Morning, the 10th of Trivor, 1331 Avard.
Thirty more days passed at sea aboard the Dellistar.
A bad storm off the southwestern point of Baroneth had left them with terrible memories of life at sea. The storm was so bad that only the hardiest and toughest of sailors aboard did not wretch up their food and drink for days at a time.
The Karatikan tongue was the precursor to the Olde Common, which was the precursor to the modern Common tongue spoken by traders the world over. Dolon Uther and Hadarai Jelenneth both used that time to learn to read and write the ancient Karatikan script, using Kambator's journal as a guide. Pronunciation of the ancient script was more difficult, and they struggled with the problem.
In the afternoon of the 12th of Cal, the Dellistar finally arrived at a spot on the map known as “Wyrsa's Cove”. From a mile out, to the south they could see a strong fortification – a central tower perhaps a hundred feet tall, surrounded by an inner wall with fortified towers, the wall thirty feet tall and the towers closer to seventy feet. Around the inner keep was a wall fifteen feet tall, between fortified towers every eighty feet. The tops of other buildings – a small village – could be seen within the outer wall.
Along the eastern side of the keep, the river flowed north and out into Wyrsa's Cove, forming a protective border along one side of the keep. Only one stone jetty went out into the sea, running parallel to the river. The crow's nest reported no signs of habitation, though there were signs of life – buzzards further down the coast, birds in the keep, vines and trees growing up about it. The keep appeared to have been abandoned for centuries.
After a bit of discussion, they settled on a game plan. The party would be let off at the stone jetty by longboat. The Dellistar would hold position in the cove, with a lookout in the crow's nest at all times. Armed with a piece of sail cloth perhaps the size of a large flag, the lookout would send the longboat to the stone jetty if the flag was seen. In the meantime, the longboat would ferry the horses ashore on the eastern side of the river, opposite the keep. The lands around the keep were all rolling plains, and the crew and the horses both were ready for some time at sea.
Truth be told, the horses were considerably weakened from their restrained time aboard ship, and would not have been able to carry riders for very long.
The party was let off on the stone jetty in mid-afternoon, and from there, they were left to their own devices by the crew of the Dellistar. The walls and towers of the keep were formidable, and Hadarai was able to determine that they were all crafted by magic – their angles and planes were too perfect to have been made by the hands of mortals, and the touch of the arcane was everywhere.
The wood of the keep's jetty-gate was still intact and still thick, though the wood of the nearby drying houses was more rotten, and slowly decaying. The jet-black 'sword of roses' that had been given them by Ilinaranee proved its use, as they hacked through jetty-gate with relative ease. As soon as they were through, Liffey Rossin's wolf-mount Lorcan cowered behind his pack-leader, having smelled something that frightened him considerably.
Inside the outer wall was an entire village – abandoned. There were no bodies, although they continued to revise their estimates of the age of the keep, pushing that age back to at least a handful of centuries and more. The stone of the keep's defenses appeared still intact, though the stone of many of the village buildings had seen the ravages of time, trees growing out of some buildings.
The party explored several of those buildings, and were suddenly attacked by… frogs. The 'smaller' tree frogs were the size of a man's hand, and a small horde of them poured out of a building, attacking and leaping and using their darting tongues to rasp off whatever exposed flesh they could get at. The larger frogs were the size of a small table – and the two of them proved dangerous. The frogs had teeth and claws, and their tongues could lash out at someone ten feet away.
Hadarai took the worst of it, one of the larger frogs taking a hunk off of his face. Lorcan proved a god-send, taking down many of the smaller frogs. The paladin Sunalor's armor and shield proved nearly invulnerable to the larger creatures, though all of them had bits of blood-soaked cloth from their knees down, where the smaller frogs had torn bits of flesh off of them. A healing poultice to Hadarai in the aftermath of the battle left them all more angry than tired.
One of Hadarai's spells had cooked several of the smaller frogs. Dolon avenged himself by tasting cooked frog's leg – and found it to be a rather spicy dish, and delicious.
The gate into the inner keep was open, and there appeared to be an animal path that traveled from the keep itself out into the plains. One of the prints was something akin to a lion's or a bear's, and about the size of either. Liffey did not recognize the prints, but could figure them for predators.
They slipped cautiously in towards the keep, and found the front door locked and barred. The animal paths led out of the arrow-slit windows – just wide enough for a man to slip through. Climbing up the three feet to the window, Sunalor and Dolon led the way, followed by Hadarai and Liffey. Inside they found a dimly lit room they found battered wooden furniture in a room with twenty foot ceilings. Two doors let out of the high room, both partially ajar. Dust was thick in the room, and there were large pieces of cylindrical chalk scattered about – and large prints.
Growling was the first hint that something was wrong. A large, bony tentacle slipped into the room from the far door, and Lorcan cowered behind Liffey. In moments, a fight began in which the party found itself in trouble. Three of the beasts quickly took on all of them, their tentacles and powerful jaws beating them back.
The creatures were part hyena, part lion, and covered in bony plates. They had no fur and no hair, and two thick tentacles like wings sprouted from their shoulder plates. The bone-crushing creatures used their tentacles well, beating prey and pulling them in. Their teeth were formidable, and Hadarai realized in horror what the big pieces of chalk were – feces from an animal that ate bone. It explained why there were no skeletons in all the keep: the creatures ate bone.
The bone crushers chased the four them out of the room, and they retreated at a dead run for the nearest corner, where a thick tower door was open. Dolon, the first in, found a second door behind the first – locked. Within moments he had the door's lock picked, and the rest of the party rushed in, Sunalor barely holding the door as one of the beasts slammed against the ancient, enchanted wood.
They rushed into the heart of the tower, and slammed the door shut behind them, feeling relief as its powerful lock clicked into place.
Sunalor's sunrod shed light on the situation. There were stairs that led up the middle of the tower, so far up that darkness swallowed the light of the rod. Great wooden stairs with no balcony led up the inside of the tower up into the darkness. On the far side of room, a grate was pulled aside, exposing a depth to the tower's foundation. And out of the large hole crawled one of the larger flesh-eating frogs.
Battle ensued in the chaotic darkness, though the light was soon enjoined by Hadarai's blue-white flaming sphere. The roiling blue-white flame helped to crisp some of the smaller frogs that came up out of the hole. Others of the smaller frogs leapt down out of the darkness, attacking en masse. The party had stepped into a nest of the creatures.
Sunalor's armor and shield again proved invulnerable to the monstrous frogs, Lorcan killed and ate quite a few of the smaller ones. And then the battle was over.
Sunalor and Dolon pushed the grate back into place, seeing only water below – possibly sewers or even a cistern.
The door was hit hard by one of the bone-crushing creatures. The party figured that if they stayed, it might only be a matter of time before the creatures got in, and so they pushed on, up the stairs.
The stairs followed the inside wall of the tower up thirty feet, to a small platform with large double doors. The double-doors were slightly ajar, letting in a shaft of afternoon sunlight. The overhead ceiling had a pulley system built into the joists; it looked as though, in the past, large pieces of machinery or stone could have been moved up through the tower to the platform. Looking out through the slits, the party could see that the doors opened up onto the twenty-five foot thick, thirty foot tall walls, complete with five-foot thick crenalades for archers.
The doors were left alone, and the lone remaining door looked to lead to a sealed in staircase that continued up. The door was locked, but Dolon had no trouble picking the rusted lock. Dust and debris was thick on the platform, and the age of the structure continued to be pushed back.
Up the stairs, they found empty rooms, indicating a kitchen, single-occupancy rooms, and a small barracks. Some of the rooms had the remains of furniture – and claw marks along the walls and even ceilings. They could only imagine the terror the occupants would have felt, when the creatures attacked.
Up another set of stairs, they stepped into trouble. Stirges had created a nest on the top-most floor of the tower, where arrow-slits gave a good vantage. Hadarai's flaming sphere was used on the next itself, causing larvae and pupae to explode, one at a time. Dolon, Liffey, and Sunalor attacked the stirges, as Hadarai magic-missiled them with blasts of blue-white force. Within moments, the stirges were defeated.
Dolon tried to eat a bit of stirge, but wretched at the taste of it.
They went over the top tower, searching for whatever they could find. The room was once an open barracks bay, and planks of wood were scattered about. Using larger planks, they quickly barred the arrow slits, and decided to rest until sunset. They had only been on land for an hour, and already they were exhausted.
The five of them, including Lorcan, rested at the top of the tower until sunset. Not long after the sun set, they began to hear roaring from the inner keep. The bone-crushing creatures were calling to one another, as they left for the night's hunting. Peeking through the boards in the arrow-slits, they saw a pride of at least eight leave – and heard them calling to others in the village ruins.
A small debate began, on whether to wait for morning, or whether to go into the central keep right then and there. With the bone-eaters leaving the keep, the group finally decided to go in, smash-and-grab style, and find the circlet. They felt strongly that the circlet had to be in the central keep. So it goes in every horror story told of mages and swordsmen.
They moved cautiously, going down the stairs with Sunalor leading. At the landing, they paused. One of the double-doors was wide open, the red light of Maroth filtering in. Dolon slipped ahead, moving downstairs into the darkness as quietly as humanly possible.
He heard one of the bone-eaters tearing apart one of the giant frog corpses, down in the darkness. And then the bone-crushing stopped for a moment. Dolon decided to go back up the stairs in the knick of time, realizing too late that the bone-eaters could see in the dark – they were night-hunters, after all, living in darkness.
Dolon bolted as quickly as possible up the stairs, sprinting out of the opened doors – and the bone-eater leapt across the intervening distance in one great pounce, startling Sunalor and the rest into action. The beast battled both Dolon and Sunalor at once, as Hadarai and Liffey did all they could to take the great beast down. And down it finally went. Together, the four of them had managed to kill one of the bone-eaters. Barely.
Feeling somewhat victorious, they continued down the stairs, ready to go into the keep.
Moving cautiously, they left the tower, watching for other lone members of the pride of bone-eaters. They went in the same room they had tried earlier, always on the alert for more of the bone-crushing creatures.
The bottom floor of the keep turned out to be empty. The main entrance led into a small hallway, with a sitting room off to one side and a small library off the other. Two book covers were salvageable, but the books themselves had long since gone to dust. The rest of the bottom floor led into an enormous dining room. A dining table ten feed wide and fifty feet long dominated the room. The table was so large and so strong that it had only shifted under the weight and occupation of the pride. There were large pieces of chalk everywhere, and chalky dust ankle-deep.
With twenty foot ceilings, there was only a set of large spiral stairs to use. They went up, to the second floor. A battle broke out. The second floor was the nesting lair of the mother bone-eaters. Three of them with three sets of kits attacked the party, first one, and then two at once. The battle was fierce, with Liffey scared for her life, and that of Lorcan. Dolon was nearly disemboweled, and Sunalor knocked flat with rents in his armor. But one by one, the bone-eaters were defeated, though not without considerable effort.
Sunalor had to rest up against the wall for ten minutes, catching his breath, exhausted. While he did so, the rest of the party dispatched the remaining kits – all save one, which Dolon secreted into his pack. The kit was unconcious and close to death, but still alive, and Dolon knew that Hadarai especially would finish the kit off. Lorcan could smell the kit, and kept sniffing at Dolon's pack, trying to get into it, putting his paws on the pack whether Dolon was wearing it or not.
After a brief rest, they cleared out the rest of that floor, finding only an onyx game set still latched inside its tough wooden box. The rest of the furniture had been destroyed to make nests for the bone-crushers.
On the next floor, the party found several rooms of interest. One of them was a treasury, whereupon they found thousands of gold and silver coins, as well as gems of great value. There was also a jade statuette that radiated pure, unadulterated evil. Lorcan could not enter the room – his fear was simply too great. None of them could touch the evil statuette, and Hadarai finally realized what it was – an idol of the Dark God, Nathel.
Hadarai, using telekenesis, maneuvered the idol into the enchanted bag Horbe had given them, and which Dolon wore. The gold and silver and gems went into the bag, as well.
In another room, they found a personal armory. Like the treasury, the centuries had left things ajumble and chaotic. They found enchanted chainmail sized for a woman, a staff of honey-colored wood with red-gold end caps, a flail, a basket-hilted longsword, an amulet, and a cape. Nothing besides remained in the room. All of the items save the staff went into the bag, and Hadarai quickly tossed aside his own quarterstaff in favor of the new one.
The rest of the floor was given over to a large room that could have looked out over the whole village, but the years had not been kind to the room. The evil statuette had apparently kept the creatures out of the treasury, but not the other rooms – but the mere presence of the statue on the floor had kept the damage from the bone-eaters to a minimum. Something else had happened on that floor.
Then they went up, to the final floor, the chalky feces growing thick. The stairs let into a small greeting room with a door, and the party filed into the greeting room, and then tried the door. Beyond that door, a massive room dominated the top floor of the keep. An intact library with books filled every wall of the massive room, and a number of tables were spread about the room. The mummified corpses of several bone crushers were just inside the door. In the center of that room, stood a rusted over statue – whose head turned to look at the door as soon as they peeked inside.
Hadarai groaned. The statue was a golem, of a type he was somewhat familiar with from his years of training at Lok Magius. Oft-times golems had either command words, or command objects – sometimes pendants or bracelets, so that whomever wore the pendant, commanded the golem. Thinking quickly, they pulled the magical pendant from the bag.
Hadarai put the pendant on, and called for the golem to move forward. To advance. To move. To obey. The statue continued to stare at them inside the greeting room. Dolon coached Hadarai in pronunciation of the Karatikan tongue, as they tried the older words on the golem. Still nothing happened.
He strode boldly into the room, and stood his ground. The statue moved forward – and attacked. Hadarai barely made it back into the greeting room in time. The golem stood in the doorway, its nine-foot figure blocking the frame.
Getting frustrated, Hadarai decided to figure out just what the pendant really was. Concentrating, and using his arcane mastery, he finally was able to ascertain the nature of the enchanted pendant. It was merely a protective amulet, of no great power. Hadarai had seen hundreds of them made at Lok Magius by the apprentices.
Wondering what else had been in the armory, Hadarai took his time to find out just what the other items had been. In the end, he was rather disappointed. Though enchanted, and of some considerable use, they proved to be no more powerful than items that could have been created by first or second year students of item creation at the mages' academy. The situation was confusing.
Hadarai tried blasting the golem with one of his magic missiles, and then the statue moved out of the way. Whenever he would stick his head or hand in to attack the statue, it would move forward to attack him. The situation was frustrating.
Perhaps inspired by madness, Hadarai had Dolon empty the statue out of the enchanted bag – but the only way to do so was to dump everything out at once, since none of them could touch the statue. Hadarai quickly used his telekenesis cantrip to pick the statue up, while Dolon rapidly put everything back in the bag.
The idol of Nathel went into the room, and Hadarai prepared to use the idol to attack the golem. The eyes of the idol lit up, and feedback destroyed the cantrip, dropping the idol next to the golem. Hadarai quickly used another cantrip, a mage hand, to pick the statue up, and thrust it back into Horbe's bag.
It was too late. The golem had been awakened in some fashion. Its eyes glowed briefly before sputtering out.
The golem burst through the wall into the greeting room, knocking Sunalor out with an outgassing of metallicized rust. Liffey, panicking, dragged Sunalor back. Hadarai hit the statue with what magic he could, while Dolon darted into the main room.
Dolon ran quickly, Sunalor's sunrod giving him enough illumination to see the corpse of a humanoid half inside of another small room. The glint of golden metal about the corpse's skull clued him in, and he quickly stripped the circlet they had come for off of the skeleton. And then he ran.
Sunalor awoke with his feet above his head, the image of the golem bearing down on him, Liffey dragging him away from the metallic creature as quickly as possible. And suddenly he was on his feet, running down the stairs with her.
They all ran for their lives, the golem chasing them down the stairs, the tough wooden stairs reverberating with every step of the golem.
They careened around the corners, leapt out of the windows, and ran heedlessly through the gate. The golem was not far behind.
Outside the outer wall, they paused for a moment. One wanted to go along the river's unnatural levee. Another wanted to go out on the stone jetty. Another wanted to go along the beach. The fourth stood there.
The golem made their decision for them, chasing after Dolon. Dolon tossed his pack aside, knowing it would slow him down, and dove into the river, swimming for his life. The golem plunged into the river, a massive wake following it as it went in after cunning linguist.
Sunalor unfurled the white bit of sail cloth, and waved it with a second sunrod lit. Hadarai let off flares of magic missiles, their blue-white bursts flying into the air like fireworks.
The golem disappeared from the surface, but the water was shallow enough for its v-shaped wake to be seen, as it powered through the mud and muck, relentlessly chasing after Dolon. Dolon, pushed out to sea by the river's power, swam with all his might away from the fresh water, and along the beach.
He swam out for deeper water, and went over on his back, trying to get the idol out so that he could drop it, certain that the golem was after the evil idol. He couldn't touch it to get it out of the bag, and couldn't bring himself to empty the bag.
Hadarai, seeing the situation in dim red light of Maroth, tossed his newly-acquired quarterstaff aside and plunged into the sea to help Dolon. The wizard swam out to meet Dolon, who was tiredly, doggedly swimming towards the dim lanterns of the Dellistar. Hadarai managed to catch up with Dolon, and will himself to reach into Horbe's pouch, and pull out the idol.
Electric evil pulsed through Hadarai's hand, and he dropped the idol into the salty waters.
Dolon swam towards shore, Hadarai following. Hadarai risked a quick glimpse back, and saw the golem's eyes awaken again, illuminating the idol that it held in one large hand. Hadarai looked towards the shore, swimming for his life.
Sunalor and Liffey could see a bonfire across the river, where the crew of the Dellistar had made a camp. They could see the lanterns of the Dellistar as the ship rode out at sea. With what little light was available, they saw figures move out away from the bonfire on the other side of the river, and push the longboat into the water.
Dolon and Hadarai came back on shore, and ran back towards the stone jetty with all their strength, Hadarai stopping only long enough to pick up his enchanted quarterstaff. Dolon picked up his pack as he went, not realizing that Lorcan had already pounced on the pack hard enough to kill the kit inside.
The golem was following.
The longboat pulled up at the jetty, Sunalor yelling at them to hurry, to hurry! As the crew made to make fast to the jetty, Sunalor and Liffey told them to cast off and row away, as Hadarai and Dolon came running.
Dolon leapt across the intervening space of water like an acrobat. Hadarai simply flew, legs windmilling, and both landed in the boat as the two bewildered crewmen finally saw the metallic giant barelling down the stone jetty, sparks thrown out with each step.
The golem stopped at the edge of the stone jetty, the idol grasped in one hand. The golem scowled at them, and then turned around, heading back towards the keep.
The crewmen rowed the party back to the Dellistar, and helped them aboard.
Dolon was petrified. He curled up into a ball and cried at how close to death he had been. They were all shaken.
Captain Nallya wanted to know only one thing: had they found the circlet?
They had, and Dolon kept it on him, though Hadarai had the dagger in his waist.
The longboat was sent back ashore, on the other side of the river, with Sunalor and Liffey acting as guides. The horses were picked up, the bonfire extinguished, and the camp torn down.
They could hear, across the river, the roar of a bone-eater cut in half by the golem's ferocity.
Hadarai asked, “What have we done?” He wondered just what evil they had unleashed on the world. He worried that the Dark God once more strode the lands of mortal men.
Evening, the 12th of Cal, 1331 Avard.
Each player received 625 experience points for role-play. Hadarai and Dolon now have 2120 experience points each, and Sunalor and Liffey have 1675 apiece.
The following notes represent the 'behind the scenes' and 'post op' actions of the players and the Dungeon Master.
We played on February 21st, 2009, at my place again. Weather was rainy with just a hint of a chill in the air. I had half a plan, and half a prayer. Todd helped me quite a bit on the monster ideas, but the rest of it would be a 'fly by the seat of my pants' kinda game. Dinner was pizzas, courtesy of Papa John's.
Wonderful time with a master story teller as usual. I could honestly listen to this man spin a tale of the yellow-pages. Bob Jones 555-….. (fred stares in slack jawed wonder) cant wait till next week. EGADS!
boooooo! I was gonna gift the cat to lok magius for study as it were… Oh well.
Damn you again, DM god!
Umm, I definitely thought that Lorcan picked the bag up and brought it to the ship…? Did you decide to change that sire?
Lorcan merely pounced on the bag, killing the kit. Dolon has his bag back, for I'm assuming he or Sunalor grabbed it in their mad dash for the longboat – but the kit inside of it is dead, thanks to Lorcan. Wolves can make pounce attacks, jumping up into the air and coming down with all their weight on their front paws – their weight times the height and the fall resulting in enough force to break ribs if not seriously stun smaller prey. The tactic is most often used in snow fields, where the wolf can't actually get at prey, but can collapse tunnels and stun the prey long enough to get to it.
0_o wow, I am truly an idiot, lol.