Hole in the Ground

Session the First.
In which a Barang heroically finds a backpack!

A quick note to you, gentle reader. Certain dramatic liberties may be taken with the telling of this mighty tale. Other liberties may result from the teller’s terrible memory.

Session 1. A pretty short intro game since we spent most of the evening rolling up characters, eating chicken and arguing about the merits of comic books vs superhero movies. Anyway, on with the show.

The Old Skull Inn is pleasantly quiet this evening, with folk enjoying a few dice games or gossiping about the latest scandal involving Elminster and his predilection for involved women. Which is presumably the reason for his having skipped town of late. Rumours of a darker nature mention the disappearance of several local farmers, hooded brigands preying on travellers and the ever present milk curdling antics of goblins, both vanilla and hob-.

Cue several minutes of furious gambling rolls and attempts to lure the group into dice games by Barang, who amongst his many flaws appears to be a hard drinking gambling addict. Fortunately for him he wins a few rolls at the game of Thabort with a couple of caravan guards.

His gambling is interrupted by the arrival of a well heeled dwarf, clearly a priest of Clangeddin who Barang is more than happy to buy a drink for, honoured to be in the presence of such a priest. Introducing himself as Tuvorok, the two hit it off swiftly.

Their drinking and chatting draws the notice of a tall, bookish fellow who is apparently on the lookout for fellows to assist in the recovery of a magical blade his copper-piece novel claims is to be found down a well in this very town! The tale of which in turn draws mockery and self invited company in the form of the easy going elf, Aramel.

While in the process of sizing each other up and debating how best to go about finding this well, the four spot a sign being posted by the guards, noting a reward for volunteers willing to venture out to the farms outside of town and investigate a mysterious sinkhole that appears to have swallowed up the Widow Sara. There is a mystery to be solved, cash gold to be had and it’s a good excuse as any to look for a fight, so the motely assortment whip up a charter with the guards and sign up as deputised adventuring sorts.

And off to the Widow Sara’s farm they go.

The farm turns out to have been ransacked, the chickens and ducks eaten and the place vandalised. The root cellar has indeed collapsed into a large sinkhole surrounded by weird molehills. Or rather Gibberlinghills, which swiftly erupt with gambolling, shrieking and gibbering Gibberlings as night falls, and battle is joined!

Aramel proves about as much use as a chocolate fireguard and so heads up to the yard to watch the rear. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it, much in spite of dwarven shrieks to the tune of “The elf flees! We hates him forever!” Luckily he finds a few more Gibberlinghills outside and altogether the foursome are able to despatch the rancid little things.

With no sign of the Widow Sara, and an obvious hole in the ground before them, the group descend into the dark to locate the missing lady. But not before having a good snoot about to see what they can nick, finding a rusty old bastard sword over the mantle and three chicken eggs with miraculous properties! The first of which is the power to heal wounds as if one had ingested a healing potion. The second of which is the hilarious way they can be spapped off a person’s head. It isn’t wasteful if it’s funny, or so Barang attests.

And so into the dark they go, following a narrow tunnel which appears considerably older than the cottage above. This tunnel opens out into a large cavern, into which a dozen other tunnels open. Presumably dug by Gibberlings, which may have originated from the large black door set into the far wall of the cavern.

Our heroes cross the cavern, navigating a strange little bridge over a subterranean stream and find the door is atop a short flight of stairs, each bearing strange runes. Not that Barang or Aramel stop to read the runes before barging up to and through the door. That’s true blue courage that is. Not foolhardiness. Nope. Courage.

So the door opens into pitch darkness, of the magical variety. The darkness conceals a deep pit, and a little investigation reveals the spell to have been conjured by the dwarves climbing the stairs. Spellvoc continues to examine the stairs, determining that they also bear a monster conjuring spell.

Which explains why a 6 foot centipede from Hell suddenly drops on Barang’s face, engaging him and Trovurok in an epic battle. Which ends with it’s head stoved in and the heroes doing the victory dance as they loot the corpses of previous trap victims found down the pit. Barang in particular is pleased with his discovery of a mold infested backpack! Which has a bottle of wine in it! Which will surely be safe to enjoy.

Huzzah! And with great victory we end session the first. I’ll post up the second soon, as we played just yesterday. Things do not become any more serious. Not even when poor Spellvoc decides to experiment with the concept of Wizard v Orc melee combat.

Stay tuned. Same axe time. Same axe channel.

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Session the Second

Session 2. A nice long session this week, framed by the late arrival of Late Dave the player of Spellvoc Evoc and the consumption of enough chicken to choke the Tarrasque. This week’s nerd debate: Which is the worse film Kull the Conqueror or John Carpenter’s Vampires? Answers on a postcard.

So we picked up with our heroes having battled a fearsome Centipede From Hell and preparing to enter the mysterious underground complex. Aramel’s elven ears immediately sniffed out a secret door, beyond which a sneaky little thing was found to have been spying on the group’s entry via peephole. The horrid thing was not quite a Halfling, and neither mole nor fly, and probably not a byakhee. This mongrel of a creature attempted to flee while mumbling “No kill Jeb! No kill!” The mighty and honourable Barang was having no truck with the poor creature’s feeble cowering not fooled by the obvious treachery of the foul monster and demanded that it do battle. Seeing no escape the creature ‘Jeb’ lunged forward with a mighty eye poke, earning itself a swift filleting on Barangs greatsword. Spellvoc Evoc, warmage and PETA member was not amused by this, especially when he discovered the chains that had kept poor Jeb a prisoner in the hidden room.

This led to a heated debate on the ethics of killing horrid things in dungeons vs. parlaying with potentially friendly things. A debate settled by Barang declaring Spellvoc Evoc to be a [expletive deleted] and stomping off to find more things to stab.

And so the party moved on, entering a large chamber dominated by a stone skull carved out of glittering stone and bearing a message upon it’s brow.
“You’ve taken the bait and entered my lair/ Now wander the halls and pray that I’m fair/ Welcome and well met to the grim jest of Tybor/ Deposit your will here, whomever they be for”
This of course drew much derisive mockery from the assembled heroes, along with a silent vow from Tuvorok to find and slay the wretched poet responsible. Dwarves being renowned for their utter hatred of crap rhymes.

While the group investigated a door leading off into a curiously perfumed chamber, Spellvoc remained behind to study the skull, curious as to its purpose. So of course he was all alone when the guards showed up. Surprisingly sneaky for pig-faced creatures with the build of a Led Airship roadie, the Orcs narrowly missed turning the poor warmage into a dartboard with a volley of javelins.

Spellvoc shouted for help before returning fire, thankfully being joined by his companions who together made short work of the snouty greenskins. Following the fight, the group assisted Spellvoc in opening up the large skull and recovered several potion vials and a fragile parchment from the hollow he had found under its jaw.

Moving on, the group investigated such legendary sites as the orcish privy chamber, a few empty halls and debated heading down a flight of stairs. In the end they agreed on avoiding said descent, down often meaning terrible doom for novice adventurers.

And so they found themselves confronted by a rusted iron door, decorated with the graven image of a snarling demon. Which was promptly kicked in by mighty Barang. The room beyond bore a stone face carved into the wall, and a table strewn with bric-a-brac. None of our heroes were in the least surprised when the face began to speak, stone faces being known for this kind of behaviour. The wall was in fact, an elemental prince bound in ages past by the wizard Tybor, or so it claimed. Imprisoned within the wall until it’s true name was spoken, the elementals knowledge of that name had been removed by the wizard, with a few clues left on the table to taunt the poor entity.

Spellvoc being a lover of riddles and puzzles immediately set about becoming frustrated by the bizarre clues while his companions heroically stood around, added to the orcish graffiti and had a bit of a bite to eat. Sadly the epic challenge proved beyond our heroes, although Tuvorok was more than happy to point out that beating up monsters would surely elevate him in Clangeddins favour to the point that he could magically discern the name of the bound elemental. Not that he was especially inclined to do so, because walls that talk are as annoying as rhymes to a Dwarf.

Truly Tuvorok is a font of dwarvish wisdom, educating us all in the ways of his people. Barang having spent his life in chains is learning much of his people from the priest.

Once again Spellvoc remained behind to ponder the riddle while his acquaintances booted open another door to see what else they could bugger about with mighty challenges awaited them beyond the sealed portal.

Thin pipe music assaulted their ears from the next chamber, with a ragged looking mongrel creature playing a set of pan pipes for the entertainment of a writhing trio of vipers. Obviously related to the foul monster ‘Jeb’ this beast would prove just as treacherous, and so our heroes bravely shot it in the back. For Clangeddin! For Mystra! For justice. Huzzah! They then courageously engaged the vipers in battle, a short lived affair ending in victory once more.

It was then that the heroes discovered the hanging forms of a dozen people, suspended from the ceiling by strange magically cooled hooks and chains. Lowering the people down, they found them comatose but otherwise healthy. Soon after being removed from the hooks, the prisoners began to wake up, though it didn’t take long to determine that they were both blind and somewhat vacant mentally- almost like golems or other constructs according to the spellcasters of the party.

Realising they could hardly leave the people here, nor traipse round the halls with a dozen blind folks in tow, the group decided to head back to Shadowdale and see what could be done…

As the group discussed their options, a tall half-elven fellow was nominated by the prisoners as their ‘spokeself’ and explained that each of them was native to the Dales, most of them from Shadowdale. They had all been snatched from home, but could remember almost nothing about what happened. Some had been snatched recently- the Widow Sara only a day before, while others had been here a long time if their dates were accurate. Strangely, while they seemed capable of conversation the prisoners reacted to instruction as if they had no free will or motivation of their own.

Navigating the dungeon halls, narrow Gibberling tunnels and climb up the sinkhole was far from easy with the bizarrely afflicted townsfolk in tow, but after several hours of careful handling the party and their new entourage were sitting uncomfortably in the Widow Sara’s sitting room.

While the group decided the best thing to do was sleep off the night and return to town in the morning, Barang was having none of that, slung the Widow Sara over his shoulder and tromped off up the road. Figuring that restraining the Dwarf would only result in a fight, the group let him go and took side bets on whether or not he’d be eaten by Owlbears en route.

Luckily high summer is Owlbear mating season, so there would be no chance of running into one so near a town for a while. Unless it was a particularly frustrated and lonely Owlbear of course.

Barang soon arrived back in town and learned a new fact. People sleep at night, which means they all go to bed and close up their businesses and front doors. How strange. So he decided on a course of action and pounded on the pub door until somebody answered. That somebody proved to be the young barman, Jhaele who was somewhat intimidated to find a grimy bloodsoaked Dwarf on his stoop, carrying an old lady. Barang soon put the lad’s mind at rest, explaining the situation calmly and easily. He and his friends had rescued the Widow Sara and he wanted a drink. Jhaele could just head up to bed, no worries. And by the way, was anyone else here? Or was it just the two of them? Alone? Well except for the sword of course.

Surprisingly the young lad was a tad intimidated by Barang, especially this last line of questioning. Not that Barang put much stock in Jhael’s insistence that the entire town guard were just upstairs and ready to jump into action. Jhael suddenly bursting into terrified tears was a bit off-putting though. Thankfully the misunderstanding was cleared up with the application of vast amounts of alcohol, and Barang made himself a new friend. Huzzah!

Next morning the rest of the group arrived, afflicted townsfolk in tow, gathering quite the crowd. With people recognising loved ones and friends, the rescued prisoners were gathered up and taken to the local temples to see what could be done for them. Our heroes meanwhile, were taken to see Lord Mourngrym, the ruler of Shadowdale in his fancy tower.

Lord Mourngrym turned out to be quite a reasonable fellow, happy to hear how his townsfolk had been rescued from the dungeons below town and even happier to strike an accord with the group. Having a dungeon under a town is worse for trade than a shark in the bay, so for a nominal reward the group agreed to explore the dungeon complex and determine how great a threat the inhabitants posed. And of course to stab monsters, loot treasure and generally poke around in the dark for a bit.

The agreement settled with wine and a fancy charter, the group spent their day shopping and preparing for their next jaunt underground. Spellvoc spent most of this time in Mourngrym’s library poring over ancient histories and stories to see what he could find out about elemental princes and the names thereof.

And so, fed, paid and rested, the heroic and as yet unnamed band ventured back into the underground halls of Tybor’s Dungeon, the so-called Grim Jest.

The exploration of the halls led the group back to the descending stairs, which they again turned away from in favour of bursting into the barracks of the Orc guards! A swift scrap saw Spellvoc valiantly charge into melee with an Orc warrior, and just as valiantly get run through for his troubles. Aramel nearly found himself cut down but was able to avoid a sudden stabbing and instead do his foe the favour of ridding him of a few ugly pounds of fat. Aramel then hit upon the cunning plan of putting the Orc corpses into their beds so it looked like they were sleeping rather than dead. A cunning plan that was not even remotely serial killer like in any way at all Spellvoc noted.

With the Orcs dead and looted, Tuvorok insisted on heading back to the stairs to see where they led and a quick vote led to the party following along.

The stairs twisted down into a chamber featuring a large well and several sneering (but thankfully inanimate) gargoyles. As the party entered, they were greeted by an illusion of a tall wizard. Obviously a wizard since nobody else would wear a forked beard, outrageously flared collar and skullcap, surely? His smug greeting of “Ho and well met fools. I am Tybor, master of this place and your demise shall entertain me greatly” was met with such mocking derision and heroic snark that had Tybor been present in the flesh his ears would have curdled. Poor Tybor, sometimes a crazy dungeon building wizard just needs to hear a friendly word. Sigh.

The mockery done, Barang stuck his head in the well and found it to be deeper than his Dwarvish darkvision could penetrate. So the obvious plan was to tie off some rope and have his fellow delvers lower him into the darkness. Down he descended, past a stinking series of privy drains, past a small opening full of glowing eyes and tiny tentacles, down to the very bottom over a hundred feet below. The stinking pools of sulphuric liquid didn’t give Barang pause, nor the bone strewn floor of what appeared to be a natural cavern of immense size. The skulking beast with the heads of a goat, lion and dragon however? That did bother him a little. Even moreso when he took in it’s multiple stinger tipped serpent tails.

Barang made the hundred foot climb back up the rope in record time. “Yeah. No. Not that way. Bad idea”.

So back up the stairs they went, at which point Spellvoc decided a map might be handy. Ten minutes of mapping proved to be a task best left to others however, and so our heroes ventured forth according to the traditional rule of dungeoneers everywhere. Always go left.

Left led them through the Orc barracks, where Spellvoc noted that the Orcs in bed were still creepy. The next room had been partially barricaded, with one door barred and bearing the Evil Eye of Gruumsh- an Orc warning of hideous mutilation beyond. Wisely heading the other way, the group discovered a door barricaded with spears and Orc graffiti warning of ‘Untrusty Dwarf Scum’ beyond to one side, and a plush sitting room to the other.

Dungeons not being known for their fancy boudoirs (unless a Medusa is involved), Spellvoc and his friends buddies those guys who keep wandering off and leaving him behind decided to investigate. A fine painting of the becollared and smugly smiling Tybor hung over a fireplace warming a room full of comfy cushions, fine wines and a small library, joined by trays of fruit and sweetmeats which appeared as the group entered. Our heroes sighed in vague annoyance as the painting animated and spoke in poorly composed rhyme “So well you have fared/To come so far/So much you have dared/And tired you are. Rest, eat, you can die on the morrow.” Tuvorok’s oath to severely reprimand Tybor for his painful works was reaffirmed, though with considerably more muttering this time.

Heading back to the door marked with anti-Dwarf propaganda, the group heaved it open and found a wide set of stone steps descending into darkness. Estimating that the stairs would take them down maybe three floors, Barang spat on the floor and vowed to find something worthy of his sword below.

And so down they went…

That’s it for this instalment of poorly written adventure theatre, more to come this Thursday if anyone cares. Or even if they don’t.

Same axe time! Same axe channel!

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Session the Third

And so, we pick up with the band about to descend a flight of stairs decorated with carvings of Dwarf warriors battling hideous abominations and aberrations in the depths of the earth. Tuvorok recognised the legendary fate of Clan Duergar, from their descent into the underdark to enslavement and eventual freedom from the horror of the Mind Flayers. Barang took a moment to dip his blade in tribute, a mix of sympathy and kindred feeling in his heart for the tragically fallen Dwarves. Tuvorok meanwhile was less sympathetic, although even he admired the craftsmanship depicting a Duergar warrior and his behelmed Kobold companion battling a lightning spewing abomination that decorated the massive doors at the foot of the stairs.

This noted, the party pushed through the ornate doors into a huge pillared hall, lit by massive chandeliers, only for Spellvoc to turn sickly and practically faint! Clearing bile from his gob, the Warmage warned the others that this hall was riddled with chaos, being a wild magic zone! The whole area would react violently and chaotically to magic use, and this effect was playing havoc with the studious spellcaster’s delicate digestive system.

Exploring the halls, the band soon decided to investigate the resounding echoes and signs of life from a vast archway, finding a wide bridge across a deep chasm, and suddenly finding themselves confronted by locals. A pair of wiry gray skinned Dwarves- warriors of Clan Duergar- flanking a red scaled reptilian humanoid, bearing a regal rat skull topped staff, long cape and proud expression, the creature introduced itself with a bow as the loyal servant of Underlord Kazzoth, Seneschal Meepo. And demanded to know whether the assembled party were friend or foe?

A brief conflab ended with the party declaring themselves ‘friend’ as they were curious about what lay in wait for them, and so with a deep bow and toothy smile Meepo led them into the occupied halls of Clan Duergar, explaining as they went that the Underlord ruled over slave pits, a gladiatorial arena and many warriors besides. Despite this, the halls seemed quiet and almost empty, and far less vast than the preening Kobold would have the party believe.

Finally arriving with some small fanfare, the party were brought into a sand floored arena to address Meepo’s boss, a mighty 4’ 2" gray skinned and outlandishly bejewelled Duergar who proclaimed himself Underlord Kazzoth. Looking down upon the group from a rather nice skybox, the Underlord rudely began probing their minds, attempting to read their thoughts- most definitely not cricket, and definitely not the sort of treatment our heroes were about to stand and take.

And so fingers were pointed, rude words shouted and the party decided it was time to take their leave, only for the Underlord to drop the gates and bellow for ‘the beast’ to be released from the pits, scanning the mind of Spellvoc to determine what manner of monster should be sent against the heroes now trapped in his arena.

As the party drew their weapons and shouted threats at Kazzoth, they also spared a moment to point and laugh at Meepo’s sudden panicked realisation that he was trapped alongside them. Only interrupted when a piercing shriek echoed from the walls, and The Beast emerged from within the pits to tear the heroes limb from bloody limb…
As Duergar warriors and guards entered the arena to take in the spectacle of our heroes battling the monster called forth by the Underlord, The Beast revealed itself to be a massive beast, clawed and feathered in a blend of both hawk and lion- a Griffon. Though it was heavily scarred, with it’s wings crudely removed at the shoulder and bearing the brands of a Great Rift riding beast- stolen most likely from the Gold Dwarf kin of Barang! Aramel coo’d to The Beast, seeking to sooth it’s savage breast…to which it responded with a shriek and a furious charge into battle!

Barang stepped forward to shield his companions, meeting the Griffon in a charge of his own, swinging his mighty greatsword in a glorious arc, only to miss wildly and find the heavily muscled talons of the Griffon raking his flesh to the bone even as it’s beak tore into his chest. Barang fell, his last thoughts murderous rage as the savage pit-beast raked it’s leonine claws across his abdomen, it’s beaky maw devouring his delicious Dwarven spleen whole.

A moment of shock delayed the fallen Dwarf’s companions, his sudden violent death shaking them to the core. Tuvorok dropped to his knees bellowing ‘nooooo!’ even as Aramel regained his composure and feathered the Griffon with arrows. The battle was fierce and bloody, Tuvorok beseeching Clangeddin to enchant a spear which he hurled at the laughing Underlord before turning to engage the monster that had torn his friend apart.

Wounded by the spear, the Underlord stumbled and for a single heartbeat he lost composure and revealed his true form. Not a Duergar, but a sickly pale thing with translucent flesh and inhuman eyes wide and black in it’s too smooth face. A cursed and treacherous Doppelganger! The reveal led to consternation among the watching Duergar, several of whom made their way upstairs to confront their supposed commander.

Meanwhile the battle continued, with Aramel dancing between the Griffon’s claws lashing out with twin blades, Tuvorok and Spellvoc calling up spells and the Beast simply refusing to fall, furiously tearing out at any of the companions who came close to it’s claws. As a ruckus erupted upstairs, the Griffon reared up and screeched at the adventurers, seeking to cow them into submission. Refusing to feel even a touch of fear, they stood ready to continue the fight as the Underlord returned to his window, accompanied by several Duergar who now seemed to be holding him under guard. “You have fought well, and it need not be to the death” he called down “Stand down now and we shall call this a victory for the beast, as your comrade has fallen.”

The companions looked at one another and agreed to stand down, seeing no need in further loss of life. Spellvoc vowed silently to slay the Underlord in vengeance for Barang- only for the mind reading Doppelganger to hear his inner thoughts and react with fury “Betrayers! Assassins! Kill that one!” he screamed, urging his Griffon to press the kill. Spellvoc backed away even as Aramel launched an arrow at the Underlord, and Tuvorok swung a mighty blow at the Griffon as it began a charge at his wizardly companion.

Ignoring the Dwarf’s blow, the heavily wounded Griffon leapt into the air and landed claws first in an explosion of gore, screams and wasted dreams that had a moment before been the Warmage, Spellvoc Evoc. Son of the goddess Mystra, sworn to free the bound Elemental Princess and champion of the downtrodden. With a rough shriek the beast pooped out the crushed and mangled head of Barang into the puddle that was formerly an adventurer. And a heartbeat later the murderous beast fell with one of Aramel’s arrows in it’s throat. Still, two of the companions lay dead and mutilated, and sadness fell heavily on the hearts of our remaining heroes.

Tuvorok and Aramel prepared for the Duergar to come at them, only for the audience to cheer their hard won victory, and the warriors flanking the Underlord to march him down to the arena floor, kicking him to the ground at the feet of the companions. Looking around in desperation, the Underlord returned to it’s true form, pale and clammy looking it begged for mercy from the surrounding Duergar, and the two heroes. The sobbing pleas continued even as it was dragged away for ‘questioning’ by the guards, though not before they cheerfully offered Tuvorok a free shot to the creature’s gut.

As the events of the last few chaotic minutes settled in, Aramel and Tuvorok were introduced to the newly chosen Underlord Cask, proven not to be a filthy Doppelganger but a true gray skinned, white bearded Duergar just as Laduguer and the Nine Lords of the Pit intended. Cask offered a continued truce, placing the blame for the deaths of Spellvoc and Barang at the feet of the Doppelganger and offering compensation in the form of precious gems.

Taking up Cask’s offer of healing and rest, though soon changing their minds about the former when introduced to the giggling, boogly eyed form of Dr Fingers, Derrro surgeon extraordinaire, the two remaining companions spent a short while discussing their plans and treating with Cask. They learned that the Duergar had been whittled down from almost a hundred to a mere dozen warriors by the scheming of the Doppelganger over several months, events previously thought to have been misfortune were now believed to be the purposeful schemes of a shadowy enemy.

Cask and his warriors began planning an exodus into the Underdark, where they could face a worthy foe and at least die well. Their slaves working the mines would be released, and the keys to the fortress halls given to Tuvorok. This turn of events being neither suspicious nor overly convenient in the slightest, and Duergar being known for their sense of honour and kinship with surface Dwarves, the priest accepted happily.

Aramel took a moment to mount Barang’s greatsword above the entrance to the arena, a fitting tribute to his Dwarf friend, and then he and Tuvorok made the journey back to Shadowdale. Cask cemented his alliance with the companions by providing a group of Kobold porters to help carry the bodies, and warned them of the Dragon lurking close by, a young wyrm but still dangerous. En route to the surface the Kobolds pondered out loud why the companions would insist on using the most awkward entry to the dungeon complex, claiming that there were multiple such entrances scattered around the dale.

For now though, such matters were not of import to Aramel and Tuvorok. They had funerals to arrange, and fresh meat to recruit.
Back in town, the funerals were arranged with the local temple of the luck goddess Tymora- the priestess even offering a discount for the heroes who saved so many people from the dungeons.

Poor Jhaele was saddened to hear of Barang’s demise and nobly spilled a flagon for his drinking pal, while Lord Mourngrym sent his official sympathies.

The double funeral was a quiet affair, but noted by many as ‘a bit nice really, all things considered. Certainly better than just being left in a ditch’ and the wake thrown at the Festhall of Tymora left most of Shadowdale village hungover the next morning.

Not that our bold adventurers had time to spare for hangovers nor for further mourning, what with a big dirty hole in the ground still in need of exploring. Further vows were taken to make the wizard Tybor pay for his evils, as being an evil dungeon building wizard leaves him to blame for any and all deaths and dooms met within those halls. These vows taken in the pub drew the attention of a square jawed looking fellow, who soon introduced himself as a knight of Cormyr and paladin of Mystra, who had himself taken holy vows to bring the villainous Tybor to justice for many crimes committed over the border in the Forest Kingdom.

With no further recruits appearing over the horizon, the newly formed trio appended their charter and decided to poke around the grimly named Old Skull Hill to see if any of the entrances to Tybor’s Dungeon lay there. And indeed they did, finding an ancient rotted trapdoor in the ruins of a forgotten building which led into the earth. Tuvorok courageously foiled a cunning trap by using the secret Dwarven arts of ‘blundering through some magical runes and ignoring the effects’ which seemed to work well enough.

Following a spiralling stone stairwell into the darkness, the three delvers found a statue of the wizard Tybor bearing a mocking rhyme and coin slot of sorts in it’s outstretched hand. ‘A gift for you host/Lest you descent be swifter than most’ read the rhyme, leading the paladin to stand firm before the statue and demand Tybor reveal himself for arrest and deportation to Cormyr where he would stand trial. Tuvorok meanwhile engaged in futile vandalism of the statue briefly, before losing interest and wandering off.

Ignoring the continuing stairs, the group explored the halls, soon finding that they had found an entrance into the upper halls- finding their way to the Stone Face, orc bedroom and other familiar chambers. The Stone Face was quite sad to hear of Spellvoc’s demise, and even moreso to hear that her name was still a mystery.

The group pressed on, discovering a room with a box in it. Such epic adventure as would surely one day be the subject of song. The box bearing a note reading ‘Do Not Open’, our heroes immediately set about opening it up. Of course they had common sense to search for mechanisms and traps first, swiftly finding and disarming a cunning trap designed to seal them in the room to starve. Within the box itself they discovered a magical blade – a scimitar, it’s hilt resembling a coy carp and it’s scabbard formed of warm blue crystal- and a purse of moneys. Aramel gladly took the sword, the scimitar being his favoured blade, and this one bearing signs of Elven manufacture.

Pressing on, the companions ventured through eerily silent chambers, until they entered a hall decorated with horrific images and foul statues of the demon lords of the Abyss! A chapel of sorts, the hall bore offering bowls containing things best not spoken of, and a lingering sense of evil. When the paladin reached out with divinely enriched sense to perceive this evil feeling he was struck by an insidious trap- a series of mental images showing the foul rituals and bizarre practices that had taken place in this room. Images clearly identifying the wizard Tybor as not only master of the place, but also as a priest of the demon lord of chaos, Demogorgon!

While the paladin recovered, Aramel kept clear of the room and Tuvorok did what he does best. He poked around and interfered with stuff. His bold sniffing about was rewarded with the discovery of a hidden panel behind a statue of the mandrill (or baboon?) headed Demogorgon, within which lay a cloth wrapped tome and a glowing gemstone of considerable size- perhaps the soul gem containing the bound spirits of the villagers? The paladin warned Tuvorok to be wary of the book, a skin bound tome of evil aspect, perhaps the legendary Book of Vile Darkness? Or maybe a cheap knock off? Either way it looked evil.

Swiftly heading back to the surface and the temple of Lathander, our heroes met with Dawnlord Munro, head priest of the sun god who had been tending the unfortunate villagers rescued from Tybor’s dungeon.

And so with companions lost and a new ally found, the sun set as Tuvorok and Munro began their investigation into how best to use the book and gemstone to hopefully restore the stolen souls of the poor villagers.

And that was that session, with multiple dungeon forays, two funerals and a new PC. With no game for two weeks due to work stuff, we’ll return to see what happens to the villagers, just who is joining the party when old friend Jason comes back to the group and just what that damn paladin’s name is. Maybe when he’s named I might capitalise his class?

So that’s it from this week’s instalment of fishing for compliments adventures, until next time.

Same axe time! Same axe channel!

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Session the Fourth

Session 4. Finally, after what felt like forever we got back together and threw some dice. Huzzah!

When we left our heroes, they were in the process of looking into using the foul tome recovered from Tybor’s Dungeon and the magical gemstone found with it to restore the stolen souls of several villagers they had previously rescued.

Sunlord Munro, elaborately sideburned priest of Lathander and Tuvorok spent the night poring over the tome and deciphering what they could of it’s hideous secrets. The translation of the book proved beyond the pair’s skills, and so Tuvorok decided it was time to call on Elminster, the crotchety, debt welching, farmer’s wife seducing old rascal of Shadowdale. The path to the sage’s tower was adorned with an array of dopey signs promising pit traps on the path, froggy transformation and even a caged frog alleged to be an annoying adventurer left outside as an example to solicitors, callers, and especially mendicant priests. Elminster hates mendicant priests. Nobody knows why.

Regardless of such menacing warnings, Tuvorok steeled his loins and hammered upon the door to the tower.
p. Aramel and Erik chose to watch from afar, neither being inclined to spend life as a fly catching amphibian. After a further knocking, the door was answered by a rather gawpy looking ginger lad clad in a cook’s apron and armed with a greasy spatula, who identified himself as Lhaeo, scribe and apprentice to the great Elminster. Tuvorok growled out the situation with the poor villagers and the Tome of Nasty Evil What We Found, and then stood waiting on an answer when Lhaeo ducked back inside to speak with Old El’.

After being kept waiting long enough to be considered rude, Lhaeo returned with a bundle of scrolls, a leather bound folio and a wax paper bundle of bacon butties. The former items to help decipher the book, the latter to apologise for being kept waiting.

Returing to the temple of Lathander while munching on bacon the group discussed what a weirdo Elminster was and whether he could be trusted or not. Thankfully, his scrolls proved most efficacious* and the ritual of soul stealing was found within the pages, though sadly it turned out that the reversal ritual would require more magical power than they could muster alone.

And so the local priests of Chauntea and Tymora were talked into lending aid, even if that did mean suffering through an overly preachy breakfast with the former and one too many philosophy debates between the latter and Sunlord Munro.

p. The afternoon having been consumed by research, the evening was spent talking over terms with the three priests and a slap up dinner feast provided by the temple of Chauntea. It was during said dinner that a devout worshipper of Lathander introduced himself to our heroes and proposed an alliance of sorts. Going by the obviously fake name Kirk Nemoy, this roguish individual was not only armed with a ludicrous two bladed sword, but also had the haunted look of a man with a past, a destiny and a tale of woe to tell.

Said woe was related to the vampire plague currently making life miserable for the folk of Daggerdale, an impressive feat considering how cruddy life already was for the Zhent occupied dale. Nemoy had vowed to quest for the legendary Sword of the Dales, put an end to the vampire menace and oust the Banite priests and slavers of the Black Network from his home. Assuming that he could live longer than poor Spellvoc, to whom he bore a vague resemblance in a certain light.

Since he seemed rather trustworthy, and three being an odd number, the group invited Kirk Nemoy to saddle up and join them in their antics, with a vague promise to help him stab vampires at an unspecified later date.

The next morning everybody woke before dawn, and began preparations for the spell casting, gathering the soul-stolen villagers in the temple of Lathander and arranging the relics of the three churches to aid in the casting. As the priests would be performing the ritual, Sir Erik suggested the group stand guard in case of magical treachery or accident during the casting, to which all present assented. Even young Aleena, acolyte of the temple of Lathander stood guard with her aspergillum gripped tight, her eyes on Sir Erik throughout, though the paladin had higher matters on his mind than the affections of the young priestess.

As the priests began the ritual, magical light flooded the chamber from the gemstone, battling the rising sun for dominance and threatening to blind the watching heroes as the chanting of the priests rose to the heavens.

It was at that moment that the sudden, and yet fortunately expected betrayal occurred as the laughter of Tybor resounded through the chamber! The adventurers and priests alike found themselves drawn into the gemstone momentarily, the walls of a vast extra-planar maze forming from the air around them…only to be torn down in a blaze of magical energy and burning spellfire! It was Sir Erik, arms outstretched and his voice raised to his patron Mystra who drew the magical trap into his very spirit, the raw energies of the weave surrounding him as he risked his life to save all present.

As the magical storm subsided it became apparent that only Tuvorok and Sunlord Munro had understood the events, while the others were awed by what they saw as divine intervention on their behalf…awe that was doubled when they realised the ritual had worked. The villagers were whole again, plain to all by the emotions and weeping thanks they gave to the priests and heroes who had saved their lives and now their souls.

*[By Vancian law, every appearance of an archmage must be accompanied by a modicum of pompous language]

With the good people of Shadowdale restored to soul having health, the obvious course of action was to have a bit of a knees up and a few drinks. And so the afternoon, evening, night and a bit of the early morning was spent with the villagers and our heroes enjoying the merriment.

And Tuvorok getting as utterly wellied as only a Dwarf can.

Next morning saw the village blanketed in a thick grey mist, slow to burn off in the dawn sun the mist seemed to flow almost eagerly around those who walked out in it. For a brief moment Aramel swore that he had seen a young elf maid beckoning to him, but when she faded with the mist he shook off the eerie feelings the image had conjured up.

Joined by his companions, Aramel set out to the ruined basement deep in the thickets and the opening into Tybor’s Dungeon in search of more things to stab, steal, and perhaps set on fire a bit.

Delving down to the familiar halls and chambers of the upper level, the group decided to investigate a previously ignored stair descending into the darkness. Another of Tybor’s odious rhymes was set into a statue of the wizard himself, all slicked widow’s peak and smug smile. “A gift for your host/else you’ll descend swifter than most” The statue’s outstretched hand bore a smooth slot, as if awaiting a deposit of some sort.

The rookie Kirk Nemoy was quick witted enough to spot a cunning slide trap built into the stairs, easily disabled by feeding a coin into the palm of Tybor’s statue. Clearly the dread wizard was raking it in through dungeon based scams Tuvorok noted, with a silent note to smash the statue up for loose change at a later date.

Down the stairs the group muscled their way past a spiked portcullis, noting the deeply unpleasant placement of the device had they fallen victim to the slide trap. Not that they had long to ponder that matter as a pair of snarling skeletal rottweillers came bounding eagerly towards them, jaws snapping at their tender flesh! Tuvorok stood firm and sent the undead monsters fleeing as he called upon Clangeddin to turn them away- and his companions followed behind to smash the cowering Undeadogs into loose bones.

Meanwhile, using the sound of battle as cover, a lone scrawny pot-helmed Duergar had snuck up on the group. Stanky cigar clenched in his jaw, he nodded for them to surrender and explain their presence. And also that they’d be expected to pay for the dogs. Moments before tensions boiled over, Tuvorok pointed out that they knew Cask and were allies of a sort. “Ah well, in that case I’ll tell Bert not to mess ye up” replied the Gray Dwarf and shook his head in the direction of Aramel, who was somewhat surprised to find a 9’ tall invisible Duergar stood behind him.

And so rather than another round of violence, the group joined their Duergar hosts Jim and Bert for a quick brew and a chat in the ajoining guard room. The Duergar were put out to hear the news of Doppelganger chicanery and Cask’s promotion to Underlord, and explained in that particular world weary guardsman manner that they had been on Orc patrol down on this level for months now. They’d even recruited an ally to patch up the old library just a few yards down the hall, but if Cask was in charge then they were going to quit and head down to the fortress and see what was what.

And so they packed up and buggered off. Pausing only to note wryly that they had captured an Elf and locked him up downstairs- throwing the keys to the group as they departed. Said Elf turned out to be a cowering wreck of a bard, long since having given up hope of rescue. He gladly embraced the group, or tried to at least…Aramel was somewhat loathe to ‘be all Elfy’ in front of his friends, but happy enough to escort the rescued bard to the surface and send him packing sharpish. “Last thing we want is him singing down here after all” being his reasoning. Having gotten rid of the unfortunate Elven fellow, the group poked around a few chambers, eventually coming to a choice between a grim hallway decorated to resemble a demonic maw lit by smoky torches and smelling like the pit itself, or a pleasantly decorated oaken door carved to look like a woodland scene.

Obviously the door would be the most dangerous route of all according to Nemoy and Sir Erik, so they were quite surprised when a voice shouted for them to “Come in if you’re coming, bugger off if not!” from the other side. (Of the door. Not the Other Side). Tuvorok being Tuvorok, he of course barged straight in, serious face at the ready to see what was going on through the door.

What he found was a chaotic chamber that could possibly be called a library if one was feeling charitable about the bric-a-brac stacked mix of scrolls, books, assorted junk and swarming rats scattered across rotting and sagging shelves. The speaker presented himself from behind one such stack, a tweed waistcoat over leather armour combined with his elf-like ears and outrageously whiskered chin, beady eyes and ratty nose left the group momentarily confused as to just what he was. Seemingly used to gawkers and rude stares the scrawny fellow nodded at the group and introduced himself as “Sly Withers, freelance thingummyjig. Librarian for now, fancy a wine?” as he brushed a few rats out of goblets and poured some rancid looking vinegar out for all to taste.

Sly it turned out, was a former resident of a subterranean community called Lowtown. A refuge for ne’er-do-wells, ruffians, exiles and underdark merchants from which he had recently done a runner due to ‘unfortunate circumstances’ only to fall in with the Duergar and settle in as librarian for a while. He’d picked up quite a bit of info and lore from the various sources found in this room over the months.

For instance, down the demonic hall just outside was the prison of a Frost Giant prince bound several hundred years ago by Tybor following a war between the wizard’s minions and the Giant clans of the Thunder Peaks. This caught Tuvorok’s notice, and he made a note to go and kill the Giant soon, what with him being a Dwarf and so obviously a deeply racist courageous individual where Giants, Orcs and other monster types are concerned.

Further, it seemed possible that Sly might know the name of the Elemental bound upstairs. Indeed he did it transpired, and he’d part with the information for the low price of not being killed, plus a thousand gold. The price seeming fair, the group haggled him down to not being killed right now, with no guarantees as to being killed at a later point, plus a grand and they shook hands on the deal. Rather than gold, Aramel turned over the gemstone from which the souls of Shadowdale’s villagers had been extracted (supposedly now non-magical but worth plenty to those in the magic biz), and Sly gave them the name ‘Antemoch’ for the Elemental.

And so upstairs they plodded to see if they could now set the entity loose from the wall. As they entered the chamber within which she was bound, the group paused and took stock of what might occur…or most of them did as Tuvorok booted the door in and shouted “Your name is Antemoch, now sod off!”

When the room started to shake they got a little bit nervous. Dust fell from the roof as the huge face emerged from the wall, and kept coming…the wall itself splitting as the roof caved in, the floor tore open into a rough chasm and the group were surrounded by brick dust and shards of wall. As swiftly as it started, the quaking stopped and the dust cloud resolved itself into a particulate cloud in the vague form of a shapely woman.

“Thank you. A thousand times thank you, my freedom long desired has been granted and so I grant you a boon. A touch of ancient wisdom now, and if you should find the city Sigil then seek me out there for further reward.” And with that the entity was gone from the world. As she departed, each of the assembled heroes found their minds filled with forgotten lore, ancient combat techniques and elemental secrets, all serving to grant them mastery over their own skills as if they had spent months in training.

As they recovered from the mind whammy they were hailed from above. Young Jhaele from the Old Skull Inn was peering in the gaping crack in the ceiling. Apparently the quake had opened up a passage from the dungeon straight into Shadowdale Village.

Well that couldn’t possibly be a bad thing. Right?

Next time, we meet several orcs. Tuvorok nearly gets killed by a dungeon chicken. And Kirk Nemoy attempts to disarm some poop

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Session the Fifth

Lots of dungeoneering this time, and a good bit of combat too. So let’s get to it…

We picked up with our heroes answering pointed questions from Lord Mourngrym and a gathered crowd of concerned citizens as to the causes of and fallout from the tremors which had split the Old Skull, frightened some chickens and caused more than one pint to spill over at the inn. A local disaster indeed! The concerns of the locals were allayed by Aramel insisting that there would be no horrid monsters climbing out of the newly cracked rock, and further announcing that he would stand watch until something were done to close the opening off.

Tuvorok meanwhile had a wee parlay with Sunlord Munro over a few beers and the two drew up plans for the senior priest to magically seal the rock with Lathander’s blessing.

While the priests prepared spells and drank heavily, Aramel stood a lonely vigil atop the inn watching with bow drawn against monstrous incursion from below. Or so he would probably phrase it in answer to the oft asked query “What’s that elf doing on the roof? Has he gone simple?”
During his watch, Aramel pondered the ways of the woodland and his growing devotion to the ways of Wendl, King of Beavers. Also to the elven pantheon, and such deities as Rillifane, Corellon and assorted long-named bigwigs, who would reward his virtuous meditation with magic and other gifts.

Which probably explained just why a gray wolf decided to wander into town and sit at the front of the inn watching Aramel keenly through the morning. Clearly, his elfy ways had been rewarded with a wolf friend! Gods be praised and so on.

That morning, as Sunlord Munro prepared his magics to seal up the Old Skull, the group gathered themselves and wandered off to Widow Sara’s place to see if she’d let them use her tunnel to go back into the dungeon.

Said Widow was more than happy to see her rescuers, and even happier when they jury rigged a board on a rope to serve as a door over the sinkhole in her egg shed. And so with her blessing, down they went to see what had become of the complex following Antemoch’s departure.

The décor had been left in quite a state, though Kirk Nemoy was keen to stick his head in the huge chasm opened up across the doorway cavern, the group decided it was best to head to the old reliable ‘skull room’ then move on from there.

A little exploration was all it took to determine that the uppermost floor of the dungeon complex had been laid waste by the quake. The lovely lavender room was in utter disarray, the orc bedchamber had been mostly crushed and so on. One particularly unpleasant discovery was a previously unexplored chamber that turned out to be a den of sorts for gibberlings, now quite dead and rotten thanks to a blend of dehydration and cannibalism after their orc keepers had been killed off.

Having figured that there was little left to explore, the group tracked back to the stairway down to the second level and proceeded downward in an orderly fashion…

Having already poked around the dog kennel, duergar cells and library, the group kicked over the barricade serving as a border between duergar and orc claimed halls and sent Tuvorok ahead to see what was what.

Said ‘what’ turned out to be a band of snarling orcs and a crude crossbow trap, the latter proving faulty and useless, the former were a different matter. Not that Tuvorok was overly concerned given his near psychotic ahem rather appropriate and divinely mandated fury towards orcs. A swift battle later, and the bodies were thoroughly looted of all valuables as is right and proper.

Moving on, the group passed a stair descending into the gloom, from which issued a roaring sound not unlike a waterfall. So they ignored that, and poked around the orc den just through the next arch. Therein they found filth, junk and more filth- and a bizarre idol of a jackal headed, bat winged, goat legged daemonic entity sculpted entirely from semi-hardened orc waste. A poop-idol as Kirk Nemoy described it, was often a repositoty for hidden treasures in orc culture.

And so bold Kirk Nemoy, would be vampire hunter, set about checking a heap of orc poo for traps, which he would then boldly disarm. For glory! For fortune! For shame!

Meanwhile Tuvorok and Sir Erik investigated further, where they found a portcullis constructed of sparkling bars of lightning. A keyhole set in the floor appeared connected to the magical portal, but they would have to await Kirk Nemoy and his poo exploration to investigate any further.

As luck would have it, Nemoy had in fact found something within the poop. A sealed chamber pot buried in the idol’s gut, which contained a large and ornate brass key. “Orcs are weird” was the sage observation of Aramel. Countered by Tuvorok pointing out that orcs were in fact, “pricks” in his dwarven estimation.

A few moments fiddling about later, and it turned out that the newly discovered key fit the lock on the floor perfectly, and a twist of the wrist deactivated the lightning bars. Beyond was a bizarre chapel of sorts, with faded tapestries depicting heroic deeds by dwarves of yore, the slaying of demons by elves of Myth Drannor and Cormyrian knights standing proud. Removing the tapestries, the group found that the stones behind were magically lit, and said light now illuminated the statues of foul Demogorgon flanking the altar in the chapel, atop which stood a bizarre flickering portal.

With each second that passed, the portal opened to a different locale. From a placid country lane to the storm tossed sea, from a deep cave to the fires of what could be the Abyss! A lever before the portal seemed linked to its operation somehow.
“We could see where it goes?” Suggested Kirk Nemoy, only for Tuvorok to throw a stone through the opening to see if it was indeed a true portal.
“We could but we’d probably die. Portals are like that” Sir Erik replied, “We should just leave it”
And so off they went to see about the roaring sounds down stairs.

Once again strange magics had presented themselves. Once again they had been ignored a bit. And once again our heroes had not been killed horribly by said strange magics. There could well be wisdom in their deeds.

Down the steps, the group found the solid built stone walls gave way to a natural cavern dominated by a frothing pool of water. Said pool was fed by a waterfall from twenty feet up and drained by a small whirlpool at it’s centre.

“You know” said Kirk Nemoy thoughtfully, “We could jump in there and see where it goes?"

“You could. I’ll stay here and not drown” was all Aramel had to offer in reply to this odd notion, elves having a well known aversion to drowning.

Meanwhile Tuvorok was investigating the netting hung over the arch leading from the cavern back into the familiar hallways of the dungeon. Something was clearly being kept out, and whatever it was it had feathers. Having seen no sign of immediate threat, he tore down the netting and stuck his head into the room.

The clucking came just a heartbeat before a nasty thing that was as much serpent as it was rooster exploded out of the corner and attempted to take his eye out. A cockatrice! Deadly as a deepcrow rooster and twice as dangerous according to dwarf lore. The thing was a clucking menace, pecking at all within reach, and almost taking off Nemoy’s ear as he rolled past it to throw a dagger into the thing’s flank all sneaky like. He was fortunately made of stern enough stuff to not turn to stone at the monster’s touch, as was Sir Erik.

With the monster dropped and nobody turned to stone, the fellows took a victory pause before tearing apart the chamber in search of treasure, eggs, and any other deadly chickens. The only thing they turned up was a grapefruit sized stone orb, which was clearly a cockatrice egg according to Aramel. Rangers know these things. Though such a thing could fetch a pretty penny, the noble heroes decided to smash it instead. Only to find the egg of a creature hated by all living things was able to stand up to a good deal of punishment. And so Kirk lobbed it in the whirlpool and they had a good laugh.

[DM’s note: Mwhahahahaha]

Exploring further, the group found a good number of orcs- all of them turned to stone, apparently the cockatrice had laid waste to their numbers. They also found a dead cockatrice, perhaps the mate to their mighty foe? But not another living soul anywhere in the chambers they traversed.

A while later they took a rest in a small forge, one which had not seen use in a long time. And that was when the grim babbling and dark whispers assailed their ears…just as Tuvorok found the petrified carcass of a Duergar where he had hidden and taken his own life…and the unquiet spirit of that same dwarf rose from the forge to inflict his misery and despair upon the heroes!
Thanks to the magical blade of Aramel, the spellfire of Sir Erik and Clangeddin’s blessing upon Tuvorok the poor duergar spirit was soon laid to rest. Fortunately without inflicting much harm upon the group.

And so they took their rest…

One more session post to catch up and then we’re up to date with the last session we played.

Because next time, everything changes. Our heroes face the danger of…Outside!
Same axe time, same axe channel.

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Session the Sixth

Session six. The big open outdoors…

But first we open with the gang resting up after their encounter with the babbling spirit of an olde tyme Duergar smith, after which they decided to head forth and see what lay beyond yonder door. Said yonder turning out to be a weird misty hall full of tiny sparkling lights, all lovely and pretty. Until they swarmed Sir Erik and tried to electrocute him! A moments thought left the band with a simple plan. Sir Erik being all shiny due to ancient celestial ancestry meant he was a handy lightning rod, so he was sent in to investigate the mists.

Moments later he was lost. Lost enough that he kept walking into walls and trying to determine left from right. Magic traps are heck on Paladins. Cunning plans from the rest of the group included poking the glowy lights, throwing ropes into the mist and staring at the wall forlornly in the hope that somebody would pitch up and help.

And lucky enough, someone handy just happened to be wandering by.
Spoiler: Secret Squirrel Behind the scenes stuff

Said someone was the duergar hall monitor Jennit Rok, out patrolling for stuff left behind when the gray dwarves cleared out recently. Recognising our heroes he was happy to deploy secret duergar methods (i.e using a spare key) to disarm the mist trap and switch off the sparking lights.

He was also able to brew up a pot of tea and fill the band in on recent events. With Cask now in charge of the duergar, the slaves had been set free and the dwarves all set to tromp off into the Underdark in search of something awesome to kill. Perhaps reclaim the old Tethyamar mines, or pick a fight with some drow. Because everyone hates drow.

Everyone.

His last job was to make sure nothing horrid was left to use the magic whirlpool to get out of the dungeon and into the river aboveground. That being the result of anything jumping in the whirlpool. Or being thrown in. Like cockatrice eggs for instance. Innocently whistling and avoiding eye contact with anyone in particular, Kirk and Aramel decided it might be best to go looking for the egg and make sure they hadn’t released a death chicken into Shadowdale.

So, tea break over with, off the boys tromped up to the surface. Nothing particularly spooky had taken up residence as yet in the upper chambers, or so it seemed. Unbeknownst to our merry mob of nutters, their passage through the entry halls was observed by a foul entity. Once known as Jogk, a simple orc guard who had once had a run in with a space rock, it was now a nameless thing. A hungering creature from the void risen from the grave to feed and spread it’s abhorrent spores.

Soon though, it would be known. It would be named. And that dark horror from the space between stars would be spoken of as…Orky Voorhees.

Orky.

Voorhees.

Yeah, thanks for that Aramel. Your poetic elven soul shines in your every word.

Anyway, back up on the surface the unnamed adventurers group known locally as ‘Those Guys’ had decided to call in on Widow Sara, what with their exit from Tybor’s dungeon being via her root cellar. Luckily enough she was just making a pile of sandwiches for lunch and being the local widow was used to gentleman callers at odd times. Ahem.

With lunch on the table and polite conversation being required, Tuvorok decided to horrify good Widow Sara with tales of the cockatrice egg they’d flung into a river underground. The hilarious punchline being that they now knew it might hatch out in the woods and leave a killer dungeon chicken running about murdering everything it happened across. Like Sara herself. Hilarious.

Sara filled them in on the route the wee river took into the woods, and where the whirlpool came up in a natural spring sort of a thing. Apparently she’d been a bit of an adventuring sort herself in her younger days. Handy that, not that Tuvorok or anyone else cared much. Nice sandwiches though, which she was nice enough to pack for them along with warnings of it being owlbear mating season. Not words that any adventurer ever wants to hear.

Heading into the woods, following the oddly named Duckwash River “More of an ambitious stream really” as Sir Erik put it.
A pleasant woodland trek was interrupted by Aramel spotting a big smelly pile of what looked to be troll poop, sadly not the sort needing disarming by Kirk. Just poop. Which meant trolls were nearby.

A ten minute debate followed, with Tuvorok and Sir Erik being in favour of a troll hunt, while Aramel and Kirk voted for not being eaten by trolls. Eventually a compromise of ‘go find the cockatrice egg, then come back and get eaten by a troll’ was agreed upon.
Of course nobody had yet raised the reasonable question of ‘how are we going to find an egg in a forest?’ Well, except Kirk, but nobody important had asked.

Boldly striding forth again, the boldly striding bold heroes spotted a rather spooky cave close to a frothing spring. A spooky cave which turned out to be home to a rather matronly owlbear. Snarling, hooting and growling in the way that only owlbears can, the lumbering monstrosity reared up to warn away the intruders.

Six seconds later the cave was home to nothing in particular.

Well except for Kirk and Aramel looking for treasure, Sir Erik buffing his sword and Tuvorok questioning the edibility of fat owlbears. The cave turned out to have once been a mine entry, the cart tracks still present, along with a few aged cases of silver. Silver bearing the clan markings of the Lionheart family, said clan being forebears to Tuvorok thanks to his long winded lineage which took the opportunity to explain in detail.

Which meant they were still in the cave when night fell, bringing with it some particularly hideous screams of pain and horror. A brief investigation of the outside made it plain that something horrible was happening, and it was likely happening to goblins. Which made it a bit less horrible.

That was when the wounded owlbear crashed out of the trees, pursued by cackling black cloaked figures. Figures who took great pleasure in prolonging the poor beast’s pain and suffering.

As was said. Everyone hates drow.

And here they were. A group of cloaked hunters accompanied by a tall robed noble and his entourage of chained women, demonic bodyguard and sneering expression. Looking across the clearing, he called out “Hello the cave. Hope you’re enjoying the show, whomever you are…”

Tuvorok dropped into near catatonic terror at the sight of a male drow lording it over his female companions, while Aramel started counting targets and Kirk pondered the rear exit out of the cave.

Sir Erik however had better ideas than anyone else. Said ideas being a quick distraction and likely suicidal sacrifice as he gestured for his friends to flee and then bolted out of the cave “Come and get me you spider loving scum!” he yelled as he was chased down, shot full of crossbow bolts and tied up. It’s the thought that counts though.

Tuvorok and Kirk responded with good old fashioned violence, barrelling out of the cave to save their buddy. Until a seething pustulent demon teleported into their midst and almost ate Kirk.

So they ran. Leaving Sir Erik in the grasp of the drow, our heroic band legged it into the darkness below, pursued by the laughter of the dark elves.

Spoiler: More behind the scenes stuff

To be continued…

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