatures, and black smoke. His companion (whose name he doesn’t recall) tried to cast a spell from a scroll and then they were falling. They heal him further and say they are going to Falsford nearby.
He elects to stay with them, claiming items that he says are his, and is not concerned by the group taking the belongings of the half-elf. As they pass the graveyard, Seldrel for a moment sights a middle aged male walking within. They call out to him and move to where Seldrel saw him. There is no sight or sign, neither tracks, nor answers to their calls. They trip to Falsford is thankfully peaceful. They head to the Inn they have frequented and plan to stay in town until all feel fully recovered.
Over the next ten days, they get Merxif’s cursed robe removed, sell off the assortment of treasure they don’t want and identify the magical items they have found. Hardaz comes down with ghoul fever, but shakes it off after a few days. Lanliss is worse. Cackle fever, probably contracted from the corpse in the chapel pit, makes him very confused and Seldrel promptly takes him to Aedrie’s shrine and pays for remove disease. Boris’ memory is no better – neither in regards to where he’s been under Falshold, nor anything about his past, and the brawler joins the group. All are able to spend some time training. (2nd Level)