Kingmaker

The Resurrection of Varynhold
And also a lot of cash

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 2, Month 11

Varynhold

We returned to the Valley of the Dead to find the uncanny presence removed and wildlife returned. The whole place feels healthier somehow. We made our way back to the tower without incident and found it much as we had left it.

The sulphurous cavern lay beyond the room where we first encountered Vordekai. Brief exploration revealed a broken bridge over a large pit filled with tar that was the source of the stench. The tar, in turn, was filled with grasping black hands, which tried to pull me in. I don't think those naturally occur in tar pits, but whatever. Gelros decided the best course of action was to light the tar on fire to burn out whatever undead horror lurked within. In his defense, this did get rid of the hands. It also turned the tar into a raging, impassable inferno. Good times.

It took a little over 12 hours for the flames to die down. We had a meal and rested, and when we awoke it was at least possible to walk in the cavern. Narzeth cast a fly spell on me, which allowed me to scout an alternate path back to the river. He transported all of us across the tar pit and further into the complex using some short-range teleportation spell. "Dimension Door" I think he called it. How alliterative.

Beyond, up the hallway, we found a massive space that can only be described as a feasting chamber. Here, we found the final destination of many of the inhabitants of Varynhold. Lord Maegar Varyn himself, surrounded by senior officials and a high ranking cleric, sat arrayed around a large stone table. Now normally, they would be doing the feasting. Instead, in this case, it was those seated who were being feasted upon: every one of them was dead, with cranium split and brain missing. Jaric, in his expert medical opinion, declared them deceased from lack of brains. (In a slightly more useful observation, he and Gelros also recalled that liches like Vordekai can gain knowledge from brain consumption, which was perhaps the motivation here?)

I should also mention that the grotesque chamber was originally inhabited by shuffling cyclopean zombies, which we methodically dispatched. Everyone, even Everiel and Gelros, got at least one kill. It was cathartic, in a way.

The latter chambers were of greater interest. Up one level, we traversed a disconcerting octagonal chamber with a crystal dome, shaped like an inverted eye. The walls were covered with ancient cyclopean carvings, which appear carved over something even older which we couldn't quite make out. Whatever it was is decidedly evil (as Jaric told us, after we revived him, after he fainted from examining it) and overwhelmingly magical. (Conjuration? Divination? These are words; Gelros used them. I like "magical." Easier to follow.)

Whatever the purpose of the chamber, the water elemental guardians beyond soon distracted us. Everiel straight out dismissed one (it winked into nonexistence!) and we beat another into submission the old-fashioned way. Beyond the elementals lay a throne room, library, and storage: clearly Vordekai's former lair.

We started in the library. Among the religious texts proclaiming the glory of the Four Horsemen and mildly appalling instruction manuals on how to architect major disasters, Gelros found the journal of Vordekai himself. He was able to glean (so he tells us, and none of us can read cyclopean) that Vordekai was in some sort of statis and awoke recently, after 10,000 years of slumber, to find his abilities severely atrophied. Still, it seems he was powerful enough to craft many "soul jars" and enslave the populace of Varynhold in them. And store them. For food. Like a larder. Ugh. There were also some notes on the "Eye of Aabbaddon and its uses." Gelros was rather vague on this point, probably because Narzeth looked far too interested.

We later found another body elsewhere in the dungeon, with a journal. It turned out to be Wiless Gunderson. He recorded in his journal that he accidentally awoke the evil undead lich thing (ok, I'm paraphrasing) by trespassing in this tower. He paid not only with his life (while trying to escape he succumbed to his wounds) but the entire town of Varynhold paid too.

So the journals solved the mystery, but the reward was the treasure. So much treasure! The contents of Vordekai's chambers must be worth 100,000 gold pieces, at minimum! We also found some 200 of these "soul jars", and a strange relic that Gelros and Shella recognized as a "portable hole." Apparently it's a giant extradimensional pocket useful for transporting, oh, I don't know, 200 ensnared human souls in jars, or pantloads of treasure.

We liberated the remaining citizens of Varynhold (mostly commoners) earlier today, upon arriving back in Varynhold. Shella took immense joy in smashing all the jars. Among the prisoners was Maestro Ervil Pendrod, so that solves that mystery as well. Leaderless and grateful, the citizens of Varynhold (with a tiny bit of coaxing from Gelros) agreed to join the Kingdom of Arboria if we will restore their town's goods that had been looted, I mean, ah, commandeered.

So that is where we are. With the centaurs placated and the mystery of Varynhold solved, the eastern border is secure. Tomorrow we depart for Bandit's Rest and what we hope to be an extended period of development.

Experience

  • 14,400 XP for clearing the feast hall
  • 9,600 XP for killing two elementals
  • 4,800 XP for "overcoming" the ghost of Wiless Gunderson, who was angry (by defeating Vordekai so he didn't need to be angry anymore)

Loot

  • Portable hole
  • 1710 pp, 19500 gp, and 154500 sp
  • Various art objects altogether worth an additional 29250 gp
  • Ring of friend shield (the match to the one found in the village)
  • Ring of protection +2
  • Cloak of resistance +1
  • Gloves of swimming and climbing
  • Pouch holding three packets of dust of dryness
  • +1 cold iron magical beast bane flail
  • All Tools Vest (1,800 gp)
  • Ki Mat (10,000 gp)
  • Sheath of Bladestealth (5,000 gp)
  • Belt of mighty constitution +4
  • Lyre of building
  • 4th level wizard scroll
  • Vordekai's spellbook
  • Another set of spellbooks, from when Vordekai was a 20th level caster
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Freed by a Stranger

I awoke to the sound of a voice as it slid into my consciousness from somewhere beyond the dark prison in which I was bound.  Has the time come at last when I am to be devoured by that one-eyed mage? I wondered as I braced myself for what was to come.

At first, I thought it was taunting me by asking questions about my life and then promising to release me after “studying the object,” but before long I stood before a mysterious figure whose identity was concealed by a thick black cloak. He asked me about someone by the name of Vordakill or Vordakim or something like that, but I swore I knew nothing and I pleaded for my life.

In the end, the figure seemed to be satisfied with my answer and he told me to “Hurry home to my family.” Then, he (or she) tossed me 10 gold coins right before he disappeared into thin air before my very eyes. I certainly had some questions, but wasn’t about to wait around for something else bad to happen, so I ran home to find that my three children were safe and sound in the village.

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Dead Reckoning
In which everyone's plans go poorly

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 2, Month 11

Wilderness Northwest of Nomen Lands

Bessie is too tired to go further tonight, but with this morning's events fresh in my mind I can't sleep. So I might as well record them, regardless of the poor quality of campfire light for journal writing.

The good news is that the beast Vordekai and his flesh-slave are destroyed forever. The bad news is that the Duke of Arboria and the commanding general of its armies lie dead a day's ride south of me. The good news is that Everiel is alive and preserving their corpses and that Jaric had enough funds on hand to purchase scrolls to raise them to life again. The bad news is that the nearest civilization of note is Restov, four days by horse. The good news is that as I write this I am still sane enough to try to use humor to raise my own spirits. The bad news is that it's not working.

So here I am, pockets filled with gems that could buy half a city block, alone in the wilderness on my way to Restov and back in a quest to avoid throwing Arboria into anarchy. At least I'm used to this kind of thing. But catharsis isn't why I'm writing now; logic tells me that we'll have Gelros and Shella restored to us soon even though my heart is still stuck watching him get cut down by the undead brute. In actuality, I feel I must record the particulars of the combat in case we ever encounter such beings again in the future. So that we don't suck so badly again.

Rehashing the whole battle would take far too long and I don't know if I'd remember it all correctly anyway, so let's do the highlights, shall we? We came to the waterfall, camped, and prepared to destroy the eye. Shella took it alone to the island, and we prepared some defensive magic: fire resistance, natural armor. Shella swung her axe once, twice, thrice, somehow hitting it with only glancing blows each time. Almost as if it didn't want to be destroyed. Jaric would say some deity was intervening on its behalf, but my wager is the glare off the water and general nerves. (Somewhere, deep down, Shella has those, I'm convinced, though she doesn't show it.) The fourth hit struck home, shattering the gem.

All was quiet for a few moments, and then the now unmistakable crack of teleportation split the air. The emaciated and corpulent duo was there, beside Shella, on the tiny island. Gelros and I were ready. I glanced at him to act first, and he did something I did not expect: he jumped to the island, 30 feet through the air, and splashed down next to the corpulent one. He them planted his feet in the shallows, slammed down some small object, and a massive tree sprung out of the island, knocking the corpulent undead backwards and very nearly into the water. Unfortunately, "very nearly" is not the same as "actually" and a moment later, that same undead swung his axe twice and Gelros crumpled into a heap. (Lesson 1: If there is a hair-brained plan to be executed, do not let your leader execute it.)

Without Gelros leadership, things went poorly for the next thirty to forty seconds. The undead had arrived with some obvious magical protections, against both physical and spell effects. Narzeth attempted several times to make spells stick or even to remove their protections, but could not. I shot a dozen arrows, of which only a few connected. I could see arrows passing through the emaciated one's torso and shoulders without connecting; some illusion was preventing me from discerning his true location. Shella had little more luck with her axe.

Meanwhile, Vordekai (the emaciated one, and yes, I'm taking liberties with spelling his name as I speak neither Nomen nor Cyclops) was wreaking havoc within our lines. I shook off two obviously magical effects from him, although I'm not sure what they were. Jaric was blinded. The corpulent one, fighting toe-to-toe with Shella, killed her around this point. (Lesson 2: It is probably unwise to separate the healers from the party member most likely to be bearing the brunt of the enemies' wrath.)

It is about at this point that the tide started to turn. Everiel stepped in and provided some much needed leadership, through action. (I was trying, but I couldn't even get everyone to focus on the same target. Lesson 3: Focus on the same target! Anyway, the point is that my leadership was worthless.) She cast some "bane" spell on my bow (twice!) that made it hit a good deal harder. I had an epiphany about the Centaur legend of the magical club that had hurt the ancient evil undead, and pulled out blunt arrows, which turned out to be significantly more effective. Narzeth managed to land a scorching ray, and even Kris (looking exceedingly annoyed at using a bow, I might add) landed some shots. Jaric produced a scroll, which Everiel snatched and used to remove his blindness. Raven showed up (I am at a loss to explain this, but she did) and began contributing.

Without targets next to them, the undead began to make their way toward us. The corpulent one apparently figured walking across the bottom of the lake would be most efficient. (This put him out of commission for a few seconds, but as we shall see, he was well-positioned to hurt us when he did finally arrive.) The emaciated one simply teleported, at which point Everiel cast something or other (hey, I was busy aiming, ok?) and then cast silence (on herself!) to mute the creature's ability to cast its own spells. This seems to have worked; he stopped landing spells.

From here out, it was a sprint to kill off the other side first. Working in tandem, we manage to destroy Vordekai. Meanwhile, his corpulent assistant walks up on short in the middle of Kris, Narzeth, and Jaric and hits all of them (plus Shadetail) with his axe. (Lesson 4: when faced with a fat, maniacal undead with a huge bloody axe, SPREAD OUT.) Jaric kept everyone alive just long enough for us to wear him down too, although he murdered Shadetail and nearly killed Narzeth too.

That was it. We collected bodies. (Kris had had Shadetail fetch Gelros previously, to prevent his going over the waterfall). Jaric and Everiel examined the lich and concluded that his phylactery was in his possession, but his soul was gone from it. In other words, Vordekai has been destroyed permanently. Not much of a consolation prize, though, with Gelros and Shella dead too. Hope to fix that soon…

Nomen Village

We arrived back at the Nomen camp last night, and I have a few items to catch up on. First, my mission to Restov with Jaric's cash was successful: I returned within a week and Everiel was able to raise both Gelros and Shella. They are shaky but seem otherwise not much worse for having endured 7 days of soul-body separation.

Second, we brought the undeads' re-killed corpses to the Nomen, who were exstatic. Mother Moon has signed a formal treaty with Arboria in which we will respect their enclave and ancestral lands as a reserve in exchange for peace on the border.

Third, Shella took the plate armor from the corpulent one (it is mithral!) and has been wearing it (it also magically resizes!), but we've noticed some strange effects: something is growing in it. If she wears it, she starts to develop skin lesions which are raw and bleeding, and within the armor itself undead flesh starts to appear. Cleansing it has so far not worked, so we're avoiding the armor for now. We'll have to figure this out sooner or later, though; that armor is simply too valuable to leave unused.

And finally, about that eye: we recovered it's counterpart (cracked, but not destroyed) from the emaciated one's face. It's clearly powerful and equally as evil; Jaric nearly fell down when he went to examine it. Oddly, Narzeth seems to have developed an unhealthy attachment to it. First he tried to sneak it when we weren't looking. Later, when we showed it to Gelros, he tried to convince Gelros that he should be the one to keep it. This bodes ill, and also will require research back in Bandit's Rest.

But first, we have the rest of the Valley of the Dead to explore and reclaim.

XP

  • Killed the undead cyclops (28,800)
  • Completed quest: The Nomen Problem (7,200 XP)

Loot

  • +1 Greataxe
  • Suit of +2 mithral full plate

    • It resizes back to medium!
    • Presently cursed with some kind of undead flesh growth
  • Cloak of Resistance +3
  • Headband of mental prowess: +2 INT, +2 CHA, ranks in Knowledge (The Planes)
  • Ring of Protection +2
  • Magical artifact – phylactery, but does NOT contain his soul? He's dead permanently.
  • Occulus of Abbadon
  • Weird looking jar: soul jar
  • Magical rod: Lesser metamagic rod of bouncing
  • Bracers of armor +2
  • Dark blue iounstone (Alertness feat)
  • 6,000 GP from Restov
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Power Overwhelming
He needs focus...

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 2, Month 11

Nomen Village

We escaped. We only lost one, and she is now restored to us. That's an achievement in itself, in my book, but bittersweet. The writing of this journal becomes urgent now, not as catharsis, but as a record: if we should fall someone needs to know what we faced in there.

By now, dear reader, you know that we had found a magical gemstone eye, a focus of some kind (as we came to learn) and brimming with evil power (as Jaric found when he opened his soul's eye to it later). Shella pried it from the wall. (The rest of us were standing well back, half expecting the room to implode, or explode, or some other hideous fate to befall Shella. But Shella was not to be deterred.) For a moment, we thought it was all successful; Shella reappeared around the corner tossing the gem blithely in the air and calling out to Gelros.

And that is when they appeared. I will call them the Emaciated One and the Corpulent One; it seems fitting. The Emaciated One was mere skin and bones and tattered rags, with a single red crystalline gem in its single eye socket. This, we believe, is the Vordekai of the legends. The Corpulent One has a name too—I heard the Emaciated One speak it in the heat of battle—but I can't recall it now. It dominated the room, wearing the sort of armor you only ever see in low-brow horror paintings in the pop market and brandishing a giant flaming axe. They appeared with a crack of thunder and a sense of impending doom. (I'm not exaggerating here; that's exactly what it felt like.)

As I recall, the conversation went like this…

The Emaciated One: "Fools! Give me back my focus!"

Gelros Zhevons, Duke of Arboria: "Ah, no?"

And then they attacked.

Both of the monsters' eyes gleamed with that same ability we had previously observed in the lesser cyclops, only this time it appears they applied it to moving first and fastest. The Corpulent One swung his axes three times, and neatly divided Everiel into three pieces. Just like that, dead on the floor. I've seen death and war, but that hideous display shook me. It shook the others too, I could tell. Thankfully Shella didn't actually see it happen; I believe she would have lost her mind then and there.

The next few moments were chaos. I won't lie, we were in disarray. Shella came charging out the passage, murder in her eyes. Narzeth somehow managed to brush her on the way by and expand her to twice her normal size, making her equally as terrifying as the Corpulent One itself. I took a shot, hoping to dislodge that axe, but failed to land it. A tough shot at the best of times, but the nerves didn't help. Kris and his cat entered the fray too, but seemed mostly ineffective against that hideous non-Euclidean armor. Moreover, Kris paid for his movement by soaking a punishing axe blow.

Fortunately for us, the cyclops made mistakes too. The Emaciated One attempted to cast a spell right in front of Kris, Shella, and Shadetail; it didn't even attempt to dodge. Perhaps it has grown accustomed to it's own dominance and didn't expect resistance? In any case, my companions made it pay for that error, and it staggered back. It looked surprised, at least as surprised as dead skin and bones can look. I followed through with several arrows, which appeared only partially effective but still kept it busy ducking.

As Shella bore the brunt of the Corpulent One's wrath, both Gelros and Jaric tried to heal her, but failed. The same demoralizing aura and sense of dread I could so clearly feel was somehow affecting their healing magic too. Narzeth was able to use his boneshattering spell, but to be honest, the impact seemed quite limited to me. At this point, I was getting quite worried about losing Shella and therefore the fight, but at that moment the Emaciated One called a retreat. With another thunderous crack, they were gone. The words "Cephal, attend me!" echoed in the air.

Dishevelled, we looked at Gelros. He looked at a loss too, but then said simply, "We're leaving." And so we left. Oh yes, there was the minor matter of "Cephal" (we surmise), who turned out to be a zombified wizard and attempted to stop us with fire. We eliminated him as a threat. Remembering what had happened with the cyclops zombie, Kris took his body with us. We unceremoniously stuffed Everiel's remains into our bag of holding and beat a retreat.

Amazingly, we met no further resistance on our way out. Upon reaching our encampment outside the valley, we rested a brief night and then made all haste for the Nomen village, the Eye still in our possession. Gelros had a long discussion with Mother Moon. She is overjoyed at the safe return of Xamanthe (and has even gifted us Skybolt!), but the shadow of Vordekai's return hangs like a dark cloud over the celebrations. Shella has been dour and snappy since we ran from the Valley of the Dead; she detests leaving a fight unfinished.

Jaric returned Everiel from death. I am sure that was an expensive proposition. Never let it be said that Gelros does not invest in his followers. I was not present, but I hear Everiel had some strange experiences beyond the grave… something about chanting, fire, the sound of feet, and seeking the "trials." It sounded very religious. I don't go for that stuff, but what with the evil undead cyclops and all even I am reserving judgment this time.

I should also note that we identified Cephal: it turns out he is one of the lost leaders of Varynhold. Even to my poorly trained eye, his body clearly shows signs of extensive, methodical torture. His bones are broken and re-knitted (poorly); his robes are shredded. He possessed a number of powerful magical items. Now that he is a corpse, we relieved him of these. Jaric insisted on a proper burial, which is only right; the man was noble once. Before he became a dead and broken slave.

We have decided to break the Eye. Seeing as last time we did anything with it, the Emaciated and Corpulent Ones appeared, we're going about this carefully. Mother Moon has directed us to a pool at the top of a high waterfall, with a small island. Tomorrow, we will set an ambush there, and Shella will destroy the eye. I don't know what will happen then, but the terrain should at least be more favorable than an evil chamber in a dark fortress.

If I don't return, I've personally asked Xamanthe to carry this journal back to Arboria and warn them of what's coming. Jaric was praying; Everiel and Shella were sparring (I guess that's how they pray?). I don't pray, but if I did, this would seem like a good time. Instead, I spent the afternoon training Bessie and practicing archery with the centaur. Something to take my mind off the task to come.

Wish us luck.

XP

  • Defeat Cephal (6,400 XP)
  • Quest: Return Xamanthe (7,200 XP

Loot

  • Cephal's gear

    • Spellbook

      • 4th: Fire Shield, Lesser Globe of Invulnerability
      • 3rd: Fireball, Fly, Wind wall
      • 2nd: Acid arrow, Glitterdust (DC 14), Mirror Image, Scorching Ray
      • 1st: Burning Hands, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Shield
    • +1 Dagger
    • Ring of Protection +2
    • Rod of Lesser Selective Magic
    • Amulet Natural Armor +1
  • 9 potions cure moderate
  • Skybolt (Darkwood / Ivory +2 Thundering Composite Longbow STR +4)
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A place of Metal and Fire
Nomen Centaur Village

Metal.  Smoke.  Fire.  Marching Feet.

Everiel stirred from the table, the magic of the scroll fading as her spirit returned.   She looked around, seeing High Priest Jaric slowly lower his hands and the scroll he was holding crumbled to dust.   The Walls of the Mother Moon's hut surrounded her, thick with tapestry and animal hides.   in the light of a few simple lanterns, she could see the face of Shella, her Iron mother, look down.

How are you battle sister?, asked Shella. 

Everiel took a moment to recover, and said: "I am as well as someone who just returned from the bonds of death can be, Iron Mother."  "I am honored you would see fit to waste such valuable magics upon me."

Shella boomed out: "Ha, like i would let such a promising young candidate like you go to waste.  You fell by my side in Glorious Battle, and Gorum be Dammed if i was to let you stay cold in the ground when you could join us in yet more Battles of blood and Honor!"

Jaric askes: "Should i prepare the spells of restoration?  Gelros managed to find enough pure diamonds in out stash of gems to allow me to restore her to her full strength."

"Yes" replied Shella.  "I suspect we shall need Everiel in the coming fights with that damn cyclops duo."  

As Jaric begins the process to cast yet more divine spells, Shella leans in to speak with Everiel.  "Tell me sister, do you rember anything from your time beyond the veil?"

Everiel pauses, then speaks. "The last thing i remember mother, is that damn axe parting my spleen from my spine and burning out my breakfast through my nostrils."  "Though, i do remember a feeling of warmth, and the sounds of armies marching."

"Nothing Else?" asked Shella, as the glow of restorative magic began to seep into Everiel's skin.

"Well there was one more thing", said Everiel.  "I think I remember a voice reverberating in my head, saying Seek the trials."  "Thats the only thing i remember before waking up here."

"Innteresting," mumble Shella.

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An Overpopulation of Soul Eaters
It's like a parliament of owls or a school of fish.

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 2, Month 11

Day 1.5? 1.7?

We finally found a place to rest. It's a hell-hole filled with dried blood, torture instruments, and Centaur feces, but, you know, it has a certain homey quality to it. More of a hovely quality, really. Like a literal hole in the ground. Formerly shared with the denizens of hell.

The shrine room was simultaneously a temple to some horrid deity and a gateway to this lovely corner of the dungeon. The tables were altars, and the cups were filled with dried blood. After poking around for a while, Kris carefully scrubbed out the cups and then gave us the all-clear to proceed. He assures us that by doing so he disabled some kind of horrible fire trap. Sometimes I think he is making stuff up just to pretend to earn his keep.

Beyond the shrine room we found a hallway of hewn stone, half finished. Passageways end in side alcoves; stairs ascend four steps and stop in midair. Of course, our ability to admire the shoddy architecture was cut short by a… demon? I guess? It inquired of Kris in whose name he dared to enter the chambers, and Kris replied (quite honestly, I might add) "In the name of Gelros Zhevons!" Well, the demon creature (apparently, a psychodemon, according to Gelros… although how the mental state of a pyschotic demon differs from a regular one I don't know) didn't respect that.

The psychodemon was a hard target. First, it clawed and grappled Kris. Second, Kris squirmed free. Third, it clawed and grappled Kris. You get the idea. Shella hit it, Jaric hit it, Narzeth cast his boneshattering spell (a couple times, it was apparently resistant), and generally everyone poured on the fury. It declined to die, for a while at least. Eventually, the demon emitted a cloud of noxious, stinking gas, which made Shella mad. So Shella finished it off. Done; moving on.

Meanwhile, a soul eater appeared. Everiel (she's coming in handy, that one) turned one on the psychodemon, which it happily helped murder. I then shot it to death. Another appeared and I shot it to death too. Good riddance.

At the end of the passageway (in the room we currently occupy), we found the centaur, Xamanthe, unconscious, bloodied, and paralyzed. Jaric healed her and released her from paralysis with a scroll, at which point she recovered and began conversing with Gelros in Sylvan. Xamanthe acknowledges being in way over her head and is thankful for the rescue. Upon entering the tomb, she was defeated by the cyclops zombies and brought to this place. She related being tortured by an emaciated cyclops with a single gem for an eye. She wants to go home.

We're spent for today; I've lost track of how many hours it has been since we slept. Much as none of us wants to sleep in this place, it seems the safest option to hole up where we are until we've rested and regained strength. Xamanthe has agreed to wait with us before we move.

Day… we'll call it 2, I guess

I'm writing in a lull in our exploration. This… morning seems an incorrect word, but I'll use it anyway… we woke cold and stiff in Xamanthe's temporary home, the torture chamber. During the "night," Shella had encountered and dispatched one of the zombies; on inspection it appears to be one we'd already destroyed once before. Someone, or something, is repairing them. If I had to guess, it would be this gem-eyed cylcops, who is beginning to sound a lot like the Vordekai of the centaur legends.

We escorted Xamanthe out of the fortress, retracing our steps to the entrance without incident. Outside, it was late morning. Bessie has left; her tracks lead back out of the valley. I can't blame her. Xamanthe headed out the same way. We, because we are fools, turned around and went back in.

When we woke earlier, I had the foresight to summon a centipede to scout the remainder of the fortress for us. At about the time that we returned to the shrine, it was back. I learned a little: the next chamber contained beings that made my vermin friend uneasy, and beyond there was a room full of heat, smoke, and sulpher. Finally, it found another path to the river, which is a useful insight.

We moved cautiously down the hallway and into a large chamber supported by two massive pillars. Here, unsurprisingly, we found soul eaters. Three, this time. We've learned now how to deal with these: Shella engaged and we dispatched them quickly. Now for the interesting part: to the right (as you enter the chamber) is a crack that leads to a passage filled with smoke and fumes. We haven't decided how to get through that yet, but fortunately there was another passage.

Straight ahead there was a door leading into the rock. Beyond this door lay a room with a huge cyclopean fresco and another, secret door, which Kris found behind a statue. This one was locked, both magically and with ordinary means. Narzeth dispelled the magical lock and Kris picked the regular one. Beyond was The Eye.

The Eye is a large gemstone fashioned as an eye and attached to the wall of the chamber. The whole room is so strongly magical even I can feel it. The walls are all covered in smaller painted images of eyes, all looking at that one central gemstone. Narzeth and Gelros studied it; Narzeth believes it may allow teleportation. Everything about that room suggests potent and dangerous magical rituals.

So, naturally, we've decided to steal it. (Well, perhaps "steal" is too strong a word when this entire place is clearly the lair of some evil villian whose very existence is a threat to our lands, but at the least we're claiming it as spoils of war.) So here I am writing, while Shella is in there with a crowbar working on removing it. What could possibly go wrong?

Experience

  • Disable Stygian fire trap (9,600 XP)
  • Defeat pyschodemon and soul eaters (14,400 XP)
  • Rescue Xamanthe (quest XP to follow later)
  • Defeat more soul eaters (XP?)

Loot

I got an eye, I got an eye, I got an eye, hey hey hey hey!

View
Give them the ol' angry eye.

 

..thieves will not be tolerated.  how dare they touch my focus.  Abaddon will aid me.

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Underwater Adventures, Inc.
Apply Within!

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 2, Month 11

Day 1, Ah… The heck with it; I've lost track of time in here

This temple (castle? dungeon? masoleum?) grows more deadly the further we proceed. It scares me. I wish I were in a forest. Hazards of the trade, but these are particularly risky.

I've lost track of time now, but it must be quite late. After the last room, we needed a breather, so I've taken the opportunity to write things down. If things keep up like this, I might not be around to record them much longer. (Am I cheering you up yet? How about a near-death experience? Hang on!)

In the cavern after the zombies we found a dinosaur. A DINOSAUR. Well, a pleiosaur, which Gelros identified as an elasmosaur. All of which isn't particularly relevant. What is relevant is that (a) it bit Kris, (b) I failed to make nice-nice with it before © everyone decided the best way to fight a large aquatic creature in its native habitat was to dive in the water after it. Needless to say, it was somewhat hard to chase down. In the end, Narzeth used some mind-altering confusion spell and it bit it's own head off.

By this time I had decided that I wasn't following the rest of the party to the bottom of a 50' deep pool and had swum back to secure ropes to rescue them. Sigh. Some good did come of it; Kris found a body at the bottom with a magical ring, which Narzeth believes grants freedom to move through water without impediment. Some good that did the poor bastard who decided to fight the elasmosaur.

Proceeding further required traversing a short underwater passage. I rigged a rope and explored it first; it turned out to be short and easily navigable. Beyond was a large chamber filled with gigantic, and valuable, cyclopean pottery. We stored some of the smaller samples for later inspection, and moved on.

Next came what I have decided to call The Watery Grave. (Ok, look, I'm a bit shaken up here; ask me for good puns some other day.) Amazingly, it appears our centaur friend had been this far; I could still see hoofprints in the dust. Also amazingly, she appears to not have set off the traps. Yes traps, with an s. We, however, found these the old fashioned way: by blundering into them.

The chamber itself was foreboding but relatively normal for a militaristic shrine: ancient cyclopean warrior statues lined the walls of a large room. Kris, Shella, Everiel, and I had just finished cautiously checking the far reaches of the chamber, when several things happened all at once:

  • Large portcullises at each of the room slammed down. (Incidentally, this meant Gelros, Jaric, and Narzeth were locked out.)
  • Holes opened in the ceiling, and water began pouring through, along with some large and unhappy eels.
  • Side alcoves opened, and some of our zombie friends emerged.

The next few seconds were chaos. Narzeth pressed up against the bars and called out to Shella, who subsequently doubled in size. (Yikes!) Meanwhile, Jaric managed to haul up a portcullis manually and Gelros quickly fashions his any-tool into a support and pops it in place. Kris tried but failed to find a way to disable the sudden influx of water, so instead Everiel used stone-shaping magic to close off half the holes. Shella proceeded to smash the zombies, who also smashed Shella to a large degree, and took a chunk out of Jaric as well. Meanwhile, I shot the eels just to keep the enemy count down.

At this point, we're knee deep in water filled with blood (some of it ours) and eel guts, trying to figure out how to get through the room while still preserving a path of escape. Jaric had somehow lifted the first portcullis, but the second was proving harder. Everiel tried twice and failed; Shella tried twice as well. In the end, Gelros rigged a lever with multiple of our any-tools and we all helped Shella pry the gate up. Finally, we blocked both sides with heavy statues before escaping, shaken and bleeding, to the dry hallway beyond.

And here we sit, soaking wet but recovering. Even this notebook is showing the wear, despite being well wrapped in waterproof skins. Jaric and Everiel are finishing some healing rituals, so I expect we will be moving on soon. The room ahead appears to be some kind of shrine.

Experience

  • Defeat elasmosaurus (4,800 XP)
  • Survive trap room (16,800 XP)

Loot

  • Silver raven figurine of wondrous power
  • Platinum and ruby ring of Freedom of Movement
  • +2 gray flame longsword
  • Ancient cyclopean pottery (small) samples
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I'm Going on a Valley of the Dead Trip, and I'm Going To Take...
A Banana!

Kingdom of Arboria, Year 2, Month 11

Preparations

After long consultations with the centaur, preparations, a visit to Restov, and more preparations, we're on our way to the Valley of the Dead. It's not entirely clear to me what we hope to find there, other than the centaur leader's daughter. I hope an alliance with the centaur is itself a worthy prize for this place.

Day 1, Morning: Into the Valley

This morning, we entered the valley. It turns out to lie at the foot of a huge mountain range, beyond an extensive network of foothills. At the entrance of the valley is a stone wall festooned with warning symbols and messages in the centaur's language. Naturally, we ignored these.

The valley itself is several miles long and filled with rows of ancient stone pillars. These appear crafted, and some are inscribed with some ancient form of the Cyclopean language. (Or so says Gelros, and as far as I'm concerned, he knows pretty much everything about everything… so there you have it.) There are thousands of these… some standing, some toppled and broken.

More than the stones, the feel of the valley was oppressive. Despite the sunshine, it felt dark and clammy. The animals apparently feel it too: as we moved further it became quiet and I could see no birds, or even insects. There is something powerful here, and unfriendly.

At the end of the valley, a stone staircase proceeds up the mountain. Here, a quick look at the dust patterns revealed that a hoofed creature (perhaps Xamanthe?) had passed up the staircase fairly recently. I also noticed strange dragging footprints. These, it turns out, belonged to Cyclopean zombies, who promptly ambushed us.

The zombies turned out to be only a slight threat, but there is a menace about them. Their single eyes flash as they attack; it's quite disconcerting. Although we defeated them in short order, they do look powerful and capable of dealing deadly blows. This despite the fact that their mummified flesh appears no less than thousands of years old. As Narzeth and Gelros examine them, I'm recording our progress in this journal. Soon we proceed up the stairs.

Day 1, Early Afternoon: Stair Climber

The stairs were long. Up here, the air is cooler and the sense of doom has slightly abated. (Or I'm getting used to living under a sense of impending doom. It could be that.) At the top of the stairs, we found a small valley with a waterfall and a deep pool. In the pool sits an island, and the centaur tracks make for it. On the island is a large stone pillar, with smoke curling from the top. Whatever we are seeking is probably inside.

First, though, I should mention the wyverns. There were wyverns! These we defeated by teamwork. Significantly more teamwork than usual, I might add. Narzeth worked some magic that allowed Shella to fly (!) and she engaged the creatures with her sword. Shella's companion Everiel, meanwhile, used some potent magic on my longbow (she said it was "bane" magic) which did appear to make my arrows more accurate and deadly to those poor wyverns. I, well, I shot wyverns from horseback. It's what I do. Turned out to be effective too, although I was a wyvern pincushion as well. Jaric took care of that, bless him.

I would be amiss if I didn't record here that Gelros slew a wyvern with sparkly lights from a wand. And that Narzeth fought others off with his balls. His lightning balls. They were truly shocking.

Now that that's out of the way: we took our folding boat (that thing has proven quite useful!) over to the island and found a crack in the rock. We're preparing now to enter.

Day 1, Afternoon: Into Darkness

I believe it to be late afternoon now, but it's pitch black in here so I'm not sure. I left Bessie at the entrance; I hope she has the sense to swim back to the meadow if we tarry too long. This cave is more of a passage, really: there are many alcoves and frescoes detailing ancient cyclopean exploits, cities, empires… it would be quite impressive as an archaeological find if I didn't feel at any second that something was going to jump out and eat me. Shella says the feeling is from the magic; the whole place is infused with transmutation magic. There are some magical runes as well, but Gelros says they have been triggered and spent. Possibly an alarm of some kind.

We found and dispatched another three zombies. We overkilled, really: too much firepower expended. Beyond is a secret passageway through the rock that Kris discovered. Kris is motioning us on and Shella looks impatient; I'll put this away for now.

Experience

  • Explore hills hex (7,11) (150 XP)
  • Defeat cyclops zombies (4,800 XP)
  • Explore mountain hex (8,12) (150 XP)
  • Defeat more cyclops zombies (7,200 XP)

Loot

  • (6) MW battleaxe (size large)
  • (8) Spiniels, worth 100 GP each
  • Silverware worth 75 GP
  • 37 GP
  • +3 Greatsword with Issian coat of arms
  • 689 GP minted with cyclopean runes/images
  • Large jade bracelet
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