The cast of heroes
Arken (Half-Elf Cleric) – leader of the partyBardan (Human Fighter) – the muscle
Knil (Elf Ranger) – the tracker
Korum Proudfoot (Halfling Thief) – the scout
Rioja Hyrule (Human Mage) – the wizard (not present)
Kima (Black Domestic Cat) – his familiar (not present)
Davon (Human Paladin) - the Warrior of Din
An Expected Visitor (day 37)
The adventurers spent the night relaxing in the safe surroundings of the tower. Each party member had time to think on the last few weeks and work out what they wanted to do. Korum and Bardan lusted after gold, food and drink but the other members of the party had more honourable intentions.
prose supplied by Craig (DM) and Russell (Rioja)
Hugging his long flowing cloak around himself to ward off the driving wind, Laerus strode purposefully through the
. As he neared his
destination, he reviewed his task in his expansive mind. The Mayor had agreed
that Laerus would train this inexperienced Mage, and, if he was totally honest,
Laerus was looking forward to it. Dead
As he neared the tower, a voice boomed out: 'Who goes there?' Laerus allowed a smile to play out across his lips.
Striding confidently across the open space between the forest's edge and the door, one gnarled hand crept out from the sleeve of his robe. The fingers twitched, and a breath of air escaped Laerus's lips. The voice sounded no more. The hand grasped the door handle, and he walked into the interior of the tower. “Anyone home?” he called.
From his vantage point atop the tower (that he was fast becoming to think of as his tower), Rioja had been watching the old wizard approach. As he neared, Rioja descended the stairs to welcome him.
Half way down Rioja heard the booming voice of the door 'Who goes there?'
'Arses,' he thought, 'I'd forgotten about that damned door'.
He sped his descent, managing to avoid tripping over his familiar, the jet-black cat Kima, who had taken to sleeping on the stairs. When he got to the ground floor he found the old wizard had already let himself in.
'Anyone home?' enquired the old wizard.
'Greetings Wizard Laerus, I'm sorry nobody was here to let you in and welcome you properly. 'I am Rioja of house Hyrule, but I'm sure you remember that. You must be tired after your journey, please come through and have some supper.'
Over supper Rioja explained his situation to Laerus. 'My training at the academy has served me well until now. I've become quite adept with Magic Missiles, and low-level utility spells like Spider Climb, but I feel like I've plateaud, not advancing as much as I should.'
Rioja produces his spell book and continues, 'It doesn't help that I'm lacking in higher level spells. Look, only two spells for levels two and three, and I've never actually had cause to use any of them.
'We are on an epic quest, the sort we studied in history classes at the academy! I look around at the rest of the party and see them growing into heroes worthy of those old stories, and I want to play my part too; more than just throwing a few Magic Missiles and then hiding while they finish the battles.
'Can you help me? Help me become more than I currently am, to be the hero the party and our quest deserve?'
Laerus smiled. He had heard this tale many times; rookie Sorcerers looking to get more powerful quickly. Many had approached him, and he had turned them all away. The power would be too much for them, and it would destroy them, but there was something different about this Mage. He sensed huge potential, and Laerus was not about to stifle something that magnificent.
'I will help you Rioja, I will help you fill your spell book. I will teach you 3 spells of each level from 1st to 4th. I know a great many spells...what would you like to learn?'
The delight on Rioja's face was clear as he said 'Teaching me three spells of each level is very generous! I promise to you that I shall use them to serve my quest and party in a manner fitting with the heroic stories of old!
'I must consult my notes regarding spells that might help our quest, and I must inform my fellow party members that I will be studying with you for a period, and that they must go on without me for the nonce.
'But first let me show you to your room for the night, and then in the morning we can journey back to your study to commence the tutorial.'
Rioja showed the old wizard to the room he had prepared for him, then went to inform the party of his plans, entrusting the information to Arken as the rest of the party was somewhat the worse for drink.
Returning to his study he consulted his notes, and re-read various tomes describing the common spells, and even checked recent issues of Wizard's World for inspiration.
The next morning over breakfast he talked with the old wizard about the spells he was interested in. He enquired if he might take more level three spells over level four spells, as they may be of more use in the coming weeks of this quest, and showed him the list he had come up with:
- Unseen Servant
- Dimension Door
- Polymorph Self
He shifted with unease, and asked 'What do you think of my choices? Are you able to teach me those? And, if I fail to learn any spells... will you be willing to teach me other spells in their place?'
Laerus perused the list of spells again...
'Hmmm, interesting choices. Although... to my knowledge, Strength is a 2nd level spell.'
He shifted in his chair, and once again looked at Rioja.
Laerus smiled. 'I am, though, still prepared to teach you all the requested spells. And as for failing to learn any... we will be conducting studies in a most comfortable environment'end prose
The studies go about as expected, Rioja only failing to learn the ESP and Fly spells. Without the Fly spell Rioja opts for the next best thing, the lower-level Levitate. For the final one, he is interested in the spell Material; a spell not familiar to him that the old wizard had in a tome named Unearthed Arcana.
An Unexpected Visitor (day 38 – morning)
The rest of the party had known of the arrival of the mayor’s vizier and that Rioja would be called off in search of greater knowledge, so they prepared other ways in which to indulge themselves. As mentioned previously, Korum and Bardan were fast becoming good drinking buddies as they both had the same lust for the good things in life. However, during the wizard’s visit and subsequent departure, Arken and Knil busied themselves the best they could in preparation for the rest of their quest. Arken had shut himself up in his room and was not seen for the duration of the last day or so, and Knil was seen pining for woodlands.
After Rioja and Laerus had left to further their studies at Laerus’ quarters back in the town, the rest of the party continued on with the tasks they were already performing. After an hour or so, the Magic Mouth at the door boomed out its customary “Who goes there?” Korum immediately wondered why the wizards would have returned so early; perhaps they had had a difference of opinion and had stormed off sulkily in opposite directions? These wizards could be such funny people; always uptight and never enjoying the finer things in life. He poked his head out of his upper storey window in readiness for pouring the previous nights’ soil bucket onto the unsuspecting Rioja but held back when he espied a very large human in full plate armour carrying a huge sword and equally enormous shield. He shouted down to this fellow, enquiring after who he was and what he wanted. After finding out that the newcomer, Davon, was after Arken and not him, Korum sped down the stairs and welcomed him to his humble abode.
Korum mentioned that Arken was otherwise indisposed at that current moment and could he get him anything? Davon was happy just to wait. In the meantime, Bardan had been roused from his stupor by the Magic Mouth and appeared at the top of the staircase. He questioned Davon as to his motives and began to sharpen his axe menacingly. Davon smiled, responded that he was expected and why hadn’t Arken mentioned this, and flung a very fine quality whet stone to Bardan mentioning that it would put a keener edge on his blade than the one he was already using.
Arken made his appearance, greeted Davon warmly, and introduced him to the party; he had spent the last day or so requesting aid from the great god Din and was told that Davon would arrive that day. The rest of the story then tumbled from Arken’s lips: A powerful being had taken a sacred artefact from Din, which may possibly be the third item the party were looking for. This being was most likely hiding away in the Shadow Marches; a huge swamp way out west. The party were most happy to continue their quest but worried about the length of time it would take to get there. Davon mentioned that Din would transport them there directly, and then Rioja when he had completed his studies.
Knil had also been busy during the last day or two. He had espied a tree from the uppermost window of the tower and knew it to be the right one. He left the tower early that morning and approached, with due reverence, the only tree in the
that hadn’t been blasted. It was a native species from his home land that must
have been imported specially by the tower’s previous incumbent; its magical
nature must have protected it from the devastating magical blast. He surveyed
the branches and picked a bough that would suit to make a powerful bow. After
making the appropriate arcane signs and begging forgiveness, he deftly removed
the branch and returned with it to the tower. The last few hours had him
toiling over making a selection of fine bowstrings from the sap and bark, and
carefully carving arcane symbols over the staff. It still needed work but the
adjustments could be made over the following days. Dead Forest
Arken and Davon removed themselves to Arken’s room to pray to Din and ask for her guidance in the coming quest, whilst the rest of the party readied the cart and horses.
A few hours later saw the cart fully laden and ready for travel and the party made to mount up. A hazy arch appeared over the main path, into which Korum drove the cart with all its equipment and his fellow adventurers.
The Shadow Marches (day 38 – late afternoon)
The wagon shimmered as it passed through the magical gateway and the party found themselves in a land of mist and fog. The path they were on was a track between two very steep cliff sides and only led in one direction; behind them was now just a dead end. Going forward they noticed an ever increasing stench of death.
After about two hours travel a ghostly figures appeared before them. It moaned at them but they could not understand what it was trying to communicate. Bardan shouted at it at the top of his lungs and the apparition glided away. The gorge led further onwards and at last made a sharp right turn before opening into a huge valley, all sides surrounded by sheer cliffs and wreathed in mists. The floor was an endless bog. The wagon would not be able to traverse the terrain, so the adventurers unloaded their equipment onto the horses and used them as pack animals instead. Not sure how to continue, Arken decided it might be best if they quarter the area in a logical way so that they don’t miss anything. They could see the far cliffs about 3 days’ journey away (taking into account the heavy going), but the floor of the valley was in mist with only a short range of visibility. They decided to head off to the left in search of clues.
Just before darkness was about to fall, the party came across a large rectangular structure; a crypt with a wooden door for an entrance. Korum was able to ascertain that there were no traps on the door but could not open the lock. Bardan, realising that the metal and wood that made up the door was very old, grabbed the lock and physically pulled it from the door. They were greeted with a sonorous voice “Who dares enter my resting place? Leave or die!” Although nervous, the party refused to leave the crypt and were greeted with a gust of wind. The ghostly voice repeated its threat but unbowed Arken requested if it knew of a powerful undead threat that was within the valley. The ghostly voice gave the party directions to a place that may harbour just such a being but requested again that they leave. Bardan, now sick of all this talk, rushed to the coffin inside and pushed it open. He grabbed the skull of the incumbent and threw it out of the crypt. The ghostly voices stopped. He then searched the rest of the coffin and found a large pile of gold for the party to share. The impending night fall forced the party to make their usual nightly preparations within the confines of the crypt. There were no more ghostly voices and no sign of the Darkness.
The Dead Marshes (day 39)
The band of adventurers set off across to the other side of the valley the following morning, covering as much ground as they could. There were more of the harmless ghostly apparitions but no sign of anything else of interest until late afternoon. Another crypt emerged from the roiling mists. Korum began his usual checking of the door for traps, but before he is finished Bardan stormed past and kicked the left hand door open. He promptly disappeared. Shocked, the party wonder what to do next, but are reassured when he casually walked past them from behind and had another go at the doors with the same effect. Korum, his interest piqued, pushed at the right hand door and found he too was teleported twenty metres behind the party.
Both doors now opened, Arken approached the entrance but was stopped by the appearance of a shambling cadaver. He asked it if it knew where a powerful undead being may be located within the marshes, but the cadaver calmly and smoothly reclosed the doors. As the way in seemed to be trapped in an ingenious way, Arken attempted to walk through the stone wall but Davon stopped him just before he did so by explaining that his spell would not work on walls, only live rock. Korum, meanwhile, had got back from his teleportation and pushed open the doors again. He was teleported away again. Bardan, who was also making his way through the doors again, began liberally sprinkling lamp oil as he went. He too was teleported away, but the open doors gave Davon, holy symbol held aloft in front of him, the opportunity to walk through unscathed. The rest of the party heard a whoosh and a crash come from within the crypt and rushed in to see what had happened. Davon had the shambling corpse held up against the wall in cowering terror. Bardan put it out of its misery with a deft sweep of his axe. Whilst this was going on, Korum had slid the top off the coffin and searched it for goodies. Inside was a skeleton holding a pristine sword and a pouch of gold. The party were handed the sword and a variety of pieces of rotten chain mail whilst the pouch of gold found its way undetected into one of Korum’s many pockets.
Using the old bones and more of their dwindling supplies of firewood, the party slept the night in the crypt.
Ghouls, ghouls, ghouls (day 40)
The journey continued again at first light. Trudging through the brackish waters of the swamp for the whole morning began to take its toll on the travellers. Their adventurous spirits were beginning to wane just as Knil spotted another, smaller crypt in the distance. The party approached it with caution but their fears were unfounded as there was no door to the stone structure. Carefully checking it over, Korum found that the lid of the structure needed to be lifted off. Bardan and Davon provided the muscle power, and Korum peered inside. In the gloom, he could make out a set of stone steps leading down. He quickly vaulted over the walls of the stone cist and made his way down the steps. The steps ended after about twenty feet and continued onwards into a corridor that stretched for maybe another fifty feet more where it either ended or turned a corner. Lighting torches and bringing forth their permanently lit miniature unicorns as light sources, the party made their way cautiously along the corridor. Approaching the end of the corridor, they noticed a strong stench of rotting flesh. Rounding the right hand corner at the end they were surprised to see a large pack of flesh eating ghouls in the darkness. The foul creatures turned their heads towards the light as the party approached and two erupted into flame as Bardan’s phials of Greek Fire hit them and exploded.
The ghouls could only see Arken and Davon in the glare and charged them without fear. The cleric tried to turn the undead minions but his cries to the goddess went unheeded. The pack of ghouls bore down on them and Arken took a hit which left him paralysed. Bardan pulled Arken out of harms way which gave the ranger and thief an opportunity to loose their shafts. All of their shafts hit, but the nightmares kept advancing. Davon, his mighty sword now drawn, hacked down another of the foul beasts whilst Bardan stepped into the gap to plug the fighting line.
Now the way was blocked, the two archers could no longer fire into the melee, so tended to Arken and prepared to plug any gaps that appeared in the defence. Davon again hit one of the dreadful creatures, but Bardan received a wound for his hesitance.
This gave the ghouls another opportunity, which they took well, hitting both Bardan and Davon, who could not shrug off the feeling of cold coursing through his limbs. Seeing what had happened to his companion, Bardan slipped and knocked Davon over. This, however, proved fortuitous as both of the archers could now fire into the melee again, injuring one ghoul and killing another.
The fighting continued apace, with Bardan soaking up more damage but not succumbing to the ghouls’ paralysing strikes, allowing the archers to keep the pressure up with their bows. Knil took advantage of this, his new bow singing as he dropped another ghoul and struck the next one behind it. Bardan, knowing that he had to hold his ground or run the risk of the party being overwhelmed by the pack of ravenous beasts cut another to the ground with his great axe, whilst Knil put down another of the undead minions.
The tide of battle was turning the way of the party until Bardan missed the ghoul in front of him and Knil fumbled with his bow, dropping it to the ground. Bardan got hit again by his opponent, but Knil was able to recover his bow in time to launch an arrow at the same time as Korum, both shafts striking the same creature and felling it. Davon was just beginning to come round from the effects of the paralysis as the last two ghouls advanced. Bardan and Davon concentrate on the ghoul to the left of the corridor, thus drawing themselves away from the firepower behind them. This proved a good strategy as a bolt and two arrows felled one ghoul whilst Davon and Bardan combined their attacks to drop the final opponent with a last snarl of defiance.
Licking their wounds, the party went to the aid of Arken. Rubbing his limbs, they slowly brought him round whilst Davon Laid Hands on Bardan to tend to several of his wounds. Looking around the fight scene they discovered that the corridor had ended at a large door. Korum stepped up to investigate and found it to be trapped. He disarmed the trap, unlocked the door and Bardan entered boldly. In the centre of the room beyond the door was a large coffin with a glowing orb of fire hanging above it. As soon as Bardan’s foot hit the floor inside the confines of the room, the orb sank to the coffin and a ghostly shade rose from it.
Arken moved past him and called upon the power of Din to remove this abomination from their presence but his goddess did not answer this time and the ghost made straight for him. Without pause, it struck Arken and he felt the strength start to ebb from his limbs. Bardan drew the magical sword from the previous crypt and advanced towards the melee. Before he got there though, two shafts flew past his shoulder, but neither got anywhere near to the ghost. The next two flights found their target but passed straight through its misty presence. Bardan and Arken joined combat and their magical weapons struck true – a resistance was felt. This angered the shade and it struck back with fury, causing more strength to ebb from Arken’s already weakened limbs.
By this time, Davon could see that Arken was weakening and joined in the melee. All three of the goodly heroes hit the ghostly figure, but again it kept up its inexorable effort of draining Arken’s strength away. A small gap opened up in the melee allowing Korum to scout past, and for Knil to let loose with a brace of his magical arrows which, unfortunately, missed and clattered against the far wall of the crypt.
Arken traded further blows with the ghost and was now close to the point of collapse. Bardan managed to strike the ghost just as Korum had opened the coffin and crushed the skull of the skeleton inside it. The ghost gave a final scream and fell to the floor where it turned back into an orb of fire and slowly dissipated.
Whilst the rest of the party rested, Korum searched the coffin further, finding a suit of prestige chain mail, a short sword of great workmanship and a small pouch of gold that he pocketed without the party knowing. He handed over the suit of armour to Bardan and slipped the scabbard of the short sword through his own belt.
Arken’s strength started to slowly come back, so the party put him onto a horse so that he could recover whilst they journeyed further across the valley. A few hours later he was feeling much better. As the daylight started to fade, the party came to the other side of the valley again. They could see the cliff walls but in front of it the mist had banked up to become a thick curtain obscuring everything more than a few feet in front of the adventurers’ faces. Korum scouted ahead and found that the wall of mist suddenly abated to reveal a small knoll of dry ground surrounded by a moat of swamp water. Standing in the middle of the grassy knoll was a large skeleton with a massive sword strapped across its back. It didn’t notice Korum, so he pulled his head back within the bounds of the mist and told the party what he had seen and that he would scout around the far side to see what was behind it.
Knil stepped through the mist and fired off two shots. Both were aimed true and struck the skeleton in the chest. It didn’t flinch. The skeleton slowly reached behind its head with both hands and then threw them forwards in a motion towards Knil. Knil was rooted to the spot in a state of paralysis. It reached behind its head again and slowly drew the large double-handed sword strapped to its back.
Noticing that Knil was not moving, Bardan pulled him out of the way as the cadaver boomed in a menacing voice from beyond the grave, “Step in here, if you dare!” Bardan, always up for a fight, happily obliged.
The two combatants advanced on each other, and upon seeing this, Korum snuck up behind the large skeleton. Bardan and the skeleton traded a few feints and minor blows whilst they sized each other up. This to-ing and fro-ing meant that Korum found it difficult to make a clean stab at its back. Having the knowing of his enemy, the skeleton then proceeded to take Bardan apart. Two swift blows rendered the fighter hors de combat but in revenge Korum finally managed to deliver a solid blow. Davon, upon seeing his comrade-in-arms fall, flung himself into the melee. Whilst its attention was on the newly arrived human paladin, Korum managed to get another big strike on its back, but was still unable to sever anything critical. The two larger combatants circled each other looking for a way through each others’ defences. This gave Korum another strike of opportunity, but he was still unable to find a critical point; these strikes would have felled at least three strong men by now! Davon managed to get a couple of minor blows in but then the skeleton got the measure of his foe and started to deal a great deal of damage to him. However, it didn’t reckon on the tenacity of his smaller enemy. Korum managed to get a final hard blow in, which finally got the undead’s attention, upon which Davon capitalised, dispatching the foul fiend back to the netherworld from whence it came. The cadaver crumbled to dust taking its foul weapons with it.
The unconscious Bardan was quickly healed by the cleric and paladin, and Davon’s wounds were also tended to by Arken when they got Bardan back to health. Knil, however, was still paralysed. They tied him to a horse and set off in search of somewhere to pass the night in safety. They only had to travel a short distance to find another crypt that contained two coffins. There were no ghostly inhabitants, but the party burned the bones in the coffin just in case. Again, the Darkness did not return.
Choices (day 41)
The party passed an uneasy night in the crypt, but by morning Arken had managed to cure Knil of his paralysis. The morning dawned misty, as always, but the end of the valley was now within reach. However, there now appeared to be only three objectives left to investigate; a small grove of trees, a small structure on a small hill and a large mausoleum at the very end of the valley. The party headed towards the small structure on the hill which turned out to be a crypt guarded by a lone skeleton which was dispatched without effort. Within the crypt they found a small bag of gems that they divided up amongst themselves. The distance involved in travelling to this crypt meant that they would need to spend the night there. Again there was no Darkness; perhaps they had finally shaken it from their tail?
The Grove (morning - day 42)
Dawn spread grey gloom across the valley floor. The party broke their fast and continued upon their journey towards the grove of trees they had spotted the day before. It took them most of the morning to get there, but they found it to be surrounded by a bank of mist rather like the “arena” they had encountered two days before. Korum stepped through the wall of mist and into the glorious sunshine of the glade beyond. He motioned that it was safe for the party to follow and they did do, their moods lifting almost at once in the bright sunshine and green splendour of the grove.
At the centre of the grove of trees was a stone altar, and upon the altar was a metal chest. Korum tried to open the chest but the lock stymied him. Knil reached past him and just popped the lid open. Embarrassed, Korum moved away, allowing Bardan to reach in and see what treasures it contained. He pulled forth five vials of liquid and a huge diamond. As soon as his hand touched the diamond, though, dark storm clouds rushed in. He continued to stare at the treasure with greed in his eyes, and Korum approached to feast his eyes too. Arken, always most sensible, suggested they put the diamond back. Reluctantly, Bardan dropped the diamond back to where he found it and the storm clouds started to dissipate.
They would need to think on how to claim the large precious stone from its container. Rioja would have the answer, but he was not with them. That said, his arrival was now overdue.