Everyone but myself had work cancelled yesterday, but since I was on early shift and finished up in the early afternoon, we got together for another game (if you don't live across the road from you gaming buddies, I suggest you move. It's the next best thing to living in a gamer commune. I haven't gamed so much in a single week since I left university.
A week after their return from Caldwell Manor, The Shorn were summoned to a meeting with a rather irate Caldwell, unhappy that his money hadn't purchased him better (i.e: faster) results. The party attempted to explain some of the difficulties they had encountered but the merchant clearly wasn't interested in their excuses. He wanted results now.
And so, pausing only long enough for Vaslav to hire a pair of thuggish northmen, and equip with them leather armour and stout clubs, they departed for the manor once more. Leaving the mule and it's two hired guardians in the ruins of the village, they approached the Manor house with some caution -all too aware that the current occupants had been afforded a full week to obtain reinforcements and bolster the defences. Tungdil approached the entrance stealthily and alone, to find that the doors (with the hinges shattered by Ulic during the retreat from their last excursion) had been crudely repaired and a barricade erected behind. Indeed, the doors had been left just barely ajar, with room enough for but one person to squeeze through the narrow gap at a time. Tungdil drew his longsword and climbed carefully over the barrier, pausing atop the barricade to let his eyes adjust from normal vision to infravision, listening all the while. Sure enough, he heard the snoring of a guard propped up in a sitting position behind one of the doors, whom he quickly dispatched. On the corpse, Tungdil found a strange amulet on a platinum chain, with a dagger-clenching fist carved from jet. It had the look of a religious symbol of some kind, but none that any in the party could identify.
Joined by the others, the group quickly made for the Statue, who repeated it's previous greeting as Klara, Boindil, Tungdil and Hans entered, studiously ignoring everyone else. Through some less open ended questions than previously, they learned that there were three "evil" beings still on the first floor of the keep who wished the party ill. The party made the obvious deduction that this meant the Manor had additional floors they were unaware off. Further questioning obtained the knowledge that the party could not access the cellar by "Any means they now possess."
Moving quickly, the party began scouring the rooms of the eastern hall, insuring that none had been reoccupied since their last expedition. They found the rooms largely unchanged, save that one room had been piled high with corpses and that most furniture had long since been removed (and presumably added to the barricade). Wisely, they checked all the doors as they advanced up the corner towards the single room they had not explored in the hallway last time. Alas, they did not think to check the corridors for traps. Hans, in the lead with Tungdil, had the misfortune to trigger a trip wire, and received a crossbow bolt to the cheek for his troubles. The others paused to dress the wound, but though messy, it was not injurious enough to warrant magical healing, and so the group pressed on.
Outside the door to the last room in the corridor, Tungdil and Klara both searched for traps, disarming a poison needle trap above the lock with some judicious application of candle wax. Alas, they did not detect the trap behind the door when they opened it however. Tungdil was very nearly hit by a second crossbow trap, though luckily the bolt impacted harmlessly into the door.
Inside, they found a desecrated chapel to the Patron Gods of Karameikos and disturbed the prayers of a huge, disturbingly handsome plate armoured man. Rising immediately, the man began chanting in a foul language that offended the ears of the party, a piercing, unnatural sound that caused them physical pain and the plate-armoured mans mouth and nose to bleed even as he pronounced the words of this foul language. The strangers chant was interrupted by the charge of Han's, who drove his short sword deep between the armoured plates protecting the mans upper legs. This seemed to affect the strangers concentration, for he broke of his chant even as Vaslav began one of his own, calling down a Blessing on the party. Urich and Boindil likewise charged the armoured figure, but could not penetrate the thick plates of his armour. Casually, the figure pronounced a curse on Hans, causing his joints to lock and his movement to cease. His companion held, Uric attacked with greater fury and Vaslav moved up to take Hans place in the melee. With the figure hemmed in against the alter, there was little the others could do as first Uric, then Boindil fell to blows from the strangers brutal looking morning star (2 natural 20's on after the other -and each reducing the target to exactly 0 hp). While Vaslav desperately began casting a cure spell, the stranger turned to address Hans with a coup d'grace. Fortunately, Elra picked this moment to case her Sleep spell, dropping Vaslav mid-prayer and sending both the paralysed Hans and the Stranger into a deep slumber. At that Tungdil charged the slumbering figure and, enraged by his brothers harsh treatment at the strangers hands, proceeded to splatter the man's brains across the floor. No-one seemed particularly bothered by his fate -despite the loss of a potential prisoner.
Vaslav was roused first. The young cleric used his last prayer of the day to heal and awaken Boindil, who then proceeded to heal and awaken Uric. Fortunately both the party clerics recognised that Hans was under the effects of a Hold Person spell. Uric put some spikes through the door and they party holed up in the chapel for an hour or so until Hans recovered. In the meantime, the room was thoroughly searched (uncovering two blue vials hidden under the alter) and a small wooden lock box containing a writing kit and a letter in a strange language. The plate armour was duly appropriated and promised to Hans (although it would take several days at least for a smith for re-work the suit to fit the much smaller fighter). They also found another amulet similar to that worn by the sentry around the Strangers neck.
The party proceeded to explore the remainder of the level, checking all rooms from before. In the few rooms they had not yet explored Tungdil very nearly succumbed to poison twice -once from an acidic gas and once from a spider-bite. On each occasion the threats concerned had been found behind a door marked with a red smear of paint. Eventually they approached the room Uric had sealed the two cowering kobolds in, only to find the door slightly ajar. Tungdil sneaked into the room without bothering to check for traps and -for the second time- ended up with a bucket-full of kobold shit smeared all over him. A parting gift from the kobolds. The party found no sign of the other two "evil creatures that wished them ill", and surmised that the statue had probably been referring to the two kobolds who had (apparently) fled.
In time, they found (at the entrance to the very last room) a door with no lock, no handle, and no visible means of opening. The party (or rather Boindil) broke two of their three axes (yes, they had learned they value of axes) and a halberd trying to batter it open before the stubborn dwarf finally got the message (much to the exasperation of his companions). Then the dwarf tried throwing one of the vials at the door, smashing the vial and otherwise having no effect on the door. Finally satisfied that the statue had been telling the truth about their ability to open the door, they retired for the evening in a securely locked room. They next morning they interrogated the statue as to the nature of the magic door (learning it was wizard-locked) and, leaving a guard at the Keep, returned to Threshold and the house of Caldwell.
The merchant was relieved to find that the ground floor at least had been cleared, and took news of the magical door rather well, though he refused to pay over the balance of their fee until after the door had been opened and whatever lay beyond explored and cleared. He did however, express his intention to move in regardless. He dispatched a band of hired men to take over the guard of the Manor.
That accomplished, the party split up, some to sell their latest treasures, others to visit Artax, the local sage. At the sages home they were greeted by a bespectacled halfing, wearing fingerless gloves that proudly displayed his ink-stained hands. The halfing was offended by their (correct) assumption that he was merely a servant or scribe and accused the party of racism. ("What, a halfling can't be a sage? You heightist bastard."). Only the intervention of the sage himself gained the delegation an audience. They hired him for up to five days at a 100gp a pay, for the purposes of identifying the holy symbol and deciphering the writing on the later. Almost immediately the Sage identified the holy symbol as belonging to a dreadful Alphatian Immortal and the writing as a particularly obscure form of ancient Alphatian. He could, however, tell them more at this time but promised to obtain the answers they sought as soon as humanly possible. The sage promised to have the halfing, Apple Merryweather ("The weathers lousy, I hate Apple's and I'm sure as shite not merry!") come and fetch them at their Inn when he knew more.
Quite satisfied with their efforts, the party took care of a little shopping before returning to the Inn for an early night.
At the end of the session, I recounted the rumours they had heard recently:
- Caldwell the merchant has purchased Antilles Manor and it's surrounding estates. He's looking for a band willing to risk a little blood shed to clear the place of certain "undesirables". Likely, he fancies himself a candidate for a noble title some day. I gather he's found some youngsters to so his dirty work, but hasn't been too pleased by their progress.
- The infamous renegade cleric, Elwyn the Apostate, is believed to have a lair to the East of Town. The Patriarch can't spare enough men to scour the land and is looking to hire mercenaries for the task.
- Sindar, an elf merchant, needs a package delivered to his home in Selenica. Something about a wedding....
- The Black Eagle Baron is up to his old tricks again. Goblins are raiding the lands around the town on Lensh. He denies his involvement of course? What will it take before the Grand Duke realises his cousin is a snake?
- Some merchant is looking to hire guards to help him find some sort of rock. Sounds like a waste of time to me.
- It seems that foreign noble killed down in Specularum wasn't killed by the Iron Ring slavers after all. The Duke's men are blaming it on the Veiled Society instead.
- Gnomes are smuggling gems down the river in hollow logs
- Two days ago, some foreign warrior staggered into town, delirious and dying. he claimed to have found the legendary lost stronghold of the adventurers Rogahn and Zellicor, the "Caverns of Questueqon". Thing is, that stronghold was built next the ruins of some evil place up in the Lost Valley of Hutaaqua. The folk who find that stronghold could be on to the mother lode. Now, I dont normally listen to rumours see, but I heard the dead guy had some sort of map on 'im. Too good to pass up like.
- You're talking nonsense. Everyone knows Rogahn is alive and well and working for the Black Baron. If them caverns exist anywhere, its out east. I'm telling yah.
- Fort Castellan has been having problems with Giant attacks again. Merchants from Darokin and Ylaruam are complaining that no-one is patrolling the roads. Goblins and worse are playing havoc with the trade routes while the garrison are preoccupied with the giants.