The Seeking

Worm Food

Geran fights off the worm as best he can, but the gigantic maw of the sand creature engulfs him, swallowing him whole, leaving him fighting the worm from the inside. With Harkin and Frey caught going toe to toe with a swarm of carrion crawlers each, Daman decides that he will have better luck piercing through the worm’s insides rather than trying to crack through its hard exoskeleton. The next time the worm lashes out at him, Daman willingly gets swallowed up by the creature, slashing and fighting at the worm’s vulnerable innards to try and bring the sand monster down.

Eventually, the worm gets slashed open and falls, leaking ichor and muck over the floor of the collapsed cave. Geran, having been rendered unconscious from the vicious worm’s attacks as well as its corrosive digestive acids, is stabilized and brought around. He lashes out at Frey initially, pleading that he doesn’t need to be protected, and laments that he appears to be a sort of weak link of the party. He is, however, quickly assured otherwise by the group.

Geran did, however, find a bundle of what appeared to be the possessions of an unfortunate victim of the worm, including some alchemical items and, much to Gamlock’s dismay, vestments indicative of someone of high ranking in his order. The dwarf expresses hesitation in keeping the personal affects of the deceased cleric, but determines that rather than leave it behind for someone else to find, that he should keep them and try and return them to his temple as soon as he can.

Venturing out of the collapsed cavern, the party heads to Fallcrest, finding out the city is in good standing, having prospered rather nicely since they’d last been. Meeting up with Noam, their legal counsel, they inform him that the large sums of missing money is due to the work of Solessa din Taaros via the letter left to Geran by Solessa. They are told that some of their gems have been sold off to pay debts, but the gnome has generally done a good job of managing their finances.

Now back in their home base of operations, the party must decide what direction to go next in their search for the Philosopher’s Stone.

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Of Wings and Worms

The party sticks around Morenor long enough to see the last effects of the Hierophant Malvoran’s handiwork dissolve into dust and sand. The palace melted and collapsed into a heap of sand as the gold from their activity likewise dissolved. Some of the merchants were driven to fighting as they realized their payouts were now literally turned to dust, but most looked on in stupefaction. A few gave measuring looks at the party, but wisely decided that anyone that could do that to lifelong immortal warriors is probably not someone to tangle with.

Having left the town, they make camp some distance into the desert. Frey shares a special moment with Geran off on a private dune, showing a ritual to Selene that grants Frey wings. Meanwhile, the rest of the party realizes that their message-box has been inoperable for some time and they are weeks late on their correspondence with their lawyer. Gamlock reads through them quickly to discover Noam’s increasing frustration and concern about their absence, and the missing wealth stolen by Solessa. He then performs his ritual fire gazing, seeing a ring of darkness surrounding two figures.

They discover to their horror that it’s the present his vision is depicting, and the party is beset by a gigantic Purple Worm and a swarm of carrion crawler hatchlings. The adventurers had been separated due to privacy and scouting, and had to fight their way through the hatchlings while Geran and Frey tried to fend off the Purple Worm in the darkness. Frey used her newly-grown wings to wrench herself free, while Geran had to suffer the full brunt of the worm’s mastication. After a brutal assault by Frey the worm retreated underground, and Daman and Frey went to help Esry and Harkin with the hatchlings.

It proved to be a fatal move, as the worm emerged to attack Geran once again, erupting in a shower of earth and teeth.

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Weep No More
Death of a Champion

The characters stumbled upon a chapel within the temple, a macabre spectacle made of solid gold bones that reflected the light weirdly. From the shadows cast by golden skulls the party discovered Delos lurking in silence. The party demanded answers, which they were eventually able to drag out of the reluctant and subdued Champion.

Delos revealed that some religious zealots had come to the town where he’d settled with Esry’s mother Nasri. His concern over the proselytizing and the dead look in their eyes lead him to take his family further out into the woods, while his adventuring background lead him to investigate the cultists. In the end he managed to successfully drive them out of town; however, his concern about them returning drove him to find out the source of the cult, or perhaps his wanderlust was reignited by his recent adventuring. In any case he left Nasri and Esry in search of the source of the dead-eyed cult.

After quite some time he came upon a mother and son who had also encountered the cult. The son had the dead-eyed look of the cultists but had been saved by the mother. “He seemed hollowed out, emptied somehow. Whatever he had been was gone, all that was left was a hollow shell.” The mother was on a quest to find a cure, either with the cultists or by some other means. Having no other leads, and perhaps feeling some sympathy with his own family, Delos went with them. At long last she heard of a place that granted eternal life and a fortune of gold to those capable of fighting for it.

They made their way to Morenor and discovered the place much as the party saw it now. The woman tried to register her son, formerly a capable enough fighter, but was refused (or feared for her son’s safety or chances of success given his condition). Delos’ adventuring spirit got the better of him, and registered to the lists on their behalf. He won his first combat, and returned with as much gold as he could carry, two heavy bricks in each hand. Unsatisfied, he entered again, was once again victorious, and won a fortune of gold and the side betting. Determined to find the secret to the Champions’ eternal youth, to help the boy and perhaps grant to his family, he entered a third time and once again gained the Champion’s favor. By the next day he had learned the secret, to his horror and regret, and was the newest member of the Champions.

In time he became inured to his condition, gave up his love of music and singing, and became resigned to killing feckless newcomers trying to prove themselves or get rich quick or whatever; it didn’t much matter any more, nothing did. He became a machine, numbed to the killing he was forced to do to live another day. He revealed that each dawn they were reborn by consuming the flesh of the fallen combatants changed by a dark ritual performed just before dawn. As the day progressed they aged, eventually becoming invalids before the next rejuvenation. The horror of his existence strove with his hope to see his family again, even as the killing deadened his soul. In the end he earned a reputation as a brutal and efficient killer, with none of the showmanship or flair of some of the other Champions.

Delos refused to go into detail about the ritual and forbid even discussing the possibility of recreating it to extend his life. He said it was an evil, hateful process that would permanently corrode and corrupt anyone involved in it, and forcefully dissuaded Geran from even attempting it. Geran’s latent telepathy picked up on Delos’ powerful feelings on the subject, however, and was soon overpowered by gruesome and traumatic images: the body of a challenger, beheaded and spurting blood; the body, tied to a post as if to restrain it, despite being deceased; lying on the sand, feeling weak and feeble and surrounded by other aged forms, as a decrepit figure chanted and the ape-like Custodians looked on; the body suddenly coming to life, straining against its bonds, and glowing with a brilliant radiant light.

Geran’s mind was filled with a hunger for that glowing flesh, a slavering bodily need, and in his mind’s eye saw himself crawling to the straining corpse. His fellow invalids approached too, and as one began tearing into the struggling form, pulling off chunks with teeth or fingers bent into claws by age and need. Geran felt the sweet, sweet taste of reanimated flesh pass over his tongue and down his throat, and life returning to his wasted limbs. Juice dripped down his chin, mixing with his drool as he gorged himself on life itself. Suddenly he came too, knowing the horror of the ritual performed each and every day for who knows how many years of Delos’ life, and how long for the rest of them. Given the age of the Deathpriest, perhaps centuries.

Delos excused himself, and became morose and subdued. He had no excuse for the horror he was party to, and said he only hoped that Nasri and Esry would forget him. Better that than see him like that.

Delos then spent a bittersweet day with his daughter, having revealed himself, his story, and how he came to be in this place. His interest in music rekindled by seeing his daughter following in his footsteps, he played a sombre song on her mandolin and passed on his wisdom and effects, an entire lifetime compressed into a day. In the end he passed telling Esry he loved her and dissolving into dust.

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The Avalanche

The party awakened after a night of revelry slightly hungover but not much worse for wear. Bargar woke them with his trademark booming knock and booming voice and told them today is his day in the arena. They shook off their headaches and watched the opening with a mix of trepidation and resignation.

Delos emerged as the Champion of the day (to Esry’s dispmay) as Bargar dug in and prepared for his battle to the death. The warriors circled each other before Bargar lunged to make the first attack. Delos countered with a dizzying series of slashes, and Bargar was quickly bloodied. He charged Delos, smashing two of the columns, but his attacks were only marginally effective. Realizing this, Bargar went into a defensive stance to fend off the Champion with his superior reach. In counter to this, Delos unleashed a torrent of magical energy through his blade that left Bargar’s muscles spasming.

In the end, Delos was too much for the Avalanche, and Bargar fell to his knees, defeated. As the crowd cheered in anticipation of the final blow, Gamlock unleashed a spell transporting Bargar to safety just as the blade went through where his neck would be. Almost as if that was the signal, several of the Champions revealed themselves in the crowd or burst out from the golden doors, along with a phalanx of Custodians and a new, decrepit-looking mage.

The party elected to flee, directing Bargar to lead their enemies away (after some patching up by Gamlock) while they took to the worm tunnels and infiltrated the palace once more. The palace was deserted, confirming their instincts, which the party used to their advantage to loot Angbar’s lavishly appointed room. The palace was quiet, at least until Daman found a treasure room and took a magical sword from the pile. The action unleashed a magical treasure golem that eventually exploded into expensive shrapnel; the party took the sword and ran.

As we left the session the adventurers were going to the second level even as they heard the sound of pursuing footsteps…

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A Horrible Discovery

The team spent a nervous night holed up in the room, though the wards provided by Geran’s “Wizard’s Curtain” and “Silence” spells gave them extra layers of protection, suppressing any noises they might make and disguising their presence in the room.

Throughout the night the party heard the sounds of footsteps, dragging and scraping, and occasional muffled muttering. Each watch in turn heard similar noises, only interrupted during Esry’s watch by the intrusion of none other than Delos himself, whose face was wrapped and eyes were haggard. The wards held however, and Delos closed the door and turned away, leaving the party to the rest of their anxious night.

After their rest, as the party prepared to venture out, they heard the sounds of slamming doors throughout the complex. Concluding the inhabitants were done dealing with the bodies and were now searching for them, the adventurers steeled themselves for battle, only to hear a knock on the door. It was Delos, looking much refreshed, and groping his way through the illusions that Geran had cast. It didn’t take long for Delos to discover himself surrounded by the party and grappled by Frey.

Delos explained that the wards had fooled him the first time, but process of elimination had led him back to them. He offered to lead the party past the patrols and searches. When asked why he would help them, his only response was, “Consider it the dying wish of a dead man.” The group made their escape, trailing through hallways and avoiding Custodians and Gladiators as well as an ominous column before getting to the exit. Before they could make their escape, however, a patrol nearly discovered them and they had to duck into a room while Delos attempted to deflect the search.

There they made a horrible discovery: three beheaded bodies hanging from meat hooks, one charred beyond recognition, the other two skinned and flayed like some macabre preparation. Closer inspection by Gamlock and Geran revealed bite marks on the blackened charred flesh, and when Geran reached to touch it the material crumbled into blackened dust, revealing bones made entirely from gold. At this point Delos returned, and though Frey threatened him and the others begged for an explanation he refused. The party made their escape and returned to their house.

Once there the party set to processing the events of the past few days. Esry, Daman, Geran, and Frey remained at the house practicing skills and sampling notagranate wine (dated a few years into the future) while Harkin wandered off to unwind. Suspicious, Gamlock followed, discovering a wake of carnage: bloodied noses, bashed skulls, and damaged property. He finally caught up to the fighter in the midst of destroying a bar, initiating a confrontation.

Harkin, enraged by the villagers’ complicity in the deaths of the combatants, was smashing a patron into – well, through – a table and demolishing the bar. Gamlock confronted him, using the full might of his blazing mordenkrad to get him talking.

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Slaughterhouse

After clearing the previous room of hostiles, the party continued exploring. Gamlock passed a doorway, but Frey’s curiosity got the better of her, revealing a room with several more enemies waiting in ambush. Despite their fatigue the adventurers drew upon on new-found reserves and, with help from some excellent tactics, wiped the floor with them.

At the end the party elected to hole up in a room and try to catch some rest to prepare themselves for the coming day.

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Cleaning House

The party is victorious! After a protracted battle with Custodians, Gladiators, Blademasters, and an undead challenger named Angban Sommos they party emerged drained of powers and exhausted, but little the worse for wear.

After initial skirmishing through the doorway where Esry was dropped to the floor multiple times and stabbed repeatedly, Harkin opened up another front by teleporting into the middle of the melee. Blademasters were no match for Harkin’s fighting prowess and armor, and Geran laid down supporting fire and healing zones. Gamlock helped everyone recover from the brutal unholy flames of Angban and blocked the doorway with Blade Barrier. Esry moved enemies in and out of the damaging zones, allowing Daman to get some well-placed backstabs off.

The question is, now, what will happen when the rest of the palace’s inhabitants find out?

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House Crashing

The party returned to the palace, trying to figure out the gladiators’ secrets. After infiltrating the building through the arena entrance they sneaked past several doors holding sleeping occupants. After momentarily splitting up, they reunited only to be discovered by one of the gladiators. They dispatched, only to alert one of the the gorilla-like Custodians, who went on to awaken more of its compatriots. Holed up in an office with the body of the slain gladiator, they avoided detection only through the quick use of the door’s lock by Harkin.

Venturing forth once more, they ambushed a few more Custodians, passed by a room full of treasure, only to disturb a pair of blademasters training. Bunched up in the hallway, they were unable to contain the threat, and one of the blademasters escaped Geran’s Written in Fire. After a fierce melee the second likewise escaped, but not before being heavily bloodied, temporarily blinding Frey, and using a smoke bomb to mask his escape.

The party chased after them, only to open a room filled with blademasters, gladiators, and custodians. Until next week…

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The Palace Tour
Lack of Insight

The party continued their exploration of the palace, finding rooms of incredible wealth but curiously disused. Their secretive advance in the darkness almost met disaster when Esry knocked a glass wall sconce from its pedestal, but her quick reflexes saved them from drawing attention.

Moments later they heard voices and footsteps as the light of lanterns grew steadily down the hallway. They hastily retreated to the spotless and unused kitchen, leaving the door slightly cracked to overhear the conversation. Over the tread of many feet, two voices discussed their distaste for their situation, the apparent diversion of a disaster by Delos, and an infestation of Carrion Crawlers as the group passed by the hidden adventurers.

Appropriately enough, it was at this moment that the voices discovered that Crawlers had broken into the dining room the party had first entered. Taking advantage of the distraction, they hastily made their way through the occupied portions of the palace, defusing magical alarms and traps, avoiding detection by guards and inhabitants, and finally unlocking an external door into the arena itself.

Despite all probability the party escaped undetected and unnoticed, and with the help of teleports or ephemeral wings vanished out of the pit and into the city. Once home, they were visited by Bargar and a guest, the old man Drage. Drage seemed to have realized that they were here for more than gold and assumed it was glory or immortality that they sought. He outlined a plan by which he would see the party’s method of combat in exchange for tips on how to combat the champions, the implication being that he could use those tips to his advantage when they inevitably became champions themselves.

They agreed to meet two days hence to fight a battle he had prepared for them as a demonstration and test of their skills. In the meantime, Gamlock expressed frustration that they had worked so hard to enter the palace only to leave it without discovering what they wished, and pushed for them to return to the palace immediately to uncover its secrets…

Comments: A hilarious string of absurdly low insight checks, followed by maximumized Aid Another rolls. Characters with +20 rolled 1s and 2s, then another character would roll a 20 on the roll to aid.

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January 6, 2013
Feckin Worms

Exploring the ruins of a collapsed section of the palace in Morenor, the party encountered a hive of Carrion Crawlers and their hatchlings, a veritable swarm of poisonous worms of all shapes and sizes. Harkin managed to miss most of them, aggravating them to the point where Gamlock came to his rescue the dwarf ended up taking most of the hurt. In the end, the party smashed, sliced, or (the most effective option) incineration blasted the crawlers to pieces.

In the aftermath, Gamlock and his dwarven stonesense felt a small breeze in one of the antechambers of the collapsed wing of the palace, leading to a secret passage. After exploring it, avoiding a few traps and discovering more hidden ways, the party found its way into the palace. The rooms they explored have been thus far clean but empty, and Esry discovered the entire place was suffused with magic, seemingly bound to the gold that made up its construction.

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