The World Between

Adumbratis by Night
Hunting vampires.

This adventure took place on Hakvas 11-12, 6,995.

Father Wistol has a homestead in the Mountain Vale leading up to Adumbratis. A fateful gathering sought shelter from a driving storm, ending up in his parlor.

Shelter from the Storm

Annika von Alstyne was taking her childhood friend Vox Magnus on a tour of her husband’s lands, when the driving storm prompted them to seek shelter with one of the homesteads in her lands. Kail Sheridan and Geneva Miloevic were traveling towards Adumbratis when caught by the storm and compelled to get out of the rain. Finally, Kurt Barbossa was fleeing from vampires that spotted him following them. As they were getting acquainted, a cloaked and cowled man left; Annika recognized Lord Evdya, but he did not want to be identified.

They chatted to get acquainted, and Barbossa revealed that he was pursued by vampires. Father Wistol engaged their help to go out to the chapel on his property; he was a follower of the Lady of the White Way. He gave them five flasks of holy water and five stakes that he blessed, then they turned in for the night on prepared cots (almost as though he knew someone was coming.) He said his family was upstairs, and not to be involved in this dangerous business.

The next morning, over breakfast, he explained that Barbossa was probably fleeing from the Shrine of Morgath, the Corpulent Reaper, that was a few miles away. He told them of a back way in, following the stream towards the mountains and pushing through a thicket of red thorns. He also noted that a necromancer in town may have joined forces with the vampires by now…

The Shrine of Morgath

The adventurers set out, found the stream, and the thicket of thorns. They pushed through, and by the light of Barbossa’s hooded lantern, they found six Vistanti women chained up, and ten Vistanti men guarding them—but the men were dead, and shambled forward to be hewn down by the heroic adventurers, with Kail in the lead.

Geneva and Kail yanked the chains out of the rock where they were stapled, and led the women to the back door to wait for them to arrange safe passage. Venturing deeper in, they sent Vox and Barbossa ahead stealthily to sort out some undead guards, then they pulled back once more to strategize. Undead dogs rushed them, to be cut to pieces.

The adventurers found a necromancer’s quarters, but no one was there. As they left, they were ambushed by three vampires on the stairs. In the pitched battle, Kail was badly hurt, but Geneva managed to slosh holy water over two of the vampires, and the battle was sharp but short.

Noting another exit out, the main entrance the vampires used, they continued on into the Shrine of Morgath; there, three vampires were freshly fed and armored, waiting for them. A necromancer raised five of the vampire victims, and the pitched combat was joined under the shadow of a hideous shrine to Morgath in a room of polished black marble.

The Final Battle

By the unsteady light of the lantern, they fought. Kail took on one of the vampires, the necromancer, and five remains. Barbossa backstabbed the vampire leader and was cut down, as Annika and Geneva backed him up. Vox took a beating trying to counterspell the necromancer’s magics, and as the necromancer tried to escape, Vox stood in his way long enough to slow him so his pursuers could follow.

Holy water splashed, weapons and fangs flashed, and the fight was intense. Sensing the tide turning against them, the undead attempted to flee. One fell as Kail flung his broadsword (even as he was surrounded by the shambling dead) after her, pegging her between the shoulders. The fleeing master vampire fell with the last blow, Annika’s flung stake hitting him square in the back. Geneva and Vox pursued the necromancer out into the wilderness, flinging weapons at him; as Geneva closed in on the flagging mage, Vox flung a dagger and hit him in the face, killing him.

Conclusion

With all the undead (and the necromancer) dispatched, they bound their wounds and looted the necromancer’s belongings. They got a Horn of Reckoning, gold, a silver-plated necromatic dagger, and some Awesome Sauce. They collected the Vistanti women, and left the darkness behind.

They returned to Father Wistol’s homestead, and he freed the Vistanti women from their shackles and promised to put them in touch with their people. He also noted that the best thing to do with the dead back at the shrine was to notify the authorities, who would wrap them and put them in the caves below, so if the town were to come under siege they could be raised for its defense… So close to Morgath’s holy space (the Corpulent Reaper, Lord of Death), it would be bold to try and steal them from him.

Annika claimed the vampire leader’s rapier, and the Horn of Reckoning, and some cash. Barbossa got the silver dagger, Vox got the Awesome Sauce. Also, Barbossa and Kail kept the ashes from one vampire each in a pouch.

Successful, the amateur vampire hunters lived to fight another day.

Special thanks to Jack Shear for the World Between, and to Dyson Logos for the map I stocked.

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The Mystery of the De Morcey House
Part One

This adventure took place on Thanvas 10-11, 6,995.

On a Diplomatic Mission
Heugh von Alstyne’s aunt, Lisellia Vance, dropped by Adumbratis to take care of some business. In the meantime, the opinionated old biddy filled his ear with gossip about his cousin, James De Morcey, and his adorable wife Christabel. Apparently, according to Lisellia, the pair are going through some marital difficulties. Christabel is too beautiful and demure to be a problem, so it must be her wayward son James—and she had such hopes for him.

Heugh was too busy with his business affairs in Adumbratis, but as a family duty, he sent his wife Annika to see if she could help Christabel somehow. Annika took Geneva as a bodyguard, and Kail to help with dangers of the road. Kurt volunteered to go along when he heard about the trip, and Annika shrugged and figured between his willingness to be the fall guy and his newfound skills with locks he could be useful. Yes, and his monkey too.

A Troubled House
Kurt wasn’t much of a coachman, but his creepy monkey managed the horses for him, and Geneva rode on the buckboard to keep an eye out for trouble while Kail and Annika rode inside. The long coach ride down out of the mountains, along the Shade Forest, then north to the tiny village of Vehstaal took about ten days. By late afternoon they closed in on the De Morcey estate.

When they arrived they were greeted by Mr. Karswell, the butler. He made Annika and Kail comfortable while Geneva looked on. Kurt put the horse and coach away, and met Poe, a wandering monk who was staying at the estate for a few days for free room (in the hayloft) and board (with the servants.)

As they headed to the house, they saw the Lady Christabel and her handmaidens out by a stone on the hill. Kurt watched as Poe fearlessly approached to see what they were doing, only to be rebuffed by Elena, one of the lady’s two handmaidens. When the lady and entourage returned to the house, Poe took a closer look. He found a grave stone for a still-born infant, 13 years ago: Bernice De Morcey. A folded paper flower decorated the grave, recently placed.

Poe and Kurt ate supper with the servants. They met Minnie, the housekeeper, who never stopped talking about the weather. Karla, the cook, swore a lot and complained about Karswell. Mary was the scullery maid of easy virtue with an annoying nasal voice. Friedrich, the gardner, wasn’t too loud at the table, but Ed was at his most grumbling effusiveness.

Lord James met with Annika, with guarded relief that she had come.He noted a pressing need to tend to some business in Trivium (where much of his financial empire was managed) but his unwillingness to leave the house at this time. He feared for the safety of his family, to be frank.

The family dined together, and after the boys (Arthur and Henry) reported on their studies for the day, the tension increased between Christabel and James. The daughter, Julia, sat impassively through dinner. One of the handmaidens, Elena, seemed to watch Kail more than was strictly necessary. Geneva looked Elena over, noting she was from Midian, and that she was no stranger to knifeplay.

A Trip to the Village
After supper Kurt took Ed to town, to a run-down seedy secretive dive with a rampant warthog on a green field over the door. As Ed drank, he got more and more lucid. He told Kurt the nobles were crazy, and about how he came to be in Lord James’ father’s service after fighting Northrons together.Also, that Lady Christabel is a foreigner, her handmaidens are too. And that James won’t go to Trivum on business because he’s got woman problems; not one on the side, but difficulty with his wife. On Kurt’s coin, they shared a house special; sweet to begin, but the aftertaste was of death, and it was a cup meant to be shared. An increasingly lucid Ed told Kurt that James served in the military, but not in action. And that Lady Christabel had a stillborn child, Bernice, who she mourns at a grave behind the house. Afterwards, they shuffled home on weary horses together.

A Twitchy Tutor
Kail was settling in to his mothballed nursery accommodations between the boys’ room and the girl’s room when the tutor, Kurt (from Caligari), asked to speak with him. Nervous and melodramatic, Kurt described two incidents, a month apart, where the boys both went from cheerful youth to exhausted enervated invalids, recovering over the course of a week. Also, the elder sister Julia is emotionally withdrawn. And he was worried about taking this to the parents because they had a terrible row about a month ago, and they are preoccupied. Kurt noted that the handmaidens came back from Trivium with Christabel about 4 years ago, no other big staff turnovers. Kail woke Annika, and updated Annika and Geneva with what he learned.

The Unsettled Butler
Kurt’s monkey woke him in the shadows of dawn, indicating he should go outside. He saw Karswell, the butler, struggling to draw water from the well, and he helped. Karswell noted his necromatic dagger, and asked if Kurt and his friend Kail would do a service for Karswell, as a gift to Lord James. They were interrupted by Mary, and Karswell suggested they could talk later. He also suggested he was faithful to Morgath, the Lord of Harrowfaust, by his oaths and innuendo.

Trysting in the Morning
At breakfast, Kurt familiarized himself with the day’s activities of the servants. After breakfast, Poe headed into the woods, for he had never been to a place with so much forest. Kurt nervously followed him, eventually persuading him not to explore beneath the eaves of the ancient creaking woods.

Kail walked with Lord James on a morning constitutional, learning that James feared for the safety of his sons (his legacy) if he left; they have a worrisome health condition. He was uncomfortable under the weight of some burdensome secret.

Annika joined Christabel and her handmaidens for some needlepoint, learning that Lord James had grown secretive, and Christabel wanted to move the family to Trivium, away from the moors and the forest. James has many lands and investments in Trivum, after all, and he could look after them better there. Investments are less important; family comes first. Annika noted James was proud of his sons; Christabel suggested he should be, as they are just like him. And she agreed with Annika’s suggestion that she had plans for her daughter; lots of pride, great things ahead for her. Things a man could not understand. Men are easy to quantify. The handmaidens agree with secret smiles. To pass the time, Annika did a tarokka reading, asking Christabel to describe Julia. Christabel suggested Julia was leaving childhood and entering womanhood, inheriting what a woman should inherit—everything. Annika’s reading suggested that Julia would be alone but powerful; that pleased Christabel greatly, and chilled Annika to the bone.

Meanwhile Geneva coordinated a meet between Kail and Kurt after Kurt told her about his meeting with Karswell. After explaining the situation again, he secured Kurt’s agreement to help with whatever the old butler had in mind.

Kurt Finds a Blacksmith
Kurt got directions to town, and had the blacksmith sharpen his blades (with the help of his muscular daughter.) Kurt found that the locals don’t like talking about the nobles, don’t like being taxed, and hope that the nobles don’t pay attention to them at all. Kurt did discover that suitors for Julia were to be courted in Trivium. And he warned Kurt not to tell anyone they talked, just in principle, or he’d horsewhip the dreadlocked thief. Kurt’s questions got some suspicion growing from the blacksmith, too; curious people are not welcome in Harrowfaust. After a stop at the tavern, Kurt returned to the estate.

Kurt Pulls a Stump
After lunch, Kurt cased the property and examined the outbuildings, then met with the groundskeeper Friedrich and helped him pull a stump. Afterwards, he went to the kitchen and distracted the cook, so he could pick the lock to the cellar and send the monkey down for a good bottle of wine. Leaving with none the wiser, he split the bottle with Friedrich—a bottle 30 years old, worth gold! Friedrich told him the two handmaidens came on at the same time, about 5 years ago, during a trip to Trivium. And that it never, ever pays to pay attention to the rich people—dangerous. And little Julia is a woman now. He told Kurt to bury the empty bottle, so neither of them would get in trouble.

Also, in passing, he mentioned that the Lady Christabel left a folded paper flower on her daughter’s grave every day. She’d been visiting it daily for about a month now. He got one of the flowers, but was illiterate. He told Kurt where to find it, then he drifted off to sleep looking after the fire on the remains of the stump.

Kurt snagged the flower from Friedrich’s quarters. He could not read the Midish, but it also had Draxtive for a prayer of some kind—to “the Lamenting Mother.” He looked for Kail at once.

Annika Quizzes Lord James
Annika found the butler, Karswell. She noted he was unhealthy, as he coughed blood into a handkerchief. Still, he shrugged it off, and agreed to let Lord James know she wanted to speak with him. Escorted into his study, with Geneva an unobtrusive chaperone, Annika spoke frankly with James.

James noted that women can be inscrutable and have feminine senses. Annika suggested that Christabel might be a danger to the boys; she noted she is gifted in fortune telling, with Vistani blood. Both agree something is wrong, and the sons are in danger, and James said he did not know what to do about it. Annika pointed out Christabel believes Julia will come into a legacy, as a woman. James is not sure what that would be; Julia has been invisible for a while, and she is not betrothed (that is a business matter he needs to attend to.) In fact, one of the handmaidens said she “began” a couple months ago. Annika asks more about Julia; the girl had been moody, not bubbly like her normal self. But teenagers… James leaves her to his wife.

James asked her to talk to Christabel on his behalf, to figure out what she is thinking, and to persuade Christabel to forgive him. Annika promised to help.

Romping with the Boys
Kail joined the tutor and the boys for the afternoon lesson, learning how King Harrowfaust saved the world by introducing the Age of Compacts—not the way he learned history in Scarabae. He kept his mouth shut, and afterwards got to talk to the boys; they were typical boys, wanting to see his big sword, and hear ghost stories. He told them tales of his homeland, and probed to see if they knew of any ghost stories locally. All they had were stories from the groundskeeper about ghosts of nobles on the grounds, silvery white and elusive.

As he was playing “horsie” with the boys, Kail noticed dried bloodstains by one of their beds.

The Flower
When Kurt showed Kail the flower, the knight connected “The Lamenting Mother” with a secretive society originating in Midian, with esoteric rituals, passed from mother to daughter and illegal in the Lands of the Lady. It had something to do with childbirth and ascending to womanhood. They consulted with Annika, who (as a noble) had heard of the society that worshiped the Lamenting Mother: “Unutterable Sorority of Mourners.” Patron of childbirth and the sorrow of mothers of lost children, and also giver of strange gifts to the faithful who serve her.

Supper
Tense. Christabel with secret grin to Annike. The boys excited about lessons and chasing snakes. Julia glazed and staring into space, eating mechanically when prompted. Elena watching Kail.

Assignation in the Barn
Kurt met with Mary, the maid, in the barn for a quick romp in the hay (after he made the monkey leave; the monkey creeped Mary out.) Kurt picked up a rash along with his information. He gave her some coins to stick around and answer some questions; Mary thinks the nobles are angry because—they’re nobles. And they should get laid by not-spouses, it would help. Julia doesn’t get suitors because she’s boring. Mary serves her. She used to be all kinds of fun, but now she stares at the wall. Nobles don’t talk to her, but the handmaidens insist Mary give Julia her tea, that the yellow-tinted sugar from Trivium stays full in the bowl, and her toast. Julia found this yellow sugar she really liked in Trivium, and now she HAS to have it every breakfast.

A Hurried Meeting
Kurt told them all he had learned. Is Julia the source of the misery? If so, against her better judgement; the Lady Christabel was desperate, in Annika’s thinking, and very evil. Kail told them of the blood in the boys’ bedroom, and his conversation with them. All this started two months ago. Together, they speculated on what the timing of the next bout of illness for the boys might be. Kurt asked Kail to request him as a manservant, so he could be in the house at night.

Mediation on the Moor
Poe sat out on the moor, meditating, ignoring the biting insects. As he grew calm, he felt the growing rush of wind leaning on the forest, on the house, as a storm approached. He was one with the afternoon.

As darkness approached, he saw a light out on the moor. Curious, he followed it. He found a campfire in a hollow, with five armed men and a caravan wagon with women in it, and he realized they must have been signalling the house, not him. But why?

A Chat in the Cellar
Kurt found that Karswell was in the cellar inventorying the wine stores, so he met him in the cobwebbed dark to finish the morning’s conversation. Karswell admitted he was dying, and required Kurt to take a heavy iron key, and his friend with the big sword, and go up to the attic; to the left, through the hidden door, and kill whatever he found. There would only be one opportunity. If he would do that, it would be Karswell’s gift to Lord James. Creeped out, Kurt agreed.

As they conversed, Annika lay out another tarokka reading, chilled as its implications echoed those revealed in the darkness below!

Confrontation in the Attic
After a brief conversation with Annika, it was agreed she would have plausible deniability, as would Geneva. The two men were on their own with this one.

He consulted with Kail, who took his armor up to the attic and donned it, gripping his heavy Scarabean steel and prepared for the unknown. Kurt focused the Shadow of Death on what lay beyond, his monkey chattering the incantation. Unlocking the huge lock on the door, they were shocked by something ferocious in the dark, that hissed that it was hungry—then it pounced, and Kail could not keep it in. It tore past him, and Kurt blocked its path long enough for his knife and Kail’s sword to make short work of the abomination. Kail swung true, with righteous wrath, and struck its head from its shoulders.

It was strong, muscles corded and taut, but it was milky white and covered in fur, with ape-like arms and curving claws. Most unsettling of all, its face was just like the face of its mother—Christabel. And it looked about 13 years old…

They dragged the body back into its cell, noting the walls had been reinforced with bars and metal again and again over the years, and this thing lived in her own filth. The back of the door was metal, and all was scratched and dented by fury, but heavily sound-proofed. Leaving the corpse in its cage, the unsettled men pulled back to decide what to do next…

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Conclusion at the De Morcey House
Part Two

This adventure took place on Thanvas 11-12, 6,995.

The Story Continues
Kail and Kurt caught their breath after murdering Bernice. Then they updated Annika and Geneva on what was going on. Meanwhile, Magnus caught up (deciding to go on in the night rather than risk an ugly reaction from the superstitious village folk.) He was met at the front by the surly groom Ed, and after paying him a small bribe, he was let into the house by the housekeeper. The butler was nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, Kurt told Karswell the deed was done. Karswell gave him a sack with 100 silver in it, and then rapidly packed and slipped out of the house. Kurt shrugged and stuffed the rags he used to clean the blood from Kail’s equipment under Karswell’s mattress, prepared to frame the now-absent butler for Bernice’s death.

Kurt buttled, bringing Magnus in with the rest of the group as they strategized further.

Encounter on the Moor
Poe the monk crept up closer to the five mercenaries and the gypsy wagon full of women, noting the disguise of the caravan to look older than it was. Noting the guards were sloppy and not expecting trouble, he bribed some of the horses with winter apples hanging near their picket line. Then he put a blanket on one, and a bit in its mouth, and rode off with the horse as the guards started up in alarm.

Having committed a hanging offense for no clear reason, he rode to the De Morcey house. Ed told him to hide his horse in an outbuilding, it couldn’t be in the respectable stable. Instead, Poe rode to the village, then out on the road over the moor, leaving the area on his stolen horse.

Two of the mercenaries with the wagon had gone to a point on the road, as it was one of the few ways to leave the area. Poe identified them when he got close enough, and as he raced past them arrows flew at his back; his toughening through training and meditation allowed him to deflect harm and race away into the night, vanishing without a trace.

The Box
Before breakfast, Magnus searched the nursery using his wizard sight. He noticed that the house was steeped in mystic energies; a practitioner of the Arts lived there. He also found a simmering mystic flavor, a box that had been present when magic was performed. It was hidden in the mothballed toybox.

Opening it, the men found a snakeskin-leather bound book, “Rites of the Lamenting Mother.” Kail read the Draxive, and looked at the pictures with Magnus. The book outlined a ritual for anointing a young girl to join the Order, anointed with the blood of her brothers three times in a row on the first days of her first three cycles.

The box also contained a clockwork pump and rubber hose with a needle. The kit smelled of ether and blood. Horrified, the men boxed it back up and returned it to its hiding place.

Breakfast
Elena seemed to have some shy romantic interest in Magnus, considering his power. For his part, Magnus saw the sorcerous energies stitched in red runes across both Lady Christabel and her handmaiden Elena. The other handmaiden, Radolpha, was absent.

Another Trip to Town
At the servants’ breakfast, Karswell’s absence was noted. Ed and Kurt rode in to town to look for him, and saw a crowd at the tavern. Inside, Kurt fast-talked and bribed the town guard to let him look at the dead body. It was Karswell, expertly killed with a knife thrust to the armpit. However, looking more closely, Kurt saw Karswell had been tortured, skin flayed from him, older wounds not yet healed. Grimacing, Kurt lightened Karswell’s corpse of his treasure, and promised to take the news to the manor house.
The Beginning of the End
After breakfast, Annika walked with Geneva and Kail, and they discussed the gruesome finds of the morning. Then they intercepted Lord James on his constitutional.

Annika calmly laid it out, with her assistants chiming in on their areas of expertise. Lady Christabel and her two handmaidens were members of a Scarabaen cult, the Unutterable Sorority of Mourners, worshiping the Lamenting Mother. While the cult claimed to be under the auspice of worshiping the Lady of the White Way, they were actually powerful sorceresses affiliated with the Crimson League, specifically in the tradition of Nerlanda Kir. Christabel planned to murder her sons to anoint her daughter so Julia would inherit sorceress powers as her mother had.

Karswell had involved Kurt and Kail in murdering Bernice, and that act was finished and Karswell fled. James struggled with this information, struggled to keep himself under control. He demanded to see the box and its damning evidence; they went inside, dredged up the box, and showed its dark glories to the master of the house. Furious, he went to his quarters and fetched his hand-and-a-half blade, prepared to slay his wife for her evil.

Witch Hunts
Annika sent Geneva downstairs to fetch her weapons. On the way back, Geneva saw Kurt burst into the house with news from town. The two of them were ambushed by Radolpha, who cast a strange spell to entwine them in red tendrils. As Kurt’s monkey chanted death at her, Geneva twirled free of the tentacles of magic and slew Radolpha out of hand.

Racing up the stairs, they joined the others, and Annika suggested to James that Lady Christabel might be in Julia’s room. Telling the tutor to stay with the boys and lock the door, they went across the hall.

James failed to kick his own door down, but Kail stepped in and did the trick. They piled in to see Christabel standing behind a dazed Julia. As they confronted her, Elena attacked from behind, locked in battle with Geneva.

Kurt slid out of sight to the stairwell, and Kail strongarmed Julia away from Christabel so the evil sorceress could not use her daughter as a meat shield. Magnus desperately pitted his power against that of the wicked Lady Christabel, but she overbore him, burning him with her magic. James charged in to slay his wife, but her spell completed, and he was her puppet, spinning and telling them to leave the family alone.

After a dazzling exchange of flickering blades, the stalemate between Geneva and Elena was broken by Kurt stabbing the sorceress Elena in the back, killing her.

Magnus still struggled against Christabel’s potent sorcery, but she bound him in his bones so he could not move. Annika battered at James, forcing him from the room so he could no longer protect Christabel. Kail raced in and hewed her down with his heavy blade even as she chanted foul sorcery, Scarabaen steel silencing a second abomination in the De Morcey House.

Aftermath
Lord James needed some time to gather his composure, so Annika took Julia to the boys and the tutor, and provided some comfort to the shocked family.

After he gathered his wits, Lord James had lunch with his family, then informed the servants of the official story; Christabel overdosed on sleeping drugs and could not be saved. Then he bound the three sorceresses together with special bonds and herbs, and buried them at the crossroads; in Harrowfaust, a noble’s education included such important rituals and considerations. No one wanted to see Christabel again…

The saviors of the De Morcey house stayed on a few days, then traveled with Lord James and his family to Trivium. Lord James paid for some education for them, in various interests that they could pursue in the bustling city.

Then he offered Annika the opportunity to help him manage some business interests to the south, in Setine, the White Rose. Of course, she accepted.

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Lair of the Spider Flayers
Into the Woods, and Out of the Woods, and Home Before Dark

In the Great Woods north of Setine, there is an area called the Webwoods occupied by spiders of all sizes and shapes.Some are reputed to be as big as the human head! The Webwoods are supposed to be holy to Narlathia, fey goddess of enchantment, pain, and plunder. And spiders. A holy shrine is supposed to be in the Webwoods somewhere, but no one remembers where.

Anyway, spiders have been turning up gutted in abandoned webs. A “y’all come” was put out to pagans in the area, and two showed up to go investigate. Echo and Devin. They headed out, noting that some of the spiders were poisoned rather than stabbed, up high in the webbing. They followed a trail cut in the webs and found their way to an outcropping of stone draped in spiderwebs.

Also, on the trip, they discovered that it was possible the dead spiders did not rest easy; they might still move. (Echo climbed a tree and pulled one out of a web, and as he climbed down… it twitched.)

They continued into the cave, discovering a large dead dusty spider, continuing on following the only set of tracks betraying activity in this place. The tracks looked like soft elven boots.

After a tense fight with a couple dead spiders with bodies the size of a human torso (!) they continued to the back and found an elven woman with a sort of apartment in the cave. They accosted her, and she led them to her partner, an elven man. They had tea together, but Devin identified the numbing tang of Drusili in the tea and they did not drink.

So, the elven man shrugged and drew his weapons; in a pitched battle, the woman slid mystical venom into them while the man expertly fended them off with his blades. Devin knocked him down with thrown daggers, and as the elf woman fled, they pursued. A hurled dagger in her back knocked her down, and they finished the two elves off.

This encounter was enough to convince them the elves were drow, renowned for evil and known to worship Narlathia. They looted the jewelry and weapons from the drow, and also found a chest with a couple thousand silver.

Relieved at their victory, they retreated without exploring any further. They brought back a couple tough porters to heft out their treasure, then returned to town satisfied that they had preserved the character of the woods and secured it against drow incursion.

Scenario and map by Dyson Logos adapted for Fictive Hack. You can find it here.

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Setine, Session 1
Arrival in Setine

The Mission

Primalvas 20, 6,995. While in Trivium, Scanah De Morcey arranged a meeting with Kail and Annika (who brought Geneva and Kurt along.) Scanah told them her husband Vernell gave her son Adal a thousand gold pieces and sent him to Setine to make his fortune. She went with him to help him along.

The De Morceys roomed at the Aril House with a young Sentinian nobleman, Nosse Aril (who wore a silver mask, as was the affectation of the nobility.) They paid rent, and Adal found his way as an art dealer. About six months later, Scanah left, in the autumn.

The next spring Adal wrote that he met a nice girl. Then the letters stopped. She has not gotten a letter in four months, and she is worried.

She gave Kail and Annika 300 gold pieces to travel to Setine and find out what happened to Adal De Morcey. The Aril House is south of the Gray Market in the Citadel District, off Glitterscale Way, behind the lumber yard and the cobbler’s shop.

They agreed to go investigate.

Arrival Outside Town

Hamvas 12, 6,995 Annika weakened significantly during the journey, turning pale and unwholesome, coughing into a kerchief until she could no longer move or be moved. Fortunately, by then they had covered the tremendous distance between Trivium and Setine. They stopped at a local noble’s house, staying with Fen Ryvan only an hour or so outside the city walls of Setine. Kail hired Edru and Fynn to look after Annika as she shivered and coughed.

They met Galen Tandro, a friend of Ryvan, who was visiting. They lounged on the balcony patio in the crisp fall afternoon, trading stories and song. Galen entertained them with his violin. After a discussion, Kail retained Galen’s services as local guide, to find out what became of Adal De Morcey. Galen seemed to recall something about the Harrofaustian noble falling afoul of a loan shark, but he would find out more the next day.

Investigation in Setine

They visited the Gray Market, and as they browsed and enjoyed a puppet play, Galen tracked down a contact. Salizar, right hand man of Vash the Unconquered, was collecting in the beer tent. He told Galen (who he affectionately nicknamed “Fiddler Crab”) that Adal De Morcey was a prisoner of Vash the Unconquered, used as leverage to get Nosse Aril to service his debt to the loan shark.

Galen caught up to his customers, and told them; they offered to buy Adal back, and Galen managed to take that message to Salizar before the criminal left the Market. They worked on some details, with some mark-up for the middle men, to be finalized at a meeting in the Beggar’s Court that night. Salizar also explained that some debt collectors would be swinging by the Aril House sometime this afternoon.

Also, Geneva switched out her Vistani outfit for local fashions so as not to draw unwanted attention. She got a fan case for her kusuri-gama.

Showdown at the Aril House

They found the somewhat run-down but still-magnificent Aril House. They were halted at the broken door by the sound of a musket serpentine cocking. Fortunately Galen knew Dakri, the house’s guard, so they chatted about the situation.

Three months ago Nosse and Adal had a row about finances; Adal met a woman, and was neglecting his business. Adal stormed out and vanished. A month later, Nosse turned over the remaining art to Vash to stave off collections. Last month, Vash had Adal prisoner. To protect Adal, Nosse gave up his mask as a payment. He has been a depressed, besotted wreck since. Now another payment is due, and there is no art or money or anything else valuable.

An orc and six agents showed up to collect, and Galen negotiated to have a little more time, asking them to come back an hour after dark for a hefty fee now. They agreed, and sloped off.

Into the Rubble District

Kurt revealed he had contacts in Setine. In the interests of setting up a meet in a more advantageous location than someplace chosen by Salizar, they went to meet Talon. They bribed the guards to let them across the Rosewater Bridge, then they navigated past the tent camp and into the broken overgrown corpses of buildings in the Silver District.

At a performance stage now used for animal fights, they found Talon, a crippled old man with many friends in the criminal underbelly of Setine. He was put off by Kurt’s attempts to haggle him down from his price as neutral party dealing with Vash the Unconquered, so he refused to give them much in the way of help. He did tell Kurt that Vash the Unconquered, the loan shark with Nosse Aril’s marker, laired out of the battered ruin of the Ellydia House in the Rubble District.

They headed for their rendezvous with Salizar at the Beggar’s Court, a theater converted to desperate shelter for unfortunates trying to sell their services to criminals for a day’s bread.

They staked out a seating platform and waited. Salizar arrived with six of his tough guys. He ordered Galen out of the way, and sent his killers to wipe out Kail, Geneva, and Kurt! Much to Galen’s surprise, the toughened adventurers made short work of the thugs. Unruffled, Salizar met with them in a theater box out of easy earshot.

He told them “Vash the Unconquered” was a title, one he was ready to assume. He told them he would clear Aril’s marker and release De Morcey and cut them in to some sweet jobs in his organization, and all they had to do was kill Vash quietly and dispose of the body. They agreed to work together on a plan, and Salizar vanished into the night.

Back to the Aril House

Racing back to get to the Aril House before enforcers did, the company managed to arrive shortly before the orc showed up with twelve thugs to collect. After a bit of banter, Galen pegged the orc with a flung dagger that nearly did him in. Kurt unhinged reality itself, creating a throbbing pulse of undeath on the battle site to hungrily devour any who fell.

Geneva and Kail battled mightily, plowing through minions and closing in on the startled orc—but Galen felled him with a well-placed dagger hurled from the balcony. As Geneva and Kail rounded on the stragglers, a desperate minion lunged at Geneva and struck her in the face. The blow carried killing energies of the World Below in the haunted arena, and she was dead before she hit the ground!

Kail raced over to her and focused all his will and the energies of his healing ring into her, barely dragging her back from the abyss and jump-starting her vitality.

Still badly wounded and exhausted, Geneva rested as the rest of the company re-secured the house and considered their next move.

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Setine, Session 2
Vash the Unconquered is dead. Long live Vash!

Hamvas 14, 6,995

Offscreen Before We Start

While everyone was focused breathlessly on the drama of Geneva not dying, Kurt sloped off the back way, leaving Aril House without drawing attention to himself. Geneva breathed out plumes of frosty air, still teetering on the edge of death. Fortunately, Galen knew a doctor nearby with no known ties to criminal organizations or the Hammers or the merchants. He boosted a cart for them, and bribed a gate guard, and they headed out into the deep night towards the doctor’s house.

Meanwhile, Annika was feeling much better, and night is when she thought most clearly, so she took her leave of Ryvan and took her bodyguards (Edru and Fynn) and entered Setine. She made it to the Aril House, where she was snagged by Delf and a large group of thugs. Fynn was knifed, and Annika found herself and Edru prisoners of the vicious criminals.

They got word that the people they were pursuing, led by a Scarabean, headed out of town. Delf took some hand-picked riders and followed, pausing to hire an orc warband to help out for when they caught up to their prey.

Meanwhile, Tyr Fenris arrived at the house of an acquaintance, Doc Gnaeus Onteron. He generally stays there when visiting Setine, rather than staying in the city itself. Much to Tyr’s vexation, the tween girl Yuli followed him from the village all excited about seeing city life. He could not take her back, so instead he asked Gnaeus to look after her and Lily while he went into town to sell furs the next day.

The Doctor is In

Kail banged on the doctor’s door in the wee hours, around 2:30 a.m. Gnaeus cautiously answered the door, reluctant to treat Geneva until he saw she had been touched by dark magic. He put his arts to work, using leeches and strange poultices and remedies, as well as stitching up the gash across her face. By the time he was done, the cold had been pulled from her bones, and while she was injured and unconscious she was no longer in danger of dying.

Just as he was finishing, another visitor banged on the door. A thug asked to come in and look around, following some fugitives that fled Setine. Gnaeus was gracious, polite, and very helpful as all his guests scurried and hid. Gnaeus told the thug that he did see the group, and they headed on down the road. While the thug went to consult with his boss, a couple orcs prowled around the house. They were tall, with black horns and eyes and teeth, red scaly flesh, and recurve legs with cleft hooves.

Tyr tried to slip out the back, but saw there were more guarding the edge of the property. Yuli was in the doghouse! He had to trust she’d be okay as he squirmed under the back porch, hiding.

The thug thanked Gnaeus for his cooperation, and the group left. Gnaeus looked out the door slot and saw five riders and maybe a dozen orcs. A man and a woman were captives, riding double with two of the thugs. And then the group rode off down the road.

Mostly. Tyr saw that two orcs stayed hunkered down in the woods, watching and waiting. Just in case someone was lying.

Ambush

As Gnaeus demanded a payment for his services, considering they put him at terrible risk, another guest visited. Salizar slew the two orcs hiding outside, and came in. The time to strike at Vash had come! With the riders out, and no sense of trouble yet, this was their best opportunity to manage the assassination.

Kail steadfastly refused to do so, instead insisting that they follow the riders. He suspected the captive woman was Annika! Galen added his persuasive power, and Salizar relented. They mounted up on the horses Salizar brought, and rode to a switchback where they could get ahead of the riders if they climbed down some rocks.

Choosing their ambush site, Gnaeus put a bear trap on the road, and they waited. The second orc passing the spot triggered the trap, then Kail’s raiders attacked the ten orcs and five horsemen. One horseman bolted and escaped on down the road. Annika wriggled free of her captor and ducked past an orc in the woods, while Kail cut it down with one of Geneva’s kusuri-gama and flung another at Vash’s lieutenant, Delf. Edru squirmed free and ran into the woods, wanting nothing further to do with his recent employers or his more recent captors.

A hail of rocks and thrown daggers took their toll, as did the booming pistol Gnaeus fired. Tyr’s massive wolf Lily gleefully tore at throats and flesh. As the riders wheeled their mounts and fled, Salizar walked out onto the road in their path. Gnaeus shot down Delf’s mount, and Delf crashed down at Salizar’s feet. Only two riders and two orcs made it out of the kill zone, fleeing back towards Setine.

Another Ambush

Kail made sure he retrieved the kusuri-gama he threw at Delf, then they all scrambled up the rocks. They again used the switchback to cut off the much-faster riders. The riders outdistanced the orcs, and the exhausted attackers barely made it up the rocks in time to attack them on the way by. They managed it, and no humans would survive to tell the tale of what exactly happened.

Return to Setine

They headed to Gnaeus’s house, where Tyr and Gnaeus convinced Yuli and Lily to guard Geneva while she recovered. Then they raced to Setine, arriving in the pre-dawn and slipping through the gates using Salizar’s connections.

They rested and had a drink at a tavern while Salizar made some arrangements. Then they headed to the Rosewater, into a public house on its bank, down to the cellar, taking a boat across to a ruined quay. Salizar led them on secret paths through the ruins, into an area overgrown with twisted willows. They saw the Ellydia House, headquarters of Vash the Unconquered.

Salizar asked for a fifteen minute head start, after giving them a sense of the layout. He headed in to make an appearance and be seen, then they crept up to the wall. They managed to climb up to the parapet, and slip inside the house itself before any guards spotted them.

Vash the Unconquered is Dead. Long Live Vash.

Gnaeus scouted, and they all headed directly for the door to where Vash would be resting in the early morning after a long night of depravity. Gnaeus slipped on his expert locksmithing gloves, and got to work letting them into the room quietly. As a guard approached, something in Galen’s eyes shifted. He stepped out and slew the guard silently in a single swift strike, to the surprise of his companions.

With the door open, Galen was sent inside. He saw Vash’s green finery and mask laid out, and Vash asleep on the bed. Surprised to see Vash was a woman, that did not stay his hand. The dagger dipped once, and her sleep was eternal.

The others came in, searching the room after they locked the doors behind themselves. Gnaeus found a locked chest under the bed, complete with a poison needle. He got to work on it, popping the chest open to find a money bag, fine perfume, a silvered pistol, and an amulet.

Up in the rafters, they found a ledger book with all Vash’s creditor accounts! That was the greatest treasure of all, but not one they could easily spend.

Salizar joined them. He let them keep everything but the ledger. Then he suited up as Vash, cleared the way for them with imperious orders, and allowed their escape into the night.

Aril House

Kail expertly led them back along the hidden paths. They hunched in their cloaks and passed back into the city, returning to the Aril House. Dakri was pleased to see them alive.

Gnaeus, Tyr, and Galen headed back to Gnaeus’s house to retrieve Geneva, now that all should be safe. Weary to the bone, the company relaxed for some much-needed sleep.

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Setine, Session 3
Return of Adal De Morcey

Hamvas 15, 6995

Burning Down the House

On their way out of the city, Tyr, Galen, and Gnaeus were accosted by a beautiful red-headed woman who slapped Galen. He assured them he had to take care of something, and disappeared with her. The other two continued on towards Gnaeus’s house, which turned out to be a still-burning ruin.

Tyr called out to Lily, who howled. Gnaeus and Tyr found Lily in the woods, with Yuli and Geneva, holding off a pair of orcs. Gnaeus shot one, Lily brought the other one down. The orcs were the survivors of the warband that got wiped out the night before, and they took their revenge by burning down Gnaeus’s house on their way back to town. Gnaeus seethed in impotent rage as he realized he already killed their employer, so there was no one to insure against his loss.

Loading Geneva into the cart, the dispirited band headed back to Setine.

Ups and Downs

Annika was overcome by her mysterious malady, and required bed rest. Meanwhile, after a night of drinking, wandering, and watching bare-knuckle boxing, (and pickpocketing) Kurt showed up to see how things were going.

He arrived in time to see Adal De Morcey returned to the Aril house, with a bundle of 4 paintings and Nosse’s mask. Adal and Dakri went to talk to Nosse.

Kail went out to Ryvan estate to collect his weapons and armor, then returned to the Aril house.

They met Nosse Aril, elegant in his silver mask. Nosse offered to hire Kail as his agent, getting a permit to carry heavy weapons and armor in the city. Dakri took the necessary 10 silver from Kail, and went out to get the permit. However, he lost the money in a mysterious circumstance, so Kail said he’d go along the next day and make sure they got it taken care of.

Tyr and Gnaeus arrived with Yuli (and Geneva in the cart.) Lily had to stay in the woods. They had lunch together, meeting the soft-spoken coughing Adal.

What Happened to Adal?

Adal said he had a row with Nosse, then went to a pagan party with his girlfriend, Calim Deskru (a family name Tyr recognized, part of the Bestia clan around Setine’s outskirts.) Anyway, the Hammers raided the party, and Adal tried to hold them off while the pagans fled. He was captured, and taken to Stonepit, and interrogated. The Hammers sent to Lord Shenwhe to verify Adal’s identity (Adal swore he was not a pagan) but in the days it took to deliver the message, his interrogation permanently damaged his chest.

When Lord Shenwhe arrived, he took Adal home to Tailwind Heights, in the city, to nurse him back to health. Adal was uncomfortable, and said he did not trust his fevered memory of what happened. But he escaped the house, and went to the Rubble District, where he subsisted until he was captured by Vash’s creditor agents and used against Nosse. They kept him imprisoned in a house in the Rubble District. Then, this morning, they freed him and sent him back with some art and a mask.

Checking the Story

By now it was late enough that the weary adventurers needed sleep, even after their afternoon naps. (Busy couple days.) Not Kurt! He found Tailwind Height, and scoped the place out to see if it matched Adal’s fevered memory of an attack.

The single bored city guard proved no obstacle as Kurt slipped in and looked around. A huge hole was knocked through the wall, there were signs of blood and struggle, and some huge clawed thing moving through the house angry and killing. The house had been emptied out, the city guard was there to keep out vandals and squatters.

Kurt reported his findings over breakfast.

Adal was shocked; Lord Shenwhe had one of the best curated collections of pre-fall Setinian art in the world. It should not fall into the wrong hands.

Tyr shared that he was a shaman (and Yuli explained what that meant). The adventurers decided to return to Tailwind Height and see what else they might learn there. Kurt ushered them past two guards, and they cautiously explored the empty house.

Kail and Tyr immediately agreed this was the work of a troll. They found several spots in the house that were indifferently cleaned, where people clearly met their end. Tyr summoned up the ghost of Lord Shenwhe, finding out that Shenwhe’s brother was a Hammer and would inherit all, and Shenwhe was not aware of any enemies. Pulling out, they ruminated on their next move. (Later, Tyr realized and shared that the timing of the attack lines up with Summer Solstice, a time when summoning things from the Other Side is easier.)

Kurt approached a local tavern frequented by domestics, the Dread Star, with Gnaeus. He gossiped around until he found people who told him about the troll attack. It was too fast for the response to be effective, then the troll disappeared. 10 people died.

The adventurers asked Nosse to use his contacts to find out where the collection might be. Nosse went to an elegant dinner with some of his sources, an when he returned he told them that the best guess of his very informed friends would be that the art collection was stored in the old Shennai Chapel, a small church built by Shenwhe’s family before Setine’s fall. (He did not know where that chapel would be.) Chances are it would be lightly guarded, as its location is unknown, relying on secrecy for security. And it would be auctioned off to Caligarian collectors, the proceeds going to the Hammer coffers.

Adal nearly panicked upon hearing this. He struggled to impress upon them the importance of that art collection, its quality and its cultural meaning for Setine. To see why the Caligarians should not get it, he urged the adventurers to visit the Graf Museum. He proposed that if they stole it, he could set up a discreet auction to sell it to Masks and maybe even the Golden Prince, to keep that cultural treasure in Setine. And, of course, it would make them incredibly wealthy; he pitched a number of over 100,000 silver at black market prices (since the collection was priceless, and worth at least millions.)

That kind of serious payday means serious danger.

The Graf Museum

On a lark, the adventurers crossed into the Garden District and approached the ostentatious display of wealth and roses that was the mansion museum. They paid to enter, and viewed the many paintings and displays showing how really Caligari was at the root of Setinian success. Everything from a jewel-crusted musket (the first sold to Setine, that brought it prosperity) to a jewel-crusted gilded dragon skull to massive wall size paintings. They left impressed with a sense of the grandeur the Caligarians felt on their own behalf.

Kurt lightened some pockets of Caligarian coin.

Next Moves

They earnestly discussed whether or not to get involved in an investigation culminating in a heist. As Kail argued against it, in the interests of survival, Kurt’s monkey peed on him. Kurt offered to buy him a new shirt, so they headed to the Gray Market to take care of that. Shopping completed, they wandered the Market, leaving after the monkey pranced around over the beer garden fouling drinks and clothes unnoticed.

Kurt lightened some pockets just for fun and profit.

They agreed that Annika could help them with networking and research, and Galen would be useful for navigating some channels of the city’s practical networks.

Scattering to the Winds

Everyone pursued different goals and pastimes.

  • Kurt sat in a seedy tavern contemplating petty larceny and looking to make friends among domestics in the neighborhood of the Aril House. He saw a pretty girl crying, and the bartender told him about her stalker. Kurt told her he would take care of it, and he ambushed the fellow (who had a wooden arm, a scar, and a lot of money.) Kurt knocked him out, tied him up, and threatened him to stay away from the girl. The stalker was intimidated, and Kurt left him tied up. He returned to drinking and petty larceny.
  • Tyr spent the evening drinking with Gnaeus, and the next day he bound a moss spirit to his spear.
  • Gnaeus figured he’d connect with some of his noble contacts, see if anyone needed work done. He connected with Harmon Manaskri, an important Mask on the council. Manaskri’s middle daughter had a current fixation on a zoological garden, and they were having trouble building an enclosure for the rust monster. Gnaeus worked up a design, gave it to the craftsmen, and drank the evening away with Tyr.

The next day, he finalized the work. Lord Manaskri paid him 10 gold for the consult, and dressed him up to serve as a guest. Manaskri had to visit his grandmother, who could not abide useless people, and he wanted to take Gnaeus along to distract her. Gnaeus agreed, in exchange for the contract to work on the enclosure for the out-of-town portion of the zoological garden that contained the hydra.

The carriage ride took them 30 miles out of Setine, to the Manaskri House and Lady Dara Manaskri. While the Lady was vicious as only the wealthy and elderly can be towards her grandson, she was fond in her questioning and discussion with Gnaeus.

She told him that there were dwarves poking around the Erdea Pit near the estate, and she did not want them to set up a colony and their digging and building near her home. She asked Gnaeus, as someone who understood engineering and stone work, to tell them to go away. He agreed, and she said when he next came out she’d host him after he talked to the dwarves.

Gnaeus and Lord Manaskri returned to Setine the next morning.

  • Kail took in the art and culture of the city. He was captivated by the beautiful singing of a sad red-head from Scarabae, far from home. He met with her backstage, to find that her name was Collette, and she was fleeing the fey. Her parents promised dwarves they could cut her hair when it was long enough, but her hair was tied to the life of her sister; if it was cut, her sister would die, leaving behind a husband and two children. Due to a shipwreck, she made it as far as Setine.

Kail fell for her, and after a long night of talking they consummated their love. The next day, as he was meeting some of her artist friends, he saw a redcap skulking after them. He confronted and slew it. She gushed that he gave her the courage to keep going, and after a lengthy full-body good night kiss she packed her things and headed for Caligari.

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The Lottery Dungeon: Session One
Looting Level One

Going Down Now

A sandstorm blew for three days at the Laughing Frog Oasis. The last two days, adventurers went down but didn’t come back up. By day three, the only ones still willing to head down were a big Northron, Kaedo, and a tattooed Scavenger Master wizard, Saeden. They won the lottery, their names were drawn, and they were allowed to enter the Lottery Dungeon.

Steeling their courage, they headed down into the darkness of the dungeon as the final grinding of the shifting levels halted. Past the leering sandstone statue of the Laughing Frog, through the corridors, to the double stone doors into the Lottery Dungeon itself.

Saeden had a tome of lore on the Focusanir (the more correct name for the Lottery Dungeon according to scholars) and so he had a sense of the purpose of the facility, and its history.

Darkness Below

They found the gentle curvature of everything in the stone edifice unnerving. Finding a kitchen, they were attacked by a spider with an abdomen the size of a human head! Saeden rapidly smashed it, and Kaedo poked around in the stove, finding a ring and a gem (that loot alone made the expedition worthwhile.)

Kaedo’s muscle was equal to the task of hauling open the heavy stone doors, but they had no plan for dealing with locked doors. Kaedo hammered at one, and managed to unlatch it.

They found a curving corridor, and a torture chamber, and several closets. The quiet was eerie and oppressive, and everything smelled like disinfectant and oil.

They discovered a secret door, and Saeden consulted his tome to get clues to figure out how to open it—they succeeded. Through what looked like a dining room, they passed a locked door, and figured out how to get through another secret door to find another possible entrance. It was not aligned, but they could see how the door would line up with the exit. They also quickly figured out the handle in the pool that opened and closed the secret door from this side.

They continued exploring, leaping back as a trap landing snapped up to block off some stairs, and moving around it. They found a third entrance chamber; pleased, they withdrew and continued exploring.

Heaving a closet open, they were assaulted by another spider. They dispatched it quickly, and as Kaedo held flame to the web, withering it, Saeden found the precious bits lost up in the spider’s web, increasing the profitability of the venture.

They found a large room with a statue of a hooded worshiper of the Lady of the White Way, and a strange tarry pool that radiated deep, ancient magic millennium old. Leaving that alone, they headed down a side passage and triggered a pit trap—but leaped back and did not fall. The door beyond was locked, so they explored elsewhere.

As they inspected a grotesque statue of a cackling frog at the end of a corridor, they realized it fired darts down the hallway—and they had been lucky not to activate the pressure pad!

Victory!

Feeling the press of time, they decided not to push their luck further. They withdrew, and the grinding stone echoed behind them. They had cut it unexpectedly close! They were greeted with cheers by the small crowd as they exited, and they sold their map to the Khan’s men as was the expected custom.

Some merchants came in later in the day, as well as more adventurers to try their luck.

They sold the gems and jewelry, did some shopping, and hired a couple henchmen for the next day’s expedition. Then they caroused, having a fantastic time celebrating their survival.

The Second Trip

The Laughing Frog high priest drew Kaedo and Saeden’s names, as well as a Midish cleric of the Lady and his Northron guide. Each lottery winner could take a single henchman, so Kaedo took Jacques, a strong but dim Scarabaen porter/torch holder, and Saeden took Vellis, a Shamhatian lock’n’trapper expert.

The six adventurers headed down into the Lottery Dungeon, and came to the round room with the pool. Kaedo and Saeden knew how to open the secret door, but the Midish cleric had done some research, and he knew too. They all went in together, then parted ways as Saeden and Kaedo put Vellis to work on unlocking a door.

The door had a distressing laugh behind it. They opened the door to find a frog the size of a horse crammed into the small egg-shaped closet! It leaped to the attack, and as Kaedo fended it off, Saeden pounded it with magic until it was knocked out. As the henchmen wavered, on the edge of leaving, Kaedo shouted at them and inspired them to stay.

Kaedo struck the killing blow on the unconscious frog-thing. Not feeling overly greedy, they did not probe through the frog-muck of the closet.

They caught up to the other adventurers, who were in the dead end of the dining room (not knowing about the secret door.) Kaedo and Saeden moved through it, and the other adventurers followed.

To cultivate goodwill, Kaedo and Saeden told the Midish cleric about the holy pool and the statue, and the Northron and cleric took their leave.

Further Explorations

Kaedo and Saeden continued to the curving corridor, into a new area of the dungeon. They found another set of double doors, so they withdrew and explored elsewhere. They found a creepy stone and wrought iron garden with corpses in it, and they pulled back instead of looking further.

After poking around a bit more, they returned to the large chamber with the statue overlooking the pool. They found the Northron and cleric there, and after a terse assurance that nobody was out to do anybody else harm, they went around them and headed for the locked room at the end of that corridor.

Trapped

Then the stone juddered and shook, grinding and turning! Horror set in as they realized they were being trapped. What do do? The grinding made the surface of the oil dance, and they realized they would likely be right next to the formation of creatures in a matter of moments. They ran for it, leaving the cleric and Northron in the chamber.

Kaedo led them past the trapped landing, to an entrance, as a defensible location. Vellis panicked, as there was not even a door there. He tried to take his leave of them, but Saeden talked him into staying with them. They headed for the closets, an split into two groups, hunching in the dark closed closet and holding very still. It was going to be a long day and night.

Found

Some time later, something opened the closet with Vellis and Saeden in it. Saeden knew there was no hiding, so he lit his staff—they saw amorphous black tarry humanoids about 5 feet tall, armed with cudgels, hemming them in.

Saeden leaped out past them, and raced to the other closet, hauling it open. Kaedo sprang at the tarry creatures, heaving his axe at them and managing to knock them down without getting his weapon stuck. He held them off as Saeden ran to the dining room, and as Kaedo caught up, they closed the door. The tarry things kept opening it, and the adventurers kept closing it.

Kaedo ran to the other door and opened it, and saw some scavenging massive rats; he chopped two of the three down, clearing the way, and everyone ran to the filthy frog closet. They locked themselves in with Vellis’s skill, and waited breathlessly in the stench and crusted vileness. The tarry things gave up and went away.

While they waited, they found an adventurer’s pack; it had broken useless gear, but also a Griffon Dagger, very expensive and paying for their expedition and more! (Including paying for another day of henchmen assistance.)

Hours later, they heard something rub against the walls in passing, once and then again.

Finally the stone shook and rumbled, and they knew their exit was waiting for them somewhere!

Escape

When they got out of the closet, they saw the hall had been cleaned. The frog corpse, the rat corpses—all gone. Not even a trace of blood.

Of course, escape would not be too easy. They checked three of the entrances they had found, finding them all closed (but having a chance to clean off some of the filth using water from the pool in the room they used to enter yesterday.)

They found a store room, and Saeden’s magic sight led him to find a blessed Staff of the Lady, shaped like a mast, as a staff of healing for the faithful. Delighted at the find, they kept looking for the way out.

They did discover the double doors leading to what they thought was another exit actually held the trapdoor to go lower—and a huge snake corpse was a tasty treat to some fire beetles. They backed out slowly.

Feeling their desperation mount as sand slid through the hourglass, and not wanting to be trapped another day and night, they were relieved to find another adventurer who came in to the Lottery Dungeon on a new day. Aleah, a nomad adventurer, took pity on them and led them through the creepy stone and iron garden to the exit room, with a snake statue and skin casting.

Laughing with delight, they ran out into the sunlight and happily sold their map to the Khan’s men, to the scattered applause of bystanders who were pleased to see them alive.

Wrap-Up

They not only paid double for their henchmen, but tipped Vellis with a whole other day’s wages. They sold the dagger and the staff, got some more supplies, and then threw a great party (including lots of rounds of drinks for Aleah, who helped them get out.)

Two expeditions into the Lottery Dungeon, both profitable, with no deaths. And they survived an overnight stint—not too shabby!

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The Lottery Dungeon: Session Two
Foray to the second level.

Kaedo and Saeden were discussing how best to arrange to overnight, possibly by locking themselves in somewhere. This attracted the attention of a newcomer to the oasis, Shadek, a mechanic. The trio decided to try their luck together if possible, and they arranged to hire a torch bearing porter named Paco.

The First Foray

The next morning, the three of them were called up, as well as a Black Warlock that came in with Shadek’s caravan. They headed down into the darkness with Paco bearing the torch, and the warlock split from them early on. Now familiar with the layout, Saeden guided them more or less directly to the entry to the second level. On the way, they encountered an undead thing in a neat suit, but they dispatched it with little effort. Finding the entry to the second level, they heaved the trapdoor out of the way and descended into the darkness.

Finding only a small area, they suspiciously checked the walls until they found a secret door leading out. They saw a bowl of coppers on a plinth, and were greatly reluctant to steal from it; Kaedo tossed in a copper, and felt blessed.

They continued in the black labyrinth, stylized with frescoes of skulls and death, and archways carved into the black stone. Shadek saved them from a couple pit traps, and they found a room with a balcony over a pool of blood with meat floating in it. The others wanted to pull back, but Shadek was curious; curious long enough for a great eel-like thing to slither forth from the pool, silver scales glistening. It reared up to attack, and Saeden blew its head off with his powerful magic.

They found a room with two huge statues of reapers, and stairs leading up and out—currently blocked. Shadek examined the statues and found that there was a pit trap in front of one—and he was tall enough to reach up and prize out its ruby eyes! The other had eyes of glass.

As the third torch was now burning low, they felt they’d pushed their luck far enough, and they withdrew. They got out about three and a half hours after they went in, and the dungeon rotated at four hours, trapping the Black Warlock below.

Carousing!

Flush with coin from selling off the rubies from the reaper’s eye sockets, the adventurers celebrated. In the wake of their epic party, they have dim memories of some of the best parts. Kaedo became the Lottery Sultan, with a turban of women’s underpants; at one point he climbed up on the entry arch to the Temple of the Frog God and rode the statue, whipping it with a quirt and calling out amusing slurred slogans.

Shadek became the Duke of the Oasis, regaling the tipsy crowd with what may or may not be stories of his homeland. Saeden mostly sipped his drink and watched, but he had his share of fun in a relatively discreet way.

Second Venture

Heads pounding and eyes bleary, they climbed into their gear and awaited the drawing of names before the entry to the Lottery Dungeon the next day. They were called up, as well as a pair of duelists. Again, they all headed down, then split up, the duelists going down the rigged stairwell and the others making a beeline for the next level’s trapdoor.

Reaching the second level without incident, they began their methodical exploration. They found another stairwell up to blank stone, but more importantly, a secret door to a shrine of the Lady of the White Way! Delighted to discover a possible place to spend the night in safety surrounded by danger, they continued on emboldened.

They discovered a room with statues of two cosmic beings, a flayed woman and a reaper with a two handed sword, facing off. Shadek found the pressure plate between them, and shivved it so he could pry out their glittering green eye-gems. Further delighted by their score, they headed down the hall and poked around in some closets, finding a distressingly mobile patch of slime in one—they slammed the door, locking it in.

They returned to a door they had passed, opening it and heading into a room with a faintly luminescent green table. There they saw the horrific sight of four undead in suits, stripping the flesh from zombies to make skeletons. Battle was joined!

The skeletons closed in first, zombies at their heels, as the suits sauntered towards their prey. As Shadek’s smoking Ravenblade slew a skeleton and a zombie, Kaedo tore through five of the skeletons in a matter of seconds. Saeden conjured a globe of flame and hurled it, incinerating a couple of the suits. Then there was a general charge, mowing down the last of the suits (though they did make a valiant effort to tear at Kaedo, they could not get past his shield, armor, and frothing berserk disregard for damage.)

At the back of the room, they found a treasure closet with a chest. Opening it, they found incredible riches! Delighted at their luck, they hefted the box (and saw the key to unlock it, which had been hidden under the chest.) Kaedo carried it out, and they headed for the exit, running through most of the first level. The door ground shut as they were heading past the frog statue—a close shave, it was only open two hours! (The duelists left earlier, and were having a spat in the open courtyard, to the amusement of the crowd.)

Carousing

Wild celebration followed. First Saeden bought a much better staff, and they decided to keep some of the gems to cut down on the coinage they had to lug around. They also rented a strongbox in the Inn, to keep some of their valuables safe.

Then the partying. The Duke shone in his own right, with many slurred pronouncements and promotions among the revelers. The Sultan invented a new game, of snatching random revelers, heaving them over his head, and flinging them at the wall of the Last Chance Saloon. The stain on the wall is about torso sized, called the Sultan’s Spot.

As their reputation grows, and their knowledge of the Lottery Dungeon increases, the adventurers are not yet finished with their exploration of the darkness below.

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The Lottery Dungeon: Session Three
Kicking Ass on Level Two

Saedenn, a Scavenger Master wizard, led a motley crew into the Lottery Dungeon. He took Kaedo, the bersker, and Shaddek, the mechanic, as they had worked well together before. The party added Melursus and Crazy Bear, a couple pagans (who could turn into bears.) Finally, they took Poesworth, a zealot eager to smash infidels and abominations.

The Lottery Dungeon had been closed for a week due to the Camel Foot Festival, with half price prostitution and randy sermons in the Temple of the Frog God. After the hiatus, the Frog Khan allowed bigger parties to head down into the Lottery Dungeon.

Unexpected Unfamiliarity

Saedenn and Kaedo were confident they knew their way around level one, but they ended up exploring some areas they were not familiar with. They carefully tread the quiet halls, past the snake statue and the iron garden, through the open chamber and a room where an adventuring party finally fell to the custodians—and their summoned monster too.

As Shaddek scouted ahead, he fell in a pit trap. They hauled him out, and checked out a nearby room with a stone sarcophagus that looked like monster jaws. Inside, they smashed a skeleton, and took the keen elven dagger. Then smashed the skeleton some more, and left.

They found a room with four goblets and four pools, and they tried them out after Saedenn researched in his book. Experiencing benefits, they didn’t push their luck, but they kept exploring.

They began to wonder if the cleaners were no longer functioning as they found another area that did not seem as tidy as they would expect. Finally they found the central round, and backtracked over some territory they covered in previous excursions (like the trophy room and the kitchen.)

Kaedo was strong enough to not worry about the doors, and others tried to increase their strength by pushing the doors open. Shaddek continued to find traps and unlock the doors.

They headed down a crooked corridor, and found the room with the statue of the woman looking at the door, and the trap door leading down. Finally!

Second Level Scuffle

They came out in a dusty stairwell, and followed a corridor leading away from it. They nailed a door guard that was a nattily dressed dead Northron, then burst into a room with a pile of skeletons and zombies, and some of the collectors, and their gruesome king!

A massive fight broke out, with bears and zealots and undead and berserking and balls of acidic magic and lashing tongues and filthy necrotic claws. Shaddek wielded his Ravenblade, offending the undead with its presence, as the zealot chanted prayers and the wizard hurled magic.

They tore through the king’s entourage, and the bloated king was obliterated by a huge blast of magic from Saedenn. Panting and victorious, they felt the pressure of time.

And, the king had been calling for help. As they retreated, they saw the approaching figure of a Black Warlock! Some were torn between standing and fighting, and running, but when most of the party ran they ran too.

Dashing through the cleverly mapped compound, they managed to reach the exit just before the dungeon ground out of position.

All’s Well That Ends Well

They threw a massive party when they came out alive, burning through hundreds of silver for a few days of decadence. Fortune smiled on them, and they continued to process their experiences and mature as powerful characters, their awesomeness shining through in the partying they did.

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