RPG@QUT Matt's D&D

DM log-- Daggerburg Keep 7

We resume our story just after Jorn’s death and Lev’s babbled realisation that the ghouls ate his leg, and he won’t be able to dance at those wild eladrin parties that Bastian said he could get Lev into. The party did not hear any more ghouls, so they took a few minutes to heal up and catch a breath. Zepher examined Lev and determined that he had a nasty case of filth fever, in an early stage but which had a good chance of getting worse if untreated, and might end with Lev being unable to gain any benefits of healing until it were cured by an involved ritual which nobody in the party knew. The party also realised that they must be outside the keep, because the Wizard’s Escape effect seemed to be wearing off. Though they might be able to rush back the way they came, there was a chance it would wear off while still in the subterranean cracks, which would be unpleasant. Also, Lev no longer had the effect, having been in the ruin for more than a day. They party had to decide to keep going into the ruin, which hopefully had a way to the surface, or back to the cave passage under which the ghoul footprints first started following Lev. A tough choice but they took the latter, leaving just a few minutes after the combat ended. Stek carried Jorn’s body and the others shared the load of Lev.

At the cave passage they speculated on why the footprints started there, wondering if the ghouls, with their climbing ability, had stayed off the floor that way. But the dungeoneers ruled this out as a likely possibility. It also revealed that some of the stone on the floor did not look natural. They lifted it to find it was chips and plates of stone glued to a dirty piece of fabric, affixed with some kind of goo. This flexible stone-like blanket was about the right size to cover up the upward cave passage. So the party speculated that the ghoul came from the ruin on patrol, heard Lev coming, and started hiding in the passage while it was covered by the camouflage, then dropped down to follow Lev when he passed it by. Hoping this was the case, because it would mean there were not any more ghouls ahead, they went up the cave passage, single file, having to occasionally squeeze. The wizard’s escape effect was definitely now gone but they could manage, groping in the dark, sniffing the air for ghoul stench. But soon they smelled fresh air and make it into a more sizeable cave covered with bat guano. With a bit of exploring they found a way up and out, emerging from the side of a hillock in the forest. They could tell the Keep was nearby. It was delightful to smell fresh air again after two days in the Keep, and the sun was warm on their skin after so long in the chilly, creepy dark.

This enjoyment was short lived as they got closer to the keep, where the forest thinned, became bereft of all life, and the sun seemed dimmed by a slight pervasive shadow. They worked their way around to where they had left Concorde. They got a fright when they saw goblin tracks leading from the Keep to the part of the forest where they hid Concorde—these were apparently the tracks left by the hobgoblin soldiers they had fought in the first room, and who escaped. {The DM openly rolled for the chance that they randomly picked a direction that would take them near Concorde. The roll had to be 3 or lower. He rolled a 1.} They went to the hiding spot hoping not to see a severed rope with hoof prints leading away, or even worse, a feasted-upon carcass. But Theren had hidden Concorde well enough {with a retroactive Stealth roll} for the goblins to not see the horse in their haste. Concorde was safe. However, he was hungry, having eaten all the grass within the radius of his hitch. They spent an hour gathering enough food to last him a couple days, and he ate half of it immediately. There they left Lev, the body of Jorn, and Theren {who was not being controlled by anyone, Rachael coming late}. They told Theren to wait until Lev woke up, assure him they would be back, and then catch up with them. They went back into the Keep.

They took a miserable breath as they went underground again into the supernatural dimness and feeling of dread and sorrow, only partially relieved to know Sir Keegan’s own misery was finally at an end. At the bottom of the stairs they stopped, for the room ahead was extraordinarily clean, without the general slovenliness left by the goblins and the bits of charred wood and cooked dwarf that Jorn had left behind with his burned corpse barrel. But further examination revealed this could not be the word of another gelatinous cube; there were little bits of organic matter left behind. The place had simply been swept very well. From the room they heard a sweeping, scraping sound. Sneaking ahead, they peered down into the pit to see a tall, thin, skeletal figure moving down there, making that noise. A closer look revealed it was not literally a skeleton, but a thin figure seemingly made out of metal. It swept up a last bit of charred dwarf, gave a satisfied hum, and climbed back out of the pit, seeing them. Zepher was surprised to realise he recognised this figure. It was someone who had lived in Harkenwold about five years ago when Zepher had passed through with his troupe. “Hello little circus man!” said the figure in greeting. Zepher, after correcting this misapprehension, shared that this was DTIS, a person of a strange race, made of magically animated, constructed metal or other material. DTIS was just as sentient and intelligent as anyone else, but quite a rarity and Zepher did not know much more, only that the villagers had grown to accept him. DTIS had come to the village a little while before Zepher met him, and had been spreading the civilising word of Erathis, founding the jousting tournament for example. Asked what he was doing there, DTIS replied he had heard Zumtleheath had been killed, and he came to help vanquish the evildoer responsible, catching up with them here hoping to find them. {DTIS is the new character being played by Scott, replacing Jorn for now, at least until Jorn is revived. DTIS is a warforged swordmage, a kind of defender with good damage prevention abilities.} On hearing him say that name, Zepher remembered {with a retroactive Streetwise check} that in the village there had been a rumour going around that DTIS was having an affair with Zumtleheath, which was especially scandalous because the halfling was married at the time. The rest of the party introduced themselves, and DTIS and Amos seemed to click especially well, talking of sword techniques. But their mission called, and on they went.

They went to the next room, which DTIS had also cleaned up and straightened out, even making the beds. He said, “Say, I found this under one of the beds; is it yours?” and pulled out, from under the bed of the goblin warchief, an ornate chest. The party realised they had never searched the room after the battle was over. The chest was of a very exotic design, obviously from a foreign land. It was made of worn brass and shaped and decorated like a boxy ship. It had gunwales, portholes, and decks. But its masts were broken off and it was easy to see why: Clutching the ship was a gigantic octopus. Its arms were covered with wicked hooks and its huge eyes bulged out. It was frightening to behold. But it was definitely a container: a fine line ran around its upper edge and in the belly of the female figure serving as its masthead was a keyhole. Bastian, being the most accomplished lockpicker in the party, gave it a try and the lock popped open. Then all the hooks from the octopus fired off in all directions, peppering everyone with poisoned barbs. Most took damage, except for Stek, who on hearing the popping sound, sighed “oh bugger” and raised his shield in time to deflect the damage. That done, they looked in the chest. It was sloshing full of a spicy, sweet mead unlike anything they had tasted. The realised this was an exotic Cask of Liquid Gold, which refills with the stuff endlessly. {See the card I handed out for details.} Delighted, Amos drank quite a bit of the mead, getting drunk in the process. This plunge into the mead revealed that it also contained more than liquid gold: at the bottom, covered by the mead, was a gleam of gold coins of local origin worth 120gp. Bastian closed the chest again, knowing it would reset the trap but thinking this best, especially with Amos’s enthusiasm for the mead jeopardising the party.

They drank from the basin again and quickly caught up their trail. They navigated around the gelatinous cube much the same way they had before, but more efficiently, and soon found themselves at the point where Lev’s footprints departed from Fenstrom‘s. They followed Fenstrom’s tracks east, moving slightly down as they went.

The narrow cave fissure ended in rubble, beyond which was a hallway, running east. This hallway had been badly damaged by the earthquake and was riddled with cracks, as well as collapsing it at either end. At the far end was a hole in the floor. Fenstrom’s tracks wended carefully back and forth along the floor of the hallway, seeming to pick its way around the largest cracks. The party endeavoured to do the same. However, they were a lot heavier than the weedy old wizard, so the floor collapsed under them, and they fell.

They fell perhaps 20 feet down, but something cushioned their fall: a strange repulsive force. They landed on the floor below with a light bump. The room was pitch dark at first but at their touch lines started lighting up on the floor, a light blue glowing pattern of hexagons. Moments after that a wall of force leapt up around them, its light blue glow casting everything in bright light. They were on a hexagonal floor of polished stone and metal, strewn with many ordinary objects. The force field was transparent and they could see a large rectangular room around them. This room was filled with junk, as if every spare item from the Keep was stockpiled here: furnishings, old plates of food, weapons, armor, stone, metal, planks, clothes, and many other things. None of them looked particularly valuable, though, and they were all very old and dusty. A path had been cleared through the junk here and there, and they saw in the corner a table and a bed. The force field formed a dome around them about 8sq across, surrounding the edge of the relatively uncluttered hexagonal floor.

A loud hum came from the north. On the north wall, beyond the force field, were two very large tanks of glass, banded with bronze. They were filled with a flowing blue liquid which the arcane among the party recognised as a kind of pure liquid magical energy sometimes used by a certain kind of wizard, rather like residuum but for specific purposes. These tanks fed thick tubes which went down the wall and across the floor to connect to the edge of the hex floor on which they stood. The similarity of colour suggested this liquid was what was powering the floor and making it glow. On the wall, fed by small tubes coming up from the floor, was a gauge marking either side of a vertical chamber, like a sealed tube. Moments later the floor became populated by about two dozen figures, arranged on the hex floor like pieces in a board game. They were humanoid shaped but abstract and somewhat mechanical looking, hovering and made of geometric planes of force. Half were emitting light and half were absorbing it, reminding the party of white and black pieces in a game. They swayed slightly, with arms and hands outstretched, but without apparent volition.

On the hex floor were quite a few diverse objects, and a desk. Hunched over the desk was a skeleton dressed in rotting fine clothes. The desk was covered with papers, and reading them they soon discovered that the skeleton belonged to a kind of wizard called an artificer, whose name was Michelevi. This was his lab, and here he was trying to discover the secret of making “gold from the void”. With a kind of magic-infused alchemy he toiled here long ago, and died here while at work. By reading the papers the party realised that Michelevi used the magical power in the fluid to create equal numbers of gold and antigold. These would normally cancel out. And the gauge on the north wall bore this out: it roared with energy as two kinds of fluid fed into it from both sides. From one side the tubes passed through white hex markers, which rattled loudly with the thrum of power. It emitted into the chamber what looked like liquid gold, perhaps molten. From the other side, going through black markers, was a strange dark purple liquid. Where these two fluids met was a bright burst of sparking energy. They seemed to be annihilating each other in the chamber. Eventually the party realised this gauge was matched to the pieces on the board, and when a black piece was later destroyed, the highest-reaching of the tubes on the black side went dry. With 14 tubes of gold feeding in from one side but only 13 tubes of antigold feeding from the other, floating and roiling at the top of the chamber was a blob of liquid gold. So apparently the more the white pieces outnumbered the black, the more gold was left behind by the unequal reaction.

Now, how to make the white pieces win? Bastian, as a fine arcanist, took control of the desk after unceremoniously kicking the skeleton out. The platform rose above the floor, perhaps 3 squares up, nearly pushing Bastian’s head against the overarching dome of the force field. Amos had discovered that touching it was a bad idea: when he did, it zapped him painfully and did not let him past. Surveying the desk and the notes, Bastian discovered he could command a set of either white or black pieces (which the notes called “motes”) to move, and the opposite colour moved next on their own, controlled by some kind of unseen intelligence. When the motes met, they pushed to shove each other back. They later found that the goal was to shove the opponent into the force field, which dispelled the mote with a flash and changed the balance of gold and antigold in the reaction chamber. The outcome here between the motes was looking to be somewhat random, so how to give the white motes the advantage, beyond the use of cunning play? This is where the objects on the floor came in. With controls on the desk, Bastian could telekinetically move objects into and out of the hands of the motes. With experimentation, they found that some objects helped a mote push, and some hindered it, with logical outcomes. For example, a mote holding a candle seemed to have a bit more pushing force against a mote holding a snake as the candle burned the snake. The other party members, as well, could use their skills to help or hurt a mote. Amos used his nature skill to boost the power of a huge mushroom held by one white mote, giving it more power for its column to shove the black motes around. Bastian combined a sword and shield on one mote, making it look ready for battle. Zepher used prestidigitation (after a few false starts) to enlarge the candle flame, making flare up against the snake still held by a black mote, producing a small explosion as it lit up a cloud of white chalk dust the unfortunate snake was being repeatedly dipped into by the mote. Theren shot a few well placed bolts at things held by opposing motes, sometimes knocking them away. Even DTIS is getting into the business of putting objects into the hands of the motes, though without high arcane skill it’s not always successful. So everyone has something to do, and do it quickly: the pieces are on the move, and have shown an ability to shove people around, even into the force field. The blue tanks of arcane energy are draining, taking an especially big dip when the black mote was destroyed. So this risky game cannot last forever. How much gold will there be to gain by playing well, making smart moves and choosing how to use items and skills to tilt the odds in their favour? The party may succeed where Michelevi failed, and become rich with gold from the void.

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Safe and Sound and Slaughtered
Theren's Log

I’m afraid my dear readers, I have some terrible news – I have failed in my duties as an adventurer, and as a friend. I just want to get it out of the way before the good news, because everyone knows it’s best to have bad news before good news. The bad news is that Polly might have eaten one of the feathers on the hat that I so righteously won from the lizard guy. I don’t think I’ll be able to get it back, at least not in-tact. It was a really nice feather. Perhaps I need to have more of a hard-love approach to prevent Polly from eating any more of my fabulous apparel… Oh! and Lev lost a leg – that was unfortunate, but now he can have a neat nickname, ‘One-Leg Lev’. I suppose it’s not a great nickname, but that’s what I am going to call him hahahahahaha. Well he’ll have the rest of his life to think of a better one anyway! I feel like I am forgetting something… Oh yeah! Yawn died or something. I mean I think that’s bad news because it means that the dwarf is going to be heels up for the big attack on Fenstrom – talk about lazy, huh? Not to mention heavy. When we revive him, I’m going to suggest Yawn goes on a diet. If I was dead I’d make more of an effort, you know?

On a positive note Zephyr has been practically dancing around singing ‘ding dong the dwarf is dead’ (what’s that even about? I didn’t know he was a fan of musicals). He’s been in a really good mood, which is unusual for him. For a while I was sure he’d top himself, so I suppose you can call his sudden change of heart the ‘good news’. He probably won’t be as happy when Jorn isn’t there to heal him during the big battle, but hey, I’m sure people in Fallcrest who revive adventurers from the dead have an occasional two for one deal, so I figure it’s like a bargain if one of us dies during the next battle… I really love a good bargain.

‘Well what happened?’ you might ask – basically, we were following the trail of Lev and Fenstrom (mostly a trail written in recently congealed blood). It was pretty easy to follow, because there was quite a lot of blood, along with weird mixture of acid and skin and stuff. I donno it was pretty gross so I didn’t really want a close look, but Amos suggested it might be coming off someone who had tangled with the gelatinous cube. The trail of Lev eventually diverged from that of Fenstrom, but there was no question about what we were going to do. Despite Lev being a pain in the neck, and a pain in the arse (that’s an expression by the way. He’s never been a pain in my arse, let’s get that clear) and a pain pretty much everywhere else you can have pains, he’s still a relatively good, and mostly helpless creature. Also he had a priceless treasure cup with him… but I didn’t really care why the others were going so much, I was just glad to have them with me. I didn’t want to force anyone to save Lev with me, because I had the feeling it wouldn’t be pretty and people have to make up their own minds when it comes to almost certain death.

Anyway we followed the trail through the crack in the wall, steadily working our way further and further from our real goal, until the passage widened out to an area where a medium sized person could reasonably be expected to fit. It was there that we saw a lot more blood, some extra footprints, and an ugly fingernail. Whatever went down it was Lev against some thing or things that are severely lacking in personal hygiene. More blood, more following, and I was starting to get more nervous. There was talk of ghouls but I had never really heard of them, let alone seen them myself. I reckoned maybe one bath and they’d be dissolved into nothing, judging by the fingernail. Eventually the rocks around us turned to crumbling bricks, and I knew that we were outside of Daggerburg Keep. We would either have to be quick, or resign ourselves to going through the keep YET AGAIN from the very beginning. I didn’t mention this though, as we were all more concerned with Lev than anything.

Once the walls changed to bricks, we found ourselves in some sort of crypt. I wanted to continue following the blood trail but it became confused with a whole lot of other blood trails and spatters. Let’s just say the owner of the crypt must have been really fond of the red through brown spectrum for interior decorating. Personally I prefer pastels and blues but each to their own, I suppose… a touch of colour might have made the place seem more roomy though, that’s all I’m saying. In any case, the group rushed in, discarding our own safety in favour of getting to Lev as quickly as possible. It was mitigated somewhat by the desire to stick together, especially after those spectres and that flaming skeleton… oh I didn’t cover those? Well long story short, Yawn became a crispy, fried dwarf but we won out in the end. Yeah, I don’t know what Yawn has been doing with himself but he’s like an ever-burning torch. Set him alight and he just stays burning for ages. It’s quite a spectacular sight really.

So where was I? Oh yeah we rushed in, each of us taking our best guess at which direction Lev would be in. We could hear him sobbing and muttering and singing from somewhere up ahead. The sound made tingles run down my spine. My gut clenched, and my blood raced… Lev was never a very good singer at the best of times. Most of us went left, but Yawn went right. Zephyr tried to be diplomatic, and requested that Yawn rejoin the group. The dwarf reluctantly accepted the proposal – BUT! Before Yawn could get to us, Stëk ran ahead and found Lev somewhere off quite a distance into the crypt. Wherever it was, Yawn could see the light of Stëk’s torch, and hurried forward to help, assuming we would regroup at Lev’s position. We were all about to make our way over to them, when down from the ceiling dropped a group of what can only be described as ugly on legs. It was probably Fenstrom’s extended family or something.

Ghouls. Well now I know. Old grandma Fenstrom ran teeth first at me and took a huge bite of my arm. Blood started gushing out everywhere, adding my own decoration to the already well painted dungeon floor. There seemed to be no way forwards through that slavering thing so I tumbled back to regroup with the rest of the party. Soon we were surrounded, cut off from Lev, Stëk, and Yawn, and fighting fiercely to clear a path. Unfortunately the small group of dwarves were also beset by the ghouls, and I can only imagine Lev’s horror. Apparently he was previously engaged in being eaten alive and they’d already polished off a leg. I can’t really imagine wanting to eat Lev’s leg personally, but then I know where it has been, and even if they had been aware of Lev’s questionable comings and goings, ghouls don’t really seem the type to nit-pick over issues of sanitation.

Well things happened as they happened. Amos showed his skill and finished off grandma ghoul all by himself (although I have to say it wasn’t the brightest of the bunch – kept locking its jaw up and ended up tearing itself open trying to get around a corner) while Bastian helped us manoeuvre in the limited space by shifting us all around into more fortuitous positions. He’s pretty handy in a tight spot. Even Zephyr chipped in with unusual relish, blasting the ghouls with his magic daggers. Of course I played a main role in defeating the creatures, dealing massive damage despite my arm being nearly chewed off. It was practically dangling by a thread, but I just grit my teeth and stopped the bleeding through sheer exertion of will. There are techniques taught by monks, you know, to slow your heartbeat so that you can slow or stop blood loss, but I reckon I have it figured out by myself.

Despite our heroics, however, by the time we broke through to the others they were in a sorry state. Lev had come around and was screaming in horror as a ghoul crouched over him, Yawn was lying in a puddle of his own blood, and Stëk was the only one still standing, possibly trying to revive Yawn, or perhaps just accidentally stomping on his beard, I couldn’t really tell which. Naturally everyone rushed over to try to save Jorn but it was as though he didn’t want saving. I mean COME ON! It was just like Harken Village. There was nothing I could do except watch while In the end it came down to Stëk. He could either try to save Jorn, or he could try to save Lev. In a rare moment of insight he chose to try to save Lev, and managed to kill the ghoul that was about to suck Lev’s face from his skull. It was what that do-gooder Jorn would have wanted, but also conveniently what Stëk wanted as well (let’s be honest, he excels more in cracking skulls than in mending them). Unfortunately Jorn slipped away during the last moments of battle. It was an ignoble death in a squalid little crypt with a group of people who didn’t like him very much and didn’t appreciate his efforts. No songs will be sung of his sacrifice to save a thief and a villain, and no stories written about his aggressive kindness – in fact most of the world will unfairly remember him only as a fiend and assassin. The last few moments of Jorn’s life were not spent in the light.

At that point I can’t help but to feel we had saved the wrong person. Bastian looked as though one of the ghouls had scored a bite in his most sensitive of areas as he stared down at Jorn’s body, and Zephyr had a small smile playing around his lips. Lev babbled crazily before falling unconscious. Other than what looks like some sort of sickness (filth fever if my limited experience and minimal knowledge of medicine is anything to go by) he doesn’t seem to be in mortal peril… except for the fact that some sort of god wants him dead, I suspect. I also suspect that he knows something about Fenstrom. It was clear that Fenstrom was walking in Lev’s still setting blood (from the carefully created boot-prints we found), so he could hardly have been unaware of Lev, despite the fact that Lev wasn’t mentioned in his nimminy pimmeny little letter. The blood was only a day old or so, meaning that it’s possible it was meant as a diversion for us, should we get through the cube, and the skeletons, and the flaming skeleton, and the spectres yesterday… but according to the letter we received, Fenstrom no longer needs to buy himself any time. In any case it’s likely that Fenstrom had some sort of interaction with Lev, although I doubt we will be able to coax Lev into recalling the last few days without some serious counselling first.

It’s not really a cause for concern, though. It doesn’t matter how long Fenstrom has to prepare, because even his best efforts are not enough to defeat us. I am a little worried about where to stash Yawn’s lazy dwarven corpse though, and I am certainly not going to spend days taking Lev back to Harken village. Lev’s backpack was almost as broken as he was, so I tried to find out if there was anything I should be carting back with us. I found a stupid notebook with codes in it and crappy treasure maps. As if anyone would be interested in his disgusting diary even if they could read it – it’s probably full of dirty stories about women he hasn’t even met… Maybe I will make a copy of some of the more interesting pages in it though, just in case the treasure maps aren’t utter crap (of course, not the private stuff or anything).

Taking a page from Lev's book

Might have to have it decoded by someone I trust. I also found my compass. I can’t believe he stole that, it was my key for proving Jorn’s good name! No one would believe me about a flying ship unless I can find the proof, and Lev should know that. I am threading the compass onto my golden chain to wear around my neck for safe-keeping from now on. I grabbed Jorn’s lantern for him as well as seeing to it that his pack was taken with us. He’ll need all his stuff when he’s revived so he can pay us back, although I don’t think he has that much gold… I wonder what he’s been spending it all on? Well he can still buy us all a drink at the pub, and that’s all that really matters! Then we’ll all laugh and tell him the adventures he missed out on, and he’ll light some candles and be annoying and stuff, like he always is.

I think the best thing to do now would be to find a secure place for Lev to wait (and I’m talking secure like a castle dungeon, cause he has a serious penchant for getting into trouble) and at the same time, some of our other people taking Yawn’s corpse to stay with Concorde (and casting gentle repose, because although it was discussed I don’t think it was ever performed, and we really don’t need a rotting dwarf corpse, because he smells bad enough as is). One method that seems really popular is putting the body in a barrel. I don’t know why but whenever we find barrels they have corpses in them, often dwarven in nature. Anyway I had better get back to the others before they freak out or something trying to think of what to do.

Ghouls can't catch you if you're on fire.

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DM log-- Daggerburg Keep 6

The party continued its fight against the phantom warriors in the crypt, with the enraged flaming skeleton behind them. Jorn, in the front line, took a few hard hits as he fired off his Turn Undead, which knocked them apart. The group held a good formation as they battled the phantoms, who were protected by their insubstantiality {they took half damage from everything except for force, and nobody had force attacks.} Meanwhile, the flaming skeleton repeatedly targeted Jorn with its flame orbs, croaking, “I want my lantern back!” Jorn tried to fool the skeleton into taking the lantern from the pirate ship instead, but the skeleton saw through this ruse and replied by setting Jorn on fire repeatedly. When one of the phantom warriors fell, its misty blood spreading across the crypt floor, the other warrior croaked out a name in an old, nearly incomprehensible tongue. Zepher recognised it as the tongue of the land of the mountains to the north of Nentir Vale and its capital Vlekstaad. These often-called barbarians are hale folk used to cold and war, using their longboats to raid up and down the coast of the sea on which Vlekstaad sits. Before the fall of the Nerath Empire, mercenaries from this area were often paid to add to the ranks of the King’s forces, and this is the likely origin of these phantoms, who fell long before the fall of the Empire, when the Keep was new. This also explained the Kordian influence in this tomb, as this is the chosen god of these tough northern people. The final room of the tomb showed mosaics, carvings, and altars to Kord. Realising this, the party decided to stop looting the skeletons of their burial jewellery. Soon the second phantom fell—without his fellow soldier his attacks were not as strong—and only the flaming skeleton was left. It threw itself at Jorn in a fury, clawing and burning him, but was soon dispatched.

The party earns 1800 XP, split 6 ways = 300 each

The party looked around this final room. In the corner were cracks leading downward. Scattered around the room were splashes and gouts of blood, but it was not theirs—the healers in the party recognised it was about a day old. The more perceptive members noticed smears and footprints in the blood that match Lev’s, so they deduced Lev might have gotten into a fight here. Also in the blood, set down very sharply and perhaps deliberately, was another pointed bootprint: Fenstrom. Looking at the cracks, on the sharp edges of the stone was a tacky slime of what seemed like semi-dissolved skin, which smelled of acid. Perhaps Lev had taken some damage from the gelatinous cube before fleeing down the cracks.

Though a door led out of the crypt, the party was confident they knew which trail to follow, and soon they confirmed they were correct: after slipping down the cracks they entered a narrow cave passage, and in the green slime on its floor they saw Lev’s footprints clearly, as well as Fenstrom’s. The party followed the cave passage roughly east for a while. Then the tracks parted: Fenstrom’s continued east, but Lev’s went up a different passage, which led south and upward. The party decided to go after Lev—though was sneaky, annoying, and deceitful, he did not deserve to die in this place. After a few minutes, the cave passage widened enough that a medium-sized creature could walk and occasionally squeeze along. They passed another fair-sized cave fissure leading sharply upward. It seemed strange that Lev had not taken this passage up, since he apparently was seeking a way out. But his tracks passed it by. Just at that point, a new set of tracks joined Lev’s, and the perceptive ones in the party could detect a few disturbing things. The new tracks were on top of Lev’s as if following him. Also, the tracks were bare foot and hand prints, humanoid, but apparently with long, sharp, clawlike fingernails, and the flesh of these hands and feet must have been withered and desiccated. After some distance they came to signs of a struggle: in the slime were scuff marks as if there had been a fight between Lev and whatever was following him. More blood was splattered on the stone—it did not look like enough to kill someone, but serious. They also found a long, sharp, broken-off fingernail which was so old and tattered it looked like it could have come from a corpse. This, and flakes of skin that also looked long dead, gave Jorn a terrible certainty that Lev had been pursued by ghouls. One had dropped down behind him and followed him into a waiting ambush from another ahead. They flanked Lev and took him down. These creatures, the undead remains of those who lived lives of cannibalism or gluttony, plague graveyards and battlefields by eating corpses. But even more they love living flesh. It was likely they did not kill Lev, but captured him and took him back to their den. They sometimes control themselves for a while, eating a prisoner bit by bit while he is still alive, to keep the meat fresh. But they always eventually lose patience and devour their prisoner within a few days. If Lev were still alive, it would not be for long. So the party bravely decided to continue.

Jorn told them what he knew about ghouls: they were stealthy and good at climbing. They attack with claws and bites that tend to immobilize and stun, the better to attack victims. They are often vulnerable to radiant damage, and being undead, resistant to disease and necrosis. The tracks led into a tunnel which had been hacked into the sandstone to join the cave. Shortly this tunnel opened up into a wider space. The dark shadow mist was here as well so it was hard to see, but it was apparently an underground room finished with crumbling brick. The walls, 10 feet high, were made of uneven brick, and most of the interior and edges were simply tall piles of collapse, leaving narrow, tight passages winding through the rubble. The earthquake must have devastated this place. It did not look anything like the Keep’s architecture and likely was not connected to it—which made Theren realise that the Wizard’s Escape effect might wear off quickly here.

Then they heard singing, an agonised voice echoing through the ruin ahead. It was Lev, singing what Theren recognised as a ballad often sung at far happier times in the Snake’s Head. Now it sounded like Lev was fending off insanity with this song. He sounded delirious and filled with false bravado. Also, they heard echoing horrible sounds of slurping, chewing, and eating. The party decided to move in quickly, with Stek in the lead.

There was blood spattered here and there but it was all over, as if the ghouls had set Lev free for a while to run in a panic around the ruin, providing the thrill of the chase. It was very difficult to tell from which direction Lev’s voice came due to the echoes in this crumbling ruin. The first few who entered did their best {the DM rolling Perception in secret, with a failure more than 5 resulting in a random direction} and chose the left passage as the one leading most directly to Lev. Jorn, however, thought the right passage was the better one, and set off on his own. The party pleaded with him to stick together, but Jorn did not heed them and soon was away and down a corridor. Zepher started to follow but was stopped in his tracks as a ghoul dropped from the wall to which it clung and blocked the narrow passage between Jorn and Zepher. It was gangly, covered with greenish skin that looked stretched too tight. Its long, sharp, nasty fingernails clacked in the echoing dark as it waved a horrifying greeting, matched by an evil grin with long, crooked teeth. It slashed at Zepher and dug its nails into the wizard’s flesh, pinning him in place. {Claw attacks from these solider type ghouls immobilize the target, save ends. This also sets them up for a devastating bite attack against the immobilised.}

Meanwhile, Stek had ventured ahead of the party enough to create a gap, into which dropped another ghoul. Now the party was broken up into three pieces, and as more ghouls appeared, they were flanked. These abominations were on their home turf and knew very well how to take advantage. Battles broke out on all fronts. Eventually they were up against three ghouls with greenish, leathery, tight skin and hooked claws {the soldiers} and two ghouls with grey, puffy skin and enormous jaws {the brutes}. The latter could at times unhinge their jaws for a devastating bite attack, and otherwise could stun their victims with hammering fist blows. Theren called out for Lev, who in turn stopped singing for a moment, then started chuckling. His echoing voice said, as if to himself, “Oh man, I must be getting ready to die if I am dreaming this. The heroic last minute rescue… that’s too cliché, even for Theren…”

Jorn was isolated, and plunged ahead, following Lev’s voice. Soon he came upon Lev. He was lying in a nest of bones shoved into a corner, his arms shackled behind him through loops of a pelvis bone. It took a moment in the gloom for Jorn to realise that Lev’s leg was gone, gnawed off to the knee. A tourniquet of his own sinews was tied tight to stop the bleeding. Lev was delirious and sweaty; the leg was obviously infected. Lev looked up at Jorn and started laughing hysterically, cackling, “And now the dwarf! Of course he would be here too! It wouldn’t be a rescue without the dwarf! Ha ha ha!” Jorn replied by using his most powerful healing spell {a daily} to bring Lev up to nearly full health. Meanwhile another green ghoul had dropped down to savage Jorn from behind.

Stek knew Jorn was in trouble and gambled a run ahead into dark passages, and came to Lev and Jorn from the other direction. The grey and green ghouls pinned them there, but the grey one’s snapping horrific jaws were no match for the dwarf’s plate armour. The green one, however, did terrible damage to Jorn, who needed to heal himself to stay alive.

The rest of the party engaged with the other three ghouls, Zepher pulling back to a safe distance while Theren and Amos did savage damage to their foes. Bastian used healing and guiding strikes to coordinate the party, and though the damage was high on both sides, they started to turn the tide.

After a devastating bite, Jorn went down with a gurgle, Pelor’s name bubbling from his bloody lips. Stek desperately fought the ghouls as the party tried to get close enough to stabilise Jorn. The greyish ghoul, near destruction, retreated and hid, giving Stek just one target. Jorn started to go into convulsions {having failed two death saving throws} so Stek tried to stabilise him, as unpractised as he was, but did not manage it. Then the ghoul who had retreated dropped down again from the ceiling. He had snuck around for one last try at his precious saved meal: Lev. The ghoul’s freakishly stretched jaw clamped around Lev’s waist and Lev screamed in terror. Stek dispatched the nasty creature before it could kill Lev. The rest of the party rushed in to try to stabilise Jorn. {Bastian was out of healing spells so these were stabilisation checks with Heal vs. DC 15.} What with the chaos and ill fortune, none succeeded. Jorn took a shuddering breath, fighting for life— and then exhaled one last time, parting with both his dying breath and the warm glow that always seemed to suffuse his skin. Jorn was dead.

The party’s stunned realisation was made all the more surreal by the babbling Lev. First he demanded, “This is real? Are you really here?” then, with growing fear, “I don’t want to look down. How is my leg?” When he realised it was gone, he babbled: “Oh shit. My leg. Oh shit. I want my leg back. Get it out of the stomach of the big one. I need it. Bastian… Bastian said he’d get me into those wild eladrin parties in Fallcrest. I can’t dance with an eladrin princess with only one leg!” Lev shivered and sweat broke out; the infection from his leg was severe and looked like a bad case of Filth Fever. He continued as his eyes fluttered: “It’s fine. I’ll grow a new one. I know a unicorn. Met her in the woods. She ate spiderwebs, did you know that? But I owe the Snake’s Head a debt. Maybe it should be a cheese shop. I’m not all that good an adventurer.” Lev sobbed. “Ercullum. I should have shot at the skeleton. He would have told the ghoul I’m dangerous. But if I had some grapes I’d be fine.” With this, Lev passed out. Theren, no sentimentalist, started going through Lev’s backpack. The treasure from the tower puzzle was not there, but a notebook had encrypted notes that seemed to indicate Lev had buried it near the puzzle. Also Theren found the compass from the Blanche-Nef. Lev must have stolen it from Theren days ago.

The party earned 1000 XP, split 6 ways = 166 each.

The party is reeling from this turn of events: Jorn dead, Lev diseased and traumatised beyond the brink of sanity, and uncertain if they can squeeze back the way they came. Lev certainly cannot, having been here for a day since his last drink from the basin. They must choose whether to go farther into the ruin, to find a way to the surface which surely must exist, or up the cave passage from which the ghoul tracks first came. And then what? Rest again while Fenstrom builds even more power? Where to leave Lev? What to do with Jorn’s body? It is a dark day when a cleric of Pelor is lost, especially one as cheerful and peaceable as Jorn. Though the dwarf often let his devotion overpower his sense of self-preservation, he always meant the best, and perhaps it was most fitting that he died while single-mindedly seeking out a tormented soul crying in the dark, and granting him one last burst of holy light before himself falling into the abyss. Farewell Jorn, and whether you come back to the material plane or dwell in Pelor’s heavenly temple, we will never forget you.

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Regrettable Retreat
Theren's Log

As we have all found some brief respite, I have decided to update my notes, as I fear that if events continue to progress as they have in the past hour or so that everyone will soon be dead, and I would like to leave behind a legacy, or maybe just a warning to the traveller who picks this up. If you are that traveller, I hope you heed my warning well – your team is your armour, your weapon, and your honour when you have none. Without them you will perish, or perhaps you will only wish you had perished when you look back at the acts you have committed whilst in the thrall of madness. If you have made it this close to the rift, my advice is to throw away petty rivalries now, and make your peace with your fellows, because you will need them in the trials to come. If you are alone, then turn back now.

All of my companions had exited into a relatively narrow hallway. The only thing we knew about that hallway was that a skeleton had already floated down it, first one way, and then another, as though on patrol. As I readied myself to enter into it myself, I saw that Kat had been sucked up into the air which was distorted and agitated. She was floating, just as the skeleton had been, thrashing as though pained or angry. Bastian hurriedly informed me that the attacker was no mystical force, it was a gelatinous cube – a dreadful dungeon skulker that is almost impossible to best unless with a volley of ranged attacks. I asked if he needed help with freeing Kat but he seemed certain that he would be fine on his own. I assumed we would flee, and so I hurried in the opposite direction to the fearsome geometrical giant. I did turn briefly, intending to lay down some cover fire, but the darkness in these halls is such that I couldn’t see my hand before my face, nor even the light, once I had stepped out of its pathetic glow. Thus fearing that I might accidentally hit a friend by mistake, and worrying that I hadn’t yet come across the other half of the party, I pressed onwards through the darkness.

The darkness was smothering, and for a time I felt displaced, as though I might have accidentally wandered into an alternate dimension. It was eerie the way I was so totally cut off from my team mates, listening to the sounds of my own breathing, and seeing nothing but imagined spectres in the gloom. I think my eyes rebel against having nothing to see by inventing all manner of phantasms, and each minute felt like an hour.

Now let me explain myself. When you are in total darkness, with no one to hold you back or bear witness to your acts, when you are fearful of unseen attackers, knowing there is danger both behind and ahead, and aware that you are utterly alone, wondering if you will even live to regret your mistakes – time slows. Temptation whispers in the back of your mind, enticing you to give in to first minor sins, and then greater ones. I admit that with no one to temper my whim I fell to looting the crypt, despite the fact that my team almost certainly required assistance. I discovered later from chatter that Bastian, Zephyr, and Kat had decided to stay behind to fight the cube thing, while I was soon to discover that the others were facing a flaming skeleton and hordes of lesser skeletons. I curse myself even now but when I reached Swiftblade and Yawn I could concentrate only on plundering the shattered tombs around me, rather than freeing them from the peril they had waded into.

Eventually Zephyr ran over and berated us all for not assisting with fighting the cube. Without receiving assistance, however, Bastian and Kat were forced to fall back and join us. They looked in bad shape, and worst of all they failed to close the doors in time to keep the cube from pursuing them and the rest of us. We were trapped between an acidic blob and a flaming skeleton. Heedlessly I pushed ahead, eager for more treasure, only to find myself confronted by two vengeful spectres who berated me for my greed. This was the final straw. The team realised we had to flee with all speed, and I was quickly brought to my senses by a hearty blow to the head from the spectres.

Unfortunately, such was the speed of the blob, and the stealth that I knew not where it resided, only that it had probably blocked off all escape passages. I was glad I urged the rest of the party to flee, as I suspected I wouldn’t be getting out alive. Once again alone in the darkness, I warded off fearful thoughts with the warm glow of a sunrod. I admit it made me think of Jorn, and it was almost like having him with me. Perhaps that is what gave me the idea to throw the sunrod to the floor to use it as a marker for when the cube had passed. I did so, squeezing myself into an open tomb, and waiting anxiously for any sign that the thing had passed me by. All I could hear was the eerie disembodied tapping of Zephyr’s mage hand, until that too died out, and I knew the party must have reached a safe distance. The light moved slightly, and although I was tempted to wait indefinitely, I knew I had to try my luck while I had a relatively good idea of where the thing was, or forever cower in the darkness.

Luckily no attack came my way, although I was expecting it. The party regrouped and fled, slamming the doors to the crypt behind us. When we reached Zephyr, who had run ahead, we discovered that he’d almost gotten himself killed in what could have only been an attempt at suicide. As the danger had passed I gathered up the remains from the attackers, and then Zephyr’s unconscious body, before dragging him out of there (with Jorn’s help). We retreated back through the cracks, past Keegan’s tomb, and out the way we had come.

The group has decided to rest in the goblin’s bunk beds. I thought to sleep in the larger bed, but Stëk seems to have come back to conciousness, while Kat has passed out. Jorn has started making smoke come through here. I doubt I will ever get to sleep at this rate. Zephyr’s madness worries me a little.

I had a strange dream – just writing this quickly before we head off again! It was something to do with going up a fissure, but instead of going to Keegan’s tomb directly I was in some sort of hallway with knee high mist. I was very worried about pitfall traps, as I would be in such circumstances. The darkness was the same as always, and my armour was eating it up just as greedily. After a while I reached some spider webs and I remember a deep feeling of dread at the thought of spiders, so I changed tack and went east, until I came to a dead end. There was another crack there and then things get a little vague… but eventually I got to Keegan’s tomb and then I woke up. I must stop writing though because Zephyr is giving me a very strange look – perhaps Polly has gotten out and pissed in his backpack or something. I should feed her.

We found a note from Stormy the master baiter goading us about our recent failure. He seems to know what we were up to, and it seems he is trying to take the high moral ground or something. All I really care about is that he never once mentioned Lev. I don’t know if it is good or bad, but at least he has the good sense to stay hidden. We took our water from the fountain and were once more granted Wizard’s Diet, before hurrying back to the grounds of our last defeat.

Unfortunately Stëk woke up more well rested than anyone else, and a lot less battle weary. While we made cautious plans to get around another battle with the cube, he must have been off chasing dust motes, because when the time came to flee the cube, he fled in the wrong direction – that is to say he charged the thing and promptly got stuck into it (literally). I tried to grab him away from the thing but he was intent on attacking it. Luckily everyone else was ready to work well together, but even so, what should have been a simple matter of minutes was turned into a long drawn out battle during which many of our number nearly became one with the cube. At one point Stëk was hit so hard on his thick head that he couldn’t walk, and I took my chance, performing a nimble retreat with Kat and Stëk, but mostly for Kat’s benefit as at that point I was more than happy to leave Stëk behind.

Since then, with all our members participating, we managed to foil the cube and lock it behind us, gaining room to breathe. I can only hope that after this rest we will be primed to get through this damned place in one piece.

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DM log-- Daggerburg Keep 5

The party, bloodied, battered, and DM-scolded from their last chaotic encounter, retreated from the Crypt and the Cube. They took Zepher’s unconscious body up with them as they ascended the cracks and shortly ended up in Sir Keegan’s Tomb. All looked as they left it. They went into the hallway and down into the cracks there, following a familiar route, wending northward, under the spot that dripped water, then up some cracks into the storage room. This too was as they had left it, rotting dwarf and all. Jorn set about to properly burn the dwarf, while he was still in the barrel. The ceiling being low and the ventilation being nonexistent, the room quickly filled with a smoke so foul that everyone gagged in the next room. This interrupted their sleeping arrangements and Stek (who had clambered off the back of the unconscious Kat) smothered the fire, and bid Jorn to get rid of it. Jorn tried to roll the still-smouldering barrel with his spear. The barrel tipped over and broke open, spreading chunks of charcoal and burned dwarf across the floor. Eventually he got most of the pieces into the pit in the first room of the dungeon. There Jorn started making a pile of kindling to try again to make his pyre, but Stek pointed out that there was still no vent, so Jorn relented and left the dwarf to rot in the pit. Later he realised that the note that had been attached to the barrel had been consumed in the flames.

The party slept, with Bastian keeping watch in trance for part of the night. While they slept, they all shared a strange dream. Some forgot parts of it, but shared what they heard to compose the whole thing. The dream was this:

You had a strange and very vivid dream. You and the others were coming back from the crypt. You crawled up the crack from the crypt but entered a long corridor. The corridor was very straight and well-built, of an architecture you have never seen or heard of before, seemingly ancient. You did not remember seeing this corridor before, but something about it was still very familiar. There was a thick dark mist on the floor, same as what was in the crypt, but thicker and only ankle-deep. You all were cautious about pits so you tapped along in front of you as you went. You all went west but were stopped by thick, fresh spider webs and a dread that very dangerous spiders may lay beyond it. You all then went east. You saw some cracks and a collapse blocked further progress. You came up the cracks and very soon ended up in Keegan’s tomb.

On waking, they talked about this and what it might mean. In trying to figure out where this corridor might be, Stek used his deep sense of dungeon navigation {a Dungeoneering check} to realise that Keegan’s Tomb is not directly over the crypt, though twice now they climbed more or less straight up the cracks to get from one to the other. The tomb was laterally quite far from the crypt. But that made no sense. They puzzled over this and later looked for side passages in that area, but found nothing.

Also on waking, Zepher felt that Theren was looking at him a bit strangely, maybe nervously. The party noticed Zepher’s eyes narrowing {as Zepher did an Insight check} as he watched Theren and questioned him. Theren defended that he had done nothing wrong but did not like the way Zepher was eyeing his splendid ship captain’s hat. Zepher was not convinced. The party wondered if this was shadow madness. Jorn {rolling a Heal check, stretching himself as shadow energy is quite an advanced subject} was certain that this behaviour of Zepher’s was a sure sign of growing shadow madness, and Bastian, on hearing this, wracked his brain and remembered something similar, though with less certainty. The party considered different remedies, some thinking it was incurable, Amos thinking a nice bath in a mountain stream might fix it, Jorn thinking that exposure to the plane of positive energy would fix it. But none of these were at hand, so down the crack they decided to go, and quickly before the influence of the place got stronger. They rushed out of the room with no further distractions.

Well, one distraction. They needed to use the magic basin, filling it with water to gain the Wizard’s Escape effect again. This effect, as predicted, had expired in the night and hopefully could be renewed to again follow Fenstrom’s shortcut route through the cracks riddling this dungeon. But when they came to the basin, in it was a note:

Dear country clods—

How clever you must think yourselves. You dim bulbs figured out how to use the basin. Congratulations: you now are as clever as I was when I was five years old. And what did you do with your new-found knowledge? Lumbered into a perfectly lovely crypt and wrecked the place like a herd of mad cows! Nice reverence for the dead you have there. Why didn’t you piss in the funeral urns while you were at it? And thanks so much for letting a gelatinous cube into the place. Do you have any idea what you are doing? I had nearly forgotten about that thing, the result of a little summoning experiment of mine. Of course it’s no challenge for me to evade but may the gods help you idiots. Here’s a hint: don’t walk into it. At least the cube has cleaned up the crypt a bit… but I don’t think the crypt’s guardians appreciate the makeover.

Speaking of guardians, I see now that your veneer of do-goodiness is only skin deep. I know this from inspecting the remains of my skinless friend Sir Keegan. So you attacked him and stole his sword. Bravo— so heroic. I can only guess that Sir Keegan was testing your fibre when you surprised him with your brutality. How can you live with yourselves? I never much cared for the kind of moral limits adhered to by your cow-milking simpleton tribes, but even I know how to use an ally to gain advantage. Are you naïve, hypocritical, nasty, or all three?

I hope your cowardly retreat does not mean you are about to run away like little chickens. I welcome the challenge of repelling your wimpy onslaught. Every day I learn more about the chaos shard and my defences become stronger, so you can rest here as long as you want. I’m ready for you. Soon you will see the full extent of my genius. I might even let all of you work for me.

Your future master,
Excellus M. Fenstrom, Supreme Arcanist

They made sure the basin had not been messed with, but they found nothing, and after all, Fenstrom needed to keep using this to get around. So they filled it with water and gulped it down. They were once again noodly and could continue their travels.

It was the morning of 27 Patchwall (see the timeline). They went back down the cracks and ended up back in the crypt. This time they were resolved to stick together, be more careful, and avoid the cube at all costs. They crept forward, probing ahead as they went with bones and lights. They noticed the corridor was lightly webbed; the spiders had been busy overnight. Reasonably confident the cube was behind the doors they had closed on it, they looked more closely at the broken window on which Lev’s pant leg material was still hanging. Stek noticed {with Dungeoneering} that the “wall” behind the window was not building material; it was a fine stone, a kind of marble. Looking even closer {having rolled a natural 20}, it was apparent that there was a very thin crack between the window sill and the slab, as if this slab had been slid into place here and did not quite make a tight fit. However, nothing they could do shifted this slab. The crack was too thin for them to get through with their Wizard’s Escape effect. So they gave up. Stek’s best guess was that this window used to be a normal one looking into a room beyond, but someone or some mechanism moved this slab into place, and it might not be able to open from this side. Theren recalled that Lev was quite athletic, so it was conceivable that Lev had moved the slab into place.

Amos reverently put his old scimitar on the altar to Kord at the end of the corridor—a nice moment— as well as the bits of gold jewelry which were resting at the altar’s base.

The party approached the doors and got ready in formation, with Theren in front, reasoning that he had the best chance of dodging the cube’s sucking-in attack. The place was as they had last seen it, but spotlessly clean. The bones and shattered glass were still there, but pushed to the sides of the corridor. Theren ventured ahead slowly, aware that the cube could be anywhere, invisible until it attacked. He did not have to wonder long. Upon his first strides into the room, he walked into the cube. {The DM swears the location and direction of movement of the cube was entirely random while it had no other stimulus to orient it toward the party!} A wobbly pseudopod swept out but Theren artfully dodged it, then retreated. The party resolved to move back, keeping an eye on their foe. Stek adjusted the plan slightly by charging forward and chopping at the cube with his axe. The cube replied by sucking him in. After a bit of sizzling, Stek wrestled himself free of the grabbing glop inside the cube, moved out, then got slammed by the cube into a head-ringing immobility. There was a bit of a mess as the party tried to get free, but they used their tactics well. Theren even grabbed the prone dwarf and rolled him out of the way. Eventually the party got down the corridor ahead of the cube and through the glass door in the urn cases, safe on the far side. There was a daring moment as Zepher kept himself in peril as he used Mage Hand to tap on the ground near the now-invisible cube, its location betrayed by the dissolving of the webs in the corridor. Thankfully the cube followed the tapping, as if it had learned that things on the other side of the glass could not be eaten. With the cube hopefully clear, the party dashed to the doors and shut them, with Bastian doing a clever fey step and quick thievery skills to get the doors free first. All in all, an impressive feat of coordination.

The cube now safely on the other side, they faced the crypt. After a short rest they ventured ahead in formation. When they entered the fourth row, in the same spot where Theren had been nearly killed by the two phantom warriors, the warriors again appeared, shouting in their hollow voices, “Defend the Keep!” Theren {with some gentle reminding by the DM} resisted the urge to run ahead of the tank, and instead gained stealth. The warriors, showing shrewd tactical skill, moved in place and attacked not the armoured Stek but the more vulnerable-looking Jorn, who was also in the front row. Two massive slashes penetrated Jorn’s armor, spreading necrotic energy through him, bloodying him and demanding his attention. {The warriors seem to get combat advantage when they are both adjacent to the same target, and they mark those that they hit.}

The battle is joined! With the cube out of the way and a new resolve to work as a team, the party’s odds look much better… but having seen a flicker from the blazing skeleton in the distance and aware that Fenstrom might be watching them, they can’t exactly relax. Will Fenstrom release the cube? Will they pick up Lev’s trail again? Will Zepher go mad? Is Theren’s hat in peril? Time will tell…

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DM log-- Daggerburg Keep 4

Here as always is a short log, sticking to the main facts. Some clues and details are left out, either deliberately because I want to preserve the mystery, or because I am lazy.

One of the dungeoneers of the party recognised this strange new phenomenon as the dreaded gelatinous cube. These oozes fill entire dungeon corridors from floor to ceiling, scouring every surface for any source of nutrition. It is nearly invisible until it attacks someone, when its rippling surface distorts its clarity. Now it was evident as a wall of watery gel filling the corridor. It soon made its greatest threat again apparent as it reached out a pseudopod and tried to pull in nearby party members. When it succeeded with Kat, she was dazed and immobilised, able to slash at it from the inside while being slowly dissolved by its acidic juices. Bastian cleverly shifted her out of danger with a healing spell.

Meanwhile, Jorn and then Amos were headed down the corridor. Failing to recall many a grizzled adventurer’s repeated advice, Never Split The Party, they sought to arouse and destroy every undead creature in the area. Though their dedication to their cause is admirable, perhaps what happened next will finally temper their own personal resolutions and inclinations in service to a larger cause, that is, to keep the group alive. Moving ahead of one’s defender is a dangerous practice in the simplest of fights, much worse doing so in a dark maze full of foes. Soon Amos and Jorn were under heavy attack by a flaming skeleton which was using a Voran’s Lantern to redirect its fire orb attacks, and their health dropped sharply. It took most of Jorn’s healing skills to keep the fierce but relatively unprotected Amos alive—healing spells that would be dearly missed in a few more moments.

The remainder of the party was battling the cube, trying to extricate itself well enough to retreat, but not quite getting far enough away. They recalled that the classic strategy with a cube was to stay away from it until one could get the open space to attack it at range or by surrounding it. This they tried to do, but it was a sticky foe. During this Theren crept about in the dark, not attacking, enjoying the benefits of stealth and access to loot. Zepher headed for Jorn and Amos to add more squishy meat to the monster stew being cooked up, then came back to be passed up by the fleeing Kat and Bastian, and lingered long enough to be sucked in by the cube. Zepher seemed to be on the verge of giving up. Perhaps it was the shadow energy, perhaps the pressure of revenge against Fenstrom, perhaps the animus against Jorn which has never quite healed, but at times the party worries that Zepher has developed a dark death wish. Nevertheless, Bastian used his last healing word to yank a slowly dissolving Zepher free.

The party finally became united in the rows of crypts being explored by a now badly battered Jorn and Amos. Skeleton minions were popping out everywhere, wearing and slowing them down. On the positive side, Jorn grabbed the lantern and gained control of it, so the blazing skeleton had to content itself with throwing its orbs directly, nevertheless doing a lot of damage with its fiery aftermath. Kat urged the party to get caught up with the others and stick together, but the damage was heavy, and the fight had only begun, with the cube in invisible pursuit behind them. Theren took shots from a disadvantageous squished position among the skeleton’s crypts, which were not the best sniping spots but were conveniently stuffed with treasure. However, when Theren advanced further, a chill ran down his spine as two phantoms emerged, phasing through the walls of the crypt. “You have plundered this tomb enough!” they cried, and drew their swords in unison. They appeared to be apparitions of very capable warriors, and set to their new target with relish, using each other as a distraction to open up vulnerable gaps in Theren’s defences. {When both were adjacent to a target, the target gave combat advantage to both.} Theren took very heavy damage.

At this point {with a bit of prompting by the DM} the party realised they were in a very bad situation. Out of heals, low on health, confronted with new enemies, and chased by a killer cube, they realised that they would be lucky to retreat now and get out with most of them alive. They consolidated, revived the fallen Jorn, and beat a tactical retreat. At this point they started to use well the tactics that had eluded them before. Kat guarded the vulnerable, the ranged attackers gained distance, and the most endangered stayed out of reach of sword and claw. A grim tension arose when Theren got caught on the wrong side of where he rightly guessed the cube lurked in the gloom. He cleverly slipped into a niche to hide, and as the cube groped blindly for food, Theren deduced its location from the eradication of the crypt’s cobwebs and the movement of the sunrod he threw on the ground. Zepher also cunningly used ghost sound to draw the cube away. When Theren reasoned the cube was away, he took a huge but well-calculated gamble and slipped through the darkness. He did not walk into any walls of acidic gel, and soon joined his companions, who had figured out how to loose the doors that had snapped into an open position. Out they went, shutting the doors behind them, hoping the cube could not ooze through. They were back in the corridor where their troubles began.

To the confusion and horror of his companions, Zepher numbly walked alone down the corridor lined with sarcophagi. These burst open and he was surrounded by skeletons. In a desperate, enraged flourish, he burst with flame, devastating most of his foes. But the two that remained soon cut him down with swords and he lay bleeding on the crypt floor. His friends, led by Amos, came to his rescue, dispatched the skeletons, and stabilised him on the brink of death. They dragged him through the unlockable urn casing into the first, dusty corridor where they entered this foul crypt, and soon the healers were rested enough to revive him.

Now the party must reflect, with many questions to address. How can they function as a group? How will they resist following their own individual urges to unify into a battle plan? Every surviving adventurer ends up with a tale like this: a fight gone wrong, death staring them in the face, which terrified them but ultimately led to a greater good: a group that unified and realised that only together, filling out their unique roles, are they strong enough to fight increasingly dangerous foes. This momentary failure can be a good thing as they resolve to take on their struggle bloodier but wiser.

And struggle on they must—surely they are on the trail of Lev and Fenstrom as there appears to be no other way out of the crypt their quarry could have taken. They must fight on. But it appears to be time for a long rest, to regain their health and power. Where, however, can they rest? It appears that Theren was correct that this Wizard’s Escape effect they gained by drinking from the basin was long-lasting, which meant Theren probably also correctly recognised it would not last forever. The water they took from the basin has lost its power. If they sleep for hours here in the crypt, they fear the effect will wear off, and retreat back up the crack will be impossible. Forward progress on the slippery Fenstrom’s trail might also become impossible, as Fenstrom uses these cracks to bypass many dangerous rooms. If they turn solid, they will have to get to Fenstrom the long way, fighting who knows how many foes. It would be safest to retreat now to the room with the basin, rest there, use the basin to regain its effects, then retrace their steps. It’s regrettable, as dungeons this fecund tend to repopulate quickly, but retreat may be the wiser course.

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A Quixotic's Quietus
Theren's Log

Q! D: Anyway these are just Theren’s notes. See DM log— Daggerburg Keep 3 for a more thorough version of events, and Fourth Right and Honourable for Bastian’s PoV.

Theren Says: One day I hope to look back on these notes and shake my head with amusement, but right at this moment I am worried. I fear that we have tarried over-long in these ruins and that the feeble minds of my companions are even now granting ground in the battle against madness. I am perhaps the only one strong enough to resist the effects… but I get ahead of myself.

We journeyed through cracks in the wall, squeezing together in the narrow space. It was not something I would ever wish to recount in intimate detail – suffice to say that I can appreciate that none of my of my companions has found the time to bathe in the last few days, and I have had the opportunity to grow rather more familiar with them than I am comfortable with. It is very hard to watch where you are putting your hands when there is little light and you don’t exactly know where your hands are. In any case, we managed to spot a couple of footprints. I was certain that one of them belonged to Lev, and so encouraged the others to hurry on.

The first place we came to was a corridor that ended with large doors. Beyond the doors there was a crypt filled with angry skeletons. How do I know what was behind those doors, I hear you ask? Because Yawn decided to take a look. I wanted to leave him and continue my search for Lev (for I was certain he would have gone in the direction of the footprints we were following, which continued on in the opposite direction) but the others have a strange hatred for the dwarf, despite the fact that he has gladly saved us all from death many times (except me of course. I have never been close to death because I am far too skilled for that). Bastian and his beard fear I can understand, but no one seemed willing to fend off skeletons and drag Yawn back to the path when it appeared the foes would be indefinitely bursting forth from their resting places. Thus I was forced to join Yawn. I only mention it because there was one skeleton in particular that would not be killed. It reminded me too much of The Incident, and so I killed it myself, much to the dismay of Swiftblade. Perhaps he was losing his mind, even then?

So amongst bad tempered promptings from Zephyr we resumed our hunt for Lev and/or Fenstrom, which eventually lead to a large gloomy room. I mean there was light… but it was not the quality of light you get elsewhere. Not the sort of light you would want to meet in a dark alley. From a safe distance, I warily admired a grand stone sarcophagi. It was pretty much the only thing in the room, and was raised, with a staircase to get to it, making it more than a tad ominous. On top was engraved the image of a man with a sword clenched firmly in his hands. I felt instinctively (or perhaps worried) that it could only belong to one person.

Abandoning his own dungeon diving code of ’don’t do anything’ Zephyr brashly approached the sarcophagi (he was impatient to get a move on, and I do not know what his hurry is, considering his dislike of Lev). Naturally, and like just about every other ‘final’ resting place in Daggerburg, it turned out to be only a momentary resting place, and a well armoured but not immediately aggressive undead burst forth. Sir Keegan. I maintain my stance on ghosts, however. Sir Keegan was not a ghost he was – well I think he must have been on an aggressive diet because he was skin and bone… well bone anyway – let’s just say that whatever sins he has been committing of late, they weren’t sins of the flesh.

He seemed pretty chatty for a dishonoured, insane, Fenstrom loving, undead kind of guy. He told us that the keep is guarding a shadow rift, and that the power of the rift could warp the minds of mortals. He clearly worshipped Bahamet and fell into a bit of a religious gossip session with our cleric. I don’t know, maybe he has been a little starved of conversation. I could tell though, by the way Yawn’s beard was bristling, that he wanted to attack Keegan and bring him closer to ’Pelor’s mighty radiance’. Keegan was a little annoyed that we continued to bring up Fenstrom’s dubious moral standing, and claimed that Fenstrom was good at heart, but admitted the wizard, like all men, was corruptible. I think taking advice on this matter from someone who hasn’t had a brain for over half a century and is still living in a basement well into his hundreds is probably a bad idea. I did, however, seek his advice on the effect of the rift on the human mind. He seemed to imply it could take weeks to months to corrupt someone of pure virtue and undying determination to do good. I really worry for Lev. His virtue is unquestionable, but only because you wouldn’t like the answers, and his determination is more of an obsession for treasure, and luxury. He wouldn’t even last a day so close to the rift.

Finally Swiftblade spoke up in admiration of Keegan’s sword. Despite the urgency of our situation, we agreed to duel Keegan for possession of the item. I hope Lev does not suffer for our dallying, even though he is a flea bitten cur, son of a pig and a dung pile, and as irritatingly whiny as a mosquito in a swamp. I did not do much in the battle, for Amos and Keegan seemingly had eyes only for each other, and I can’t abide with being a third wheel. What I will say, however, is that Zephyr seems already consumed by madness. His usual ill-temper has blossomed into a vindictive animosity towards anyone who looked at him the wrong way. During battle, by a quirk of fate, Yawn unintentionally caused Zephyr to take a hit from Keegan (Zephyr had also previously been boasting that so far he had dodged all blows aimed at him, and was not at all injured or tired). In retribution, Zephyr attacked Yawn, laying him prone, and attaching a magical hand to the dwarf’s beard. I am sure it was unintentional but these actions caused Keegan to land blows on both Yawn and myself, compromising our cover so that I was in a bad position to make a counter attack and putting us in the very danger that Zephyr was so bitter about being placed in himself. Despite this I said nothing, as I think the wizard is beyond reasoning with, and I can’t be bothered to be drawn into his petty squabbling.

As if that wasn’t enough, at the end of battle he started murmuring and mumbling and finally launched himself head first at Yawn in a particularly ineffective attack. Jorn defended himself, naturally. Seeing his failure, Zephyr then threw a golden necklace at the dwarf which exploded on impact with Yawn’s beard. I quickly picked up the gold links, hearing Zephyr saying that he no longer wanted the thing. Unfortunately when all the gold was pooling in my hands, and its true worth was revealed, the fickle mage decided that he did indeed want it back. I gave it to him, because I don’t want to encourage suspicion and ill-will in the group. I can only hope his behaviour is due to the rift, and that his mood will lighten when we leave its presence. Before then, however, we must press ever closer in order to deal with Stormy.

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Fourth Right and Honourable

Hello everyone. Yes, I know. The events of this log happened AGES ago. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do more frequent (and less out-of-date) logs from here on in. The log has been broken into discrete segments, so only read what interests you (as most of you would have been there for those events). Everyone should definitely read the segment on Lev, however. -Skewed

Alas, but I have been most lax in the recording of recent events. What would my father say of such piecemeal and haphazard record-keeping? Ah, I am in sore need of his counsel in these troubling times. But never again will I hear his voice, never will I learn more of his wisdom. Karj, you thrice-cursed spawn of a runt troglodyte and a mind-addled goblin! May hour eyes rot and your beard be consumed by mange, may your skin taste the thousand lashes of fire, may your arms be torn from-

A long spray of ink mars the page, as if the writing implement had broken. The writing continues further down the page.

Curse you forever, but such anger gets me nowhere, I must calm myself, and order my thoughts. As it has been awhile, I think I shall separate each event in my mind, and see what I can remember of each.

The Lizardfolk

Reading back I see that last I wrote of Theren stealing his way across the trees to the camp of the filthy lizardfolk. Despite a tense moment when a broken branch caused one of the warriors to investigate, Theren’s stealth allowed him to gain the lean-to without incident. The same could not be said for Zepher, however, who fell loudly and attracted their attention.

Battle was joined in the usual fashion, and giving a blow by blow account would serve no purpose here except to fill these pages with dross. Sae to say it was a difficult battle,w ith enemies in all directions and a dangerous slime-creature that the lizardfolk had kept in a pit.

After the battle, we rested in the cave that had housed the lizardfolk shaman, which was regrettably filled with bones of various creatures, including humans, and a couple live iguanas. There was also precise stacks of gold coins, arranged in the geometric configuration peculiar to the malicious tribes of the Nentir Vale. While I knew that the supposed ‘Curse of Nature’ activated by placing these coin stacks along the ley lines was nothing more than superstition, Amos had no wish for any of the coins, and the dwarf was as untrusting as he is untrustworthy, so we divided the coins amongst the rest of us.

After some difficulty in restraining Amos, and finding a peculiar bone totem in Theren’t pack )which was summarily disposed of), we rested and set out to find Concorde and continue our journey. The creature was near death when we found it, but after a bit of healing we could continue on our way.

Harkenwold Village

Soon we were accosted by a voice, that of the leader of the elf squad that had earlier accosted us, before being scared off by the dread bear. With extreme confidence Zepher assured us that the elf was not a threat. Thus Kat spoke with her, reporting that she had left the clan secretly to thank us for the bear warning, as well as for eliminating the lizardfolk in the area. Impressed by our heroics, she made us a gift of some herbal tincture to cure Theren and ¬_the dwarf_, both of whom had worsened during the night.

Upon finding the road we made good time, ‘til we came upon a strange sight. A skeleton, eyes aflame, freshly tied to a tree beside the road. Unlike the usual mouldering barrow-guards, these bones still clung to glistening wet flesh, and Zepher informed us that this skeleton had likely been flayed but recently. The bones bore no battle sign, but we could feel a dark energy, that very same that stole the vitality of Mosook the hobgoblin in the Twisting Halls. The sorry creature was cut down and despatched before we continued over a crest to the village.

As we approached it was painfully clear that not all was well in the village. The well had burst, the green had been churned into a black mess and the wreckage of tables and other furniture was piled high upon every door. There was movement, human figures trudging too and fro, but all were the frames of listless skeletons, batting idly at the doors and debris. There did not seem to be that great a threat, but of course, ‘tis never the overt threat that kills you.

No sooner had we charged the town with sword and magics than a great scintillating flare fell into the town, driving the skeletons into a fury. They began tearing at the doors of the town, and we could hear the screams of terrified townsfolk within. We charged into battle, but it was not just skeletons we faced. From the well clambered the quick-rotted corpses of former adventurers, and from the roofs burst most fearsome flaming skeletons. Yet that was not the worst of it. Not for me. For one of the decaying faces from the well was all too familiar. This shambling horror was Mikal! Mikal who I had shared a fire with, who I had fought beside, who I had befriended. Even in death he did not forget who he was, calling again on Erathis, though she strike him down as an abomination. This next shames me to speak of, but it must be said. As the battle raged, and the others struggled to save the innocent townspeople, I did not aid them. I could have rushed to the townspeople’s aid, burst them from their prisons and spared them the blades of the skeletons. But I did not. I was too focussed on my one time companion, wheedling, cajoling and finally threatening him. I told myself I was providing a distraction, that I was preventing from using his foul perversion of magic, but in my heart of hearts I know that I was merely obsessed with the death of the dead, rather than in rightly preserving the life of the living. The others did things I would not agree with, things I would consider foolish. But how can I judge them, when I am so sorely lacking. What will happen if this situation arises again? Is it better to remove evil from this world to prevent further suffering, even if innocents must die for it? I know not the answers.

Travelling to Daggerburg

After the battle at Harkenwold and a small rest period, we decided to journey to Daggerburg keep. Theren had disappeared with Lev, but left us with a trail to follow. There was some difficulties, making a welcome distraction to my heavy thoughts. Eventually after some small happenings on the road Lev veered off the track to the ruins of a once great tower, now a sunken hole full of near-solid black oil. According to his excited ravings, the only drains once in a span of years, revealing the treasures and fiendish puzzles that lay within. I shall not speak overmuch of this, save to say that we all revealed ourselves to be following Lev, and that we could only manage to recover two of the many treasures that lay beneath the oil. Lev immediately claimed one of these, and it looked as if a fight may have been in the offing. Eventually he was persuaded to guide us to Daggerburg, at the price of the treasure he held and my oath of protection.

Lev Strikes

That night I set up a watch roster between myself and Kat, one of us to keep active watch, and the other to trance, while still keeping an eye on the campsite. Lev had decided to camp separately. I was in mid-trance when I noticed something amiss. Lev, crouched down before me, easing the treasure out from under my gaze. A quick glance around the camp showed everyone sleeping soundly, including Kat. It seems that our cousins the elves are more different than I had at first thought. It hardly matters, despite being interesting, but I wonder why Kat would not have corrected my error, unless she was merely embarrassed about having to slumber like a mortal.

Thus I was alone in having to resolve this situation with Lev. As I had only become aware of him when he was already upon me, he had the advantage. However, he merely relinquished his hold on the treasure before glaring at me furtively from behind his armoured shoulder, which he presented to me. Not wishing violence, I attempted to talk to him, and managed to extract a promise from him that he would not again attempt to steal the treasure from me. It seems I had also scored some small victory over the prejudice that roils in this land, for he no longer seemed to hate me for my race alone. In fact, he suggested to me that I should use my appearance to gain entry to the lavish eladrin estates in Fallcrest. We each returned to our rest, after Lev asked me for a promise in turn. He beseeched me that I not reveal his attempt on the treasure, for while he accepts me he is unsure about my companions. As I had already sworn to protect him on our journey to Daggerburg, I saw no harm in the thing. I wonder, though, if I made the right choice. I have no wish to lie to my companions, even if it is by omission. Nevertheless, I have sworn and I shall not become an oathbreaker. All that I can do is accept responsibility for my foolishness, whatever the cost may be.

Fey Stamp

The next morning, however, I fell victim to a strange affliction. The world around me blurred, seemingly overlaid with another, more vibrant land. This other land seemed to have an almost painful clarity. The light was brighter, strong colours unabashedly blazing wherever the sun fell. But the shadows, oh the shadows were deep, they pulled at the mind with their tendrils of darkness. My companions became vague and insubstantial. I think they tried to speak with me, but I could barely hear their muted murmurs amongst the knife-edged whistling of the wind. I followed them as best I could, for although there were a few glaring discrepancies I had to navigate, the otherworldly land I was travelling in seemed a reflection of that I normally inhabited. Or rather, the world I normally travelled in seemed as a pale and washed out reflection of that I was now travelling in, a place I had known only for seconds at a time. I was in the Fey.

The Fey, what might have been my home, had my father not fled with myself as a babe in his arms. I know not how I came to be following the ghosts of my friends through the Fey. I had stepped through before, but ‘twas for mere moments, not for hours on end as it was now. However, it seems I was not truly in the Fey, for I could still see my companions and their world, and I passed unnoticed by many of the Fey denizens. It was beautiful, and I perhaps now understand why Eladrin seem aloof. If one had lived in such a place, with such colour and verdant life all around them, how could one come to terms with the gray bleakness of the human world? I do not condone whatever else my kind has done, but perhaps I begin to understand this.

I was not alone in my wanderings, however. I felt another, a presence that followed me as I followed my friends. It worried me, at first, but after several hours nothing untoward happened and I began to relax. This presence seemed more curious than anything else, and when I began to play my lute the presence followed me all the closer. I could feel it, in the back of my mind, trying to communicate with me, whispering in the back of my mind. Slowly, slowly and image took form in my mind. This creature, whatever it was, diaphanous and ephemeral , soaring amongst the highest winds, screaming with the thunder and falling with the rain. Almost, almost I understood what it was like to be this creature. It was then that I felt it. I could feel a great shout well up within me and burst from my throat. The creature roared exultantly along with me.

The rest of the day went much like that, with me playing and my friend whispering, now and then both of us roaring triumphantly together. It was tiring, mustering the energy for that, but my voice is a hardy thing, and I feel I could do it many times a day, if necessary. Soon enough my companions came to a dark edifice of stone, and the presence that had travelled with me fled.

In Daggerburg

After a short time in the stone edifice the blurred and indistinct forms of my companions became agitated, and with a sudden wrench that left my head spinning I was cast out of the Fey and into a fray. My companions were in the midst of battle with a band of hobgoblins! I will confess that in seeing such an enemy all prudence was tossed out the window. I rushed into the fray, fuelling my shout with the rage within. Perhaps the Fey had weakened me, perhaps my sudden expulsion had disoriented me, or perhaps I thought only of their destruction and not my own preservation. Whatever the reason, in attempting to use my newfound power I was impaled upon the foul ‘goblin weapon, leaching my lifeblood onto the cold stone. The battle raged on around me, as Zepher came to my aid. I saw Amos, blades flashing. Then I saw Kat blast the goblin warchief with power, sending him running hysterically into a pit in the floor, the sickening sound of splattering blood and snapping bones echoing back to we who stood above. But it was not this that horrified me. It was the blood-red motes of light that streamed from the corpse and into Kat’s sword, it was the shiver that took her as the sword drank, and then the unholy vitality that lightened her limbs and gleamed in her eyes. There is a term for what happened there, and I am loath to speak it of a friend, but though it seems like a goodly while, I am reminded how truly little I know of these people to whom I have entrusted life and limb.

The hobgoblins fled after the death of their leader, but not before another was cut down and fed on by Kat and her unholy sword. After this, we all split up to investigate the keep. Obviously meant to defend from outside attack, there were also makeshift barriers across many doors leading further into the keep, as if to keep something in. Likely more of the dead had been snatched from the grave and sent a-walking. While the others investigated a storeroom I found upon the desk of the warchief a map of the first floor. This goblin seemed remarkably intelligent for its kind, for the map was covered in their crude script, detailing the undead attacks on the barricades, the ranks of rank hobgoblins that had been lost, and the chief’s plans to retake the keep. Amos helped me decipher the map, for his knowledge of the Goblin nouns was far greater than I. I shall have to ask him about that at some point.

The storeroom was filled with garbage, all piled high against two walls. I came in just in time to see one of them lift a dwarven corpse from a barrel by its braided hair. I kept my distance, for it likely smelled in death as it did in life. A note on the barrel informed us that something called the Stormtower is being rebuilt in Fallcrest, under the jurisdiction of a town guard by the name of Nathan Ferrengray. It also informed us that this particular vermin had stepped into a trap on the King’s Road.

After some dithering about our varying levels of knowledge, we squeezed ourselves through the cracks in the corner, pliant and compressible due to having drunk water from the fountain in the storeroom. We squirmed our way through the thin cracks, occasionally seeing tracks of wizard and man when the way opened up enough for us to see tracks as more than narrow marks on the ground.

Eventually we emerged in a lower level, following the tracks to a collapsed section of the hallway. The rocks seem to have been tumbled from the ceiling on purpose, though whether to keep something in or out I could not say. Zepher and I began to investigate the other side of the collapse when we heard the distinctive sounds of battle. That fool dwarf had wandered off and triggered the guardians of a crypt. To be fair, the blasted thing does despatch them rather well. That is no excuse for being foolhardy, however. Eventually the waves of animated bones pouring one after the other from the sarcophagi lining the walls forced the issue and thus everyone slipped through the collapse and into the other crypt.

Sir Keegan

The crypt was dark. Not in a tangible way, nothing solid that could be dispelled. The torches and sunrods we held still cast the same light, but their light seemed dimmer, the shadows they cast longer. A single sarcophagus dominated the room, the lid carved in the likeness of some ancient warrior. No sooner had we stepped close than the lid flew from its place, sending a great cloud of dust billowing around us. Standing ready was a tall skeleton, the blazoned emblem of Bahamut upon its breast. With a strident voice the skeleton questioned us, stating that its would protect something called the rift at any cost. Amos informed us that the skeleton must be near a century old, and further told me the tale of Sir Keegan, the knight in command of Daggerburg who went mad and murdered all of its occupants. Such a story, it makes me wonder what else I may have missed while in the Fey. Nevertheless, I have some small knowledge of the portals between realms. If there is a rift in Daggerburg, it would be a gargantuan source of shadow energy, enough even to allow access to the shadow realm. For certain something that must be protected at all costs. However, there is danger even in that. Stand too close and who knows what may reach out and snare you, and Sir Keegan himself is an example of the virulent madness such rifts inevitably spread.

In a most strange turn of events, Sir Keegan showed himself to be rather enamoured of Fenstrom, believing him to be a good man whose only goal is to seal the rift forever. Zepher and Theren attempted to tell him the truth of the matter, only to be met with increasing hostility. I convinced him that with my knowledge of such rifts I was capable of closing it, but the skeleton was suspicious of the others. In an odd twist of events, it was the dwarf who finally convinced Keegan that he should trust us. I suppose even the foulest of creatures can have the sweetest tongues, the better to lure in unsuspecting victims. The dwarf spouted some waffle about his god, which is to be expected. What worries me is his purported knowledge of healing, especially of the mind. It is well-known that healers and others who know intimately the secrets of the body and mind are the most skilful in breaking them.

Keegan was less knowledgeable than I would have liked about what faced us ahead. Meanwhile, Amos asked him about his sword. Keegan regaled us with the tale of Acris, and became quite eager to have it away from his corrupted grasp and once more into honour. He was unable to give it away easily, however, and wished it to be pried from his faltering grip after his honourable death in battle. I was not alone in wanting to grant this lost soul his wish, so battle was joined with the mighty Sir Keegan!

Battle is battle, wherever you go. This one was no different, so I shall merely recount things of note in this record.
Firstly, perhaps by watching me or through some addle-brained idea of his own, the dwarf has decided to try his tongue at song. Needless to say it pained both my ears and my sensibilities. In addition, despite his vaunted use as a healer, were it not for my hurried reminder he would have neglected to heal Kat when she was sorely wounded. Much as I am worried by her and her sword, she is nevertheless a companion I am loath to lose. Unlike the dwarf himself.
Keegan was the most odd skeleton I have ever encountered. In addition to his intelligence and his ability to speak, he was filled with a corrupted black ichor which he sprayed over a wide area. Those sorely wounded who were unfortunate enough to stand close to him had their blood stolen until they were weak with its loss.
Perhaps it was because we were finally engaged in a fair and honourable fight. Perhaps it was the challenge we faced. This time, above all others, Amos showed his true skill as a swordsman. ‘Twas he who wounded Keegan, ‘twas he who landed blow after mighty blow, and ‘twas he that finally expelled the poor skeleton’s soul from his mouldering bones and laid them to rest, claiming the sword Acris.
Not all is well, however. Not to my mind. Keegan was unsure of how quickly the madness of shadows took him, be it weeks or perhaps even months. But he was a knight, supposed to be a paragon of purity and honour. How quick then, for the shadow to corrupt someone who has not dedicated their life to such ideals? I speak of Zepher, who during the course of battle turned on the dwarf and laid him low, even as we all battled Sir Keegan. I will be the first to say that I wish nothing to do with the dwarf, and that I have no doubt the world would be better without he and his ilk. Yet, despite what he is he has done nothing overt against me, and I know better than to fight amongst ourselves when there is a greater enemy. With regards to Zepher, I am not sure what I wish the truth of the matter to be. Either contact with Keegan corrupted Zepher and goaded him to attack a companion, or he is so petty and cowardly that being unharmed, having the skeleton pushed close to him by the dwarf’s magic caused him to spitefully strike at the dwarf. But perhaps it is merely madness, for even now Zepher talks to himself, and is now jumping upon the dwarf, then tearing the golden pendant from around his neck and throwing it at the dwarf. Strangely, the gem that once graced the chain is gone, and the gold seems less than it once was.
A mystery that shall not be solved soon, I fear. Now we must return Sir Keegan’s bones to their rightful resting place, and continue on our way.

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DM log-- Daggerburg Keep 3

Onward the party pressed, assembling in the tomb they discovered. It was pitch black until the sunrods filled the chamber with light… but something was a bit strange. The light seemed ever so slightly weaker, as if a dark mist filled the room. Thinking of shadow energy, Theren looked at his armor. Faint tentrils of shadow collected over his leafy arm as he held it out, and slipped under the leaves. It was drawing in the shadow energy. Zepher, impatient after waiting for the skeleton bashing in the other room to cease, strode up to the massive sarcophagus. With a blast of dust, the lid flew off and with startling agility a skeleton within the coffin stood up. He was dressed in tarnished plate armor, but the sword he held looked as new as the day it was made. A symbol of Bahamut was on his chest, which the religiously trained in the party recognised as a symbol of quite old vintage, about a hundred years ago. “The rift must never be reopened!” croaked the skeleton, with a tense, alert stance that belied decades of military training. “State your intentions, or prepare to die!” The party withheld their own attack and started to speak. Theren whispered to the startled Zepher, “Keegan.” The skeleton turned to Theren, surprised. “Yes… I am Sir Keegan.” {This was a skill challenge, requiring 4 successes before 3 failures.}

The conversation started poorly, as Zepher explained that their intention was to peacefully pass through in order to find a wizard named Fenstrom. The skeleton knew the name… “I know of Fenstrom… what say you about the man?” When Zepher went on to explain Fenstrom’s crimes, Keegan took offense, saying “You lie like fiends! Fenstrom is this Keep’s only salvation now. He knows how to seal the Shadow Rift and toils away at it even as corrupt thieves like you sneak around looting this place!” The party tried to bluff their way out of this misstep, but did not convince Keegan, who grew more suspicious of them. The offense was deepened when Zepher tried to prove he was also a helpful wizard by using prestidigitation show of flames, which unfortunately aggravated a skeleton with a murderous past who was not fond of fire. However, the party recovered with its knowledge of religion and arcana, Jorn and Bastian holding their own in a deep conversation proving that they knew how to deal with shadow rifts, were devoted to Pelor, an ally of Bahamut, and had the best of intentions. Jorn also diagnosed the onset of the madness that set Keegan on his murderous course, and which, he said, might soon affect Fenstrom. Soon Sir Keegan was won over.

The mood lifted, they talked a while. Regarding Fenstrom, Keegan said: “As a leader of many men for many years, I have learned how to judge character. Bahamut has blessed me with true sight into the soul of men. Fenstrom tells me the truth. Even if you do not believe me now, I know you also have good judgement. You will see that he wants nothing more than to close the Shadow Rift. I could not possibly be wrong about him.” Amos openly admired Keegan’s sword, a fine blade with platinum and diamonds, set with a dragon’s head on the pommel. Keegan said, “This is my sword, Aecris, an implement given to me by King Elidyr when I was knighted. But I realise now… I don’t deserve to wield it. Perhaps it can be used to fight the things that emerge from that accursed rift. Here, take it.” He started to hand it to an amazed Amos but then held back. “But no. I swore to King Elidyr that I would hold Aecris in battle until it were pried from my dead hands. Though my hands are dead, I am not defeated. I ask you—face me in an honorable fight. Cut me down as a warrior for my king, not leave me here to slowly rot as a mad traitor. Defeat me in the height of my prowess, then take my sword and lay my bones here in my sarcophagus. I will never rise again, and my spirit can at last make its slow way through the valleys of penance… to where, I do not know. But I will leave this Keep with honor. I warn you, I slew many a beast, many a monster, and yes, in the end, many a knight. I must fight you to my utmost. But if you choose to leave me as I am, I will not harm you. Perhaps after my horrid deeds, I deserve to be deprived of Aecris, trapped in my mouldering armor for eternity, guarding the Shadow Rift.” It was clear the party had a choice: to hurry along to the confrontation with Fenstrom, taking the sword from a disappointed Keegan, or they could engage in this fight, learning much about battle {gaining XP}, and fulfilling Keegan’s wish. In weighing this, the party realised it was long past the 10 minutes that Wizard’s Escape usually lasted, and they still felt squishy. So Theren was apparently correct that this effect will last quite some time. But it would not last through an extended rest, almost certainly. This meant that if they wanted a rest, they would need to retreat to the room with the magical basin, then drink from it again to resume their quest. But the dungeoneers in the party knew that dungeons like this one have a tendency to repopulate, and when they came back through, places that used to be empty, or cleared of enemies, might not remain so. A tough call—they could preserve their strength {their daily powers and healing surges} and push on the the end, catching Fenstrom before giving him much more time to prepare, or retreat and rest at least once before the final battle, perhaps facing extra enemies as they repenetrated the dungeon, and facing Fenstrom after another day of his preparations. That can be decided later, however. For now, they decided to fight Keegan as he had requested.

The battle with Sir Keegan was epic. He was a very strong and durable foe {a solo enemy, designed to take on an entire party alone, with action points and lots of HP} who used his skill with the longsword to hit hard while his plate armor protected him. Once he was bloodied, he started oozing a corruption from his bones which he flung off in waves of necrotic energy. Unlike most battles though, this one was almost merry, as Sir Keegan became more cheerful and vital even as he was further damaged. This was the final fight he wanted to be known for. As he neared destruction, a ghostly form of a fleshy body faded into view around him, as his spirit prepared to depart, showing the ghostly image of a warrior in his prime. On his last legs he faced Amos. “Finish it, ranger. Put me to rest.” Amos complied, slicing the knight down the middle, shattering bone and armor. Aecris clattered to the floor and Amos took it up. {The party split XP: 300 for the skill challenge, 875 from combat = 195 each.}

The party laid the bones to rest in the sarcophagus. Meanwhile, Zepher decided the Chain of the Virtuous Minotaur was not serving its purpose well. He was simply not well aligned with Pelor, and thought that Jorn would be a more fitting wearer of the chain. Zepher mentally proposed this to the chain, who seemed rather hurt at first, but then grew interested in serving a priest of Pelor without the prickly undertone of its relationship with the wizard. However, this transition was fraught. Details aside, suffice it to say the chain ended up corroded and broken into pieces—gold links which Theren helpfully picked up to sell later. Thus the party lost one of its more unusual members. Perhaps some research will reveal more about just what that was all about.

Down the cracks the party went, into the dark. It was more of a descent this time, definitely going deeper into the earth, following the thin trail left by those who came here before them. Soon they found themselves dropping down into the end of a narrow corridor, with a crunch: the 10-foot high corridor was piled with bones at this end, at least 5 feet deep, trailing off down the corridor. They turned out to be mostly human bones, some elven and dwarven. As they later discovered, the room they were entering was a service corridor in the back of a mausoleum, and they reckoned that this is where remains were shoved after they had lain in state long enough for their friends and family to have forgotten them—the old dead shoved aside to make room for the freshly dead.

This unpleasant beginning was made all the more creepy by the oppressive darkness here. The air seemed thick with a dark mist, making lights dimmer and sight short. {All lights only cast bright light in their immediate square, then continued as dim light for half their range, to a maximum of 5 squares.} This was surely shadow energy, and it made everything gloomy and sullen looking. The party looked at each other warily as expressions were made more wicked and sinister in the shadowy light. Theren noticed that the tendrils of shadow were more visibly filtering into his armor. His armor did not seem to be different in nature, but it certainly was thirsty for this energy.

On the north side of the corridor was a row of thick crystal windows, each about two feet tall and four feet wide, with thick copper frames. Through these windows they could see burial urns, set in glass cases, with a matching window on the opposite side. This corridor was thick with dust and cobwebs and dead insects, and clearly two sets of footprints were in the debris. Fenstrom’s boots had walked there at many different times going back at least several months. On top, fresh, were Lev’s boot marks. Both sets had recently paced up and down the whole corridor a few times, near the windows, on which were many finger and hand marks. Clearly there was some way out of this service corridor. The party began to methodically search the walls and windows to find an exit.

As they did, they saw a bizarre sight. In the dim light cast by their spells and sunrods, they could see the far side beyond the cases holding the urns. It was a wide corridor. This one contrasted their surroundings: it was very clean, with no dust and cobwebs. Then, moving westward down that corridor, they saw through the glass a skeleton. It was hovering off the ground, and moving its arms and legs randomly. It saw them through the glass and made swimming motions toward them. But as if carried in a current, it kept moving sideways, and soon vanished from sight. Small spiders started dropping down from gaps in the ceiling in that corridor, spinning new webs. A few moments later the skeleton moved by again, this time moving eastward, again trying to move toward them but carried sideways. Just before it vanished from sight it looked like it turned a corner and started moving north before vanishing into the gloom. Theren thought to look for the spiders and they were gone. A moment later, though, once again, small spiders dropped down from the ceiling, making webs.

Meanwhile, Bastian found a cleverly hidden latch under one of the panes and the pane swung open, hinged on the top. He slid inside, next to the funeral urn, and found on the other side a clearly visible latch that opened the far pane. After sticking a hand ahead uncertainly, he stepped into the wide corridor. The party soon followed, except Theren, who stayed back in the total darkness to become stealthy. In fact, thanks to the dark shadowy mist’s affinity with his armor, he was even stealthier than usual {+2 to visual stealth checks while in this dark mist}. Jorn checked the contents of the urn as he passed and found only ashes and bits of bone.

The wide corridor ran west into the darkness. Along the northern wall were a few more windows, behind which lay skeletons in a burial pose, swords laid on their chests, armor rotting on their bones. The corridor also ran east then bent to the north. At the bend was a vertical window, which had been smashed in. But behind this window was a solid stone surface. They approached this curiosity. Snagged on the shards of the glass was some fabric. It was a scrap from material exactly like Lev’s pants. At the base of the wall, nestled in the corner, was some silver. It was a two pieces of silver jewelry.

Now to the north the corridor vanished into the darkness. Lined up on either side were standing sarcophagi. The first one on the right side was burst open, some of its pieces on the floor. The party was unsure about heading north. Then, just visible at the edge of the dim light to the north, they saw the skeleton again, still hovering off the floor. It swam toward them, but then a force slowly pulled it back into the darkness.

Meanwhile, Jorn had started moving east, and fulfilling his wish, the window in the north wall burst open as he approached. A blast of shadowy mist swept out from the cavity behind the glass, and instantly reformed in front of him, as the skeleton, standing, with its sword drawn. A lance of Jorn’s faith shattered it.

The rest of the party then saw the skeleton start moving toward them. It was still making swimming motions, but now was moving faster than before. It came right up to Bastian and stayed there, now swimming in place, looking the tiniest bit blurry. Zepher, finding this most curious, and having tried but failed to detect anything magical about this phenomenon, stepped around Bastian to the side of the skeleton. But as he did, his body and face pressed into a wet, sticky, snotty substance, like a vertical wall of invisible jelly. He jerked back in surprise, but the wall shimmered and became faintly visible as a vast, dimpled surface filling the whole corridor from floor to ceiling. The skeleton was behind this wall—and soon Zepher was too, as a globby pseudopod emerged from the wall and stuck to him, then sucked him in. Zepher was surrounded by a thick jelly, filling his eyes and nose, and burning like acid. He immediately tried to struggle free {using Escape, and rolling a 20} and managed an impressive backflip up and out of the grip of whatever was surrounding him. He was again on the good side of the wall, certain that he narrowly escaped a nasty experience.

Here is where we leave the party for now, uneasy, mystified, and surrounded by thick, maddening gloom…

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Penetrating the Perimeter
Theren's Log

Well it’s a short update. We picked up where we’d fallen asleep that morning. I don’t know why but Bastian seemed to be all fugged up, phasing in and out of reality. It might have something to do with the fact that he tried to stay up late or something? I didn’t quite catch what was going on because I was trying to make sure Polly was okay. Amos woke up in a pretty good mood and we decided to find some proper food for Polly while the others were getting packed up. On a positive note Polly doesn’t seem to be running away as often and isn’t as bitey. I think she is growing fond of me.

Oh yeah I don’t think it matters much, but Zephyr mentioned that he thinks my new armour set feeds on dark energy. I mean I know a bit about dark energy myself, and of course I realised it as soon as I set eyes on the suit, but it’s nice to have a wizard backing up your theories.

Anyway, once we FINALLY managed to get Lev out of bed, he took us to Daggerburg Keep. I can’t believe we are finally here. Forget days it feels like almost a year since we started out to get to it (five years if you count the time I have had to put up with Lev). Almost no sooner had we seen it than we all realised that it was the dreaded Shadowfell Keep, which is a much better name than Daggerburg anyway.

The ghost stories flew thick and fast about a mythical figure who used to preside over the keep – Sir Keegan. He went mad and slaughtered everyone, including his child and wife. He is said to still haunt the place. Personally I don’t believe in ghosts, but with a necromancer around who knows what we might find? Of course stupid Stormy would just have to have a haunted ruin as his hide out. He said that he would be preparing for us, but I bet he’s just spending the time pasting some extra black rhinestones onto his robes, and sticking up some spider webs and skulls to get the right levels of tackiness.

Anyway we entered the ruins and proceeded down some stairs. I had a look about for traps but there didn’t seem to be any. We then reached the bottom of the stairs and saw some really ferocious looking gobbos. I shot at one and it died superquick, but unfortunately it gave away the element of surprise. Almost no sooner than I had turned and told Amos to stay with Lev he flew down the remaining stairs, across the room, and straight into a pit. To be fair though, he didn’t know it was a pit at the time. From his girlish screams the rest of the party kinda figured there were a bunch of rats down there with him.

Well we all rushed in. There was nothing else for it, was there? Zephyr did some pretty amazing fire spells… or at least, they would have been amazing if he hadn’t accidentally set Amos on fire as well as the rats and pretty much everything else.

Zephyr

I took on the leader of the hobgoblins, naturally, and kicked him in the face. Kat was also doing her thing, holding off a handful of fighters. She did a weird thing to the ground around her and made it, excuse the term but there is no other way to describe it, butch.

Theren kicking arse, er, I mean face

Meanwhile, a terrible wailing pierced my eardrums and gave me a terrible headache. The rats down in the pit seemed struck by it pretty hard too, and started bursting like overfull bladders, alllowing Amos to escape the pit and join the rest of us above-ground.

Amos and a rat pit

Later on someone told me it was Jorn singing. I think it must have been this that finally summoned Bastian back to our realm, because he came in singing.

Jorn Singing

Anyway the fight went on as many of our fights do. Amoss missed a lot, someone else finished off my kills, Jorn played with some torches in a corner, Bastian mocked a few things and Zephyr worked up some righteous mage-rage, although it manifested in an attempt to whip the backsides of our foes with a rope as they were fleeing – which came off as a little more kinky than righteous. Whipping aside, we found a room with some junk all strewn around, including dead dwarves in barrels and notes about job offers. Bastian found a map for level one of the keep. I didn’t look at it because I am a MAN. And MEN don’t get lost or ask for directions, even if they are temporarily misplaced. We also realised that the gobbos we just killed (and whipped) had been barricaded into these few rooms of level one, as though they were trying to stop something from within the keep from getting out. More than a little ominous as far as things go.

What was of great value, however, was a fountain – I knew it must be the one Lev had been talking about. Oh yeah and Lev had buggered off. He disappeared mid battle and although we heard him once or twice we couldn’t find him after that.

I don’t know, something in the hours and hours of listening to Lev’s ranting must have clued me in, because I realised quickly that if water was put in there, then it would be imbued with magical properties to make the drinker able to fit into tiny spaces. I also realised that although it would usually only last ten minutes or so, that while we were in the keep it would last much longer. The others were not as bold as I was so I tried it out and slipped into a damaged wall to prove it would work. I need to find Lev before he does something stupid and gets himself killed.

I am writing now from within the wall, seeing as the others have yet to get their act together and join me. It is difficult, because a) it is quite dark, and b) my writing equipment is almost two dimensional. Poly does not like being stuck in the wall. Hopefully we will soon find and slay Fenstrom.

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