Pool of the Standing Stones V (7th May 2014)
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Gull – Thief (NPC)
Johan – Cleric
Vox – Magic User
Map courtesy of White Dwarf 12 - copyright Games Workshop
Out of the Frying Pan… - Moonday 1st Hextember (Day 62) – early morning
The darkness within the corridor held no horrors for Bow the ranger as he stalked ahead of his companions. After a few dozen yards a door appeared out of the shadows upon their left hand side. Bow surged through the unlocked door and found himself in a small vestibule with another similar door at the far end. He advanced upon the second door and thrust it open. A wave of heat hit his face as he entered a large chamber.
The centre of the large chamber was taken up by a huge pit, lit from within by the glowing embers of the world’s core. The ranger bypassed the pit and made his way directly to the two heavy wooden doors at the far end of the chamber.
The rest of the party arrived into the room soon after their scout and began to look about. They spotted that the molten rock from the pit flickered on the uneven surfaces of the walls and ceiling and cast eerie shadows upon them whilst they investigated the chamber for its secrets.
Bow, however, was in a hurry to get to grips with their final adversaries so he continued to push the doors with all his might. He called for Cormac to lend his strength too as he made ready again to heave.
The shadows that played upon the walls and ceiling grew larger by the minute, so Johan moved closer to the edge to see if the cause was from something within the pit. As he leaned out over the precipice, an iron spear ripped towards him with the hands of a demon-like monster holding it tightly in its grip. The salamander, for that is what Johan recognised the being as in the split second he could react, was clambering up the wall of the pit to investigate what the noises from the chamber were.
The cleric fought a defensive battle as he strove to stop the fire-demon from escaping the confines of its pit before his comrades could come to his aid. Cormac and Vox proved their worth as they helped Johan repel the fiery elemental and finally force it, seriously injured, to fall back to the confines of its molten tomb.
…And into the Fire
Bow renewed his call for Cormac to come and aid him in opening the double valves at the far end of the room whilst the rest of the party rued the opportunity missed to grab the salamander’s bejewelled helmet and iron spear as it fell. A tidy sum they would have brought at any market of curios.
The two fighters managed to push the doors open and the valves kept moving after they had stopped pushing. The scene which greeted them was not one they would wish to see again in a hurry.
The large audience chamber beyond extended before them for a distance before stairs climbed up towards a dais upon which there sat a throne. Ensconced on the throne was a huge bony devil. To either hand were a female in dress robes and the evil cleric, Braken. Guarding these two on either side of the steps were two pairs of gnolls and at a table before the steps a veritable boneyard of animated skeletons began to rise from their feet at the intrusion.
All the beings within the room leapt to their feet and either surged towards the approaching party or moved back to defend their masters. The party assumed that the great bony devil was Dando, the owner of the Sword of Solitude but they could not see him armed with it; he only had a great amulet suspended around his neck.
As the party took in the scene, the skeletons advanced with weapons drawn. They paced rapidly towards the party through a pool of stone coloured ichor but it did not seem to have any effect on them.
The robed woman took her chance and fired a small Fireball from the end of the baton that she carried at Vox. The young mage managed to save himself from the main part of fiery damage he would have received but was hurt sorely none-the-less. The evil cleric completed a chant and all sound around the doorway entrance was negated. This annoyed Vox and Johan as they wished to return the compliments with their own magical dweomers. Both of the party’s magic users retreated until they were outside of the influence of the Silenced area whilst the two fighters burst into the room to slow the tide of the approaching horde of bony death.
Johan cast his own Silence spell at the far end of the chamber which contained the three most powerful opponents. Vox shouted for all those that could hear to beware and let loose with his own Fireball effect. This was much more powerful and less restricted than the small one that had hit him from the female mage. The effect on their enemies was devastating; the four gnolls were quickly enveloped in the ball of flame and fell to the floor silently screaming whilst their bodies contorted in agony. The female magician also fell to the floor in a crisping heap followed by most of the skeletons. Braken was noticeably stricken but the bone devil, Dando, merely laughed silently and descended the dais to take the fight to the party.
With the bulk of the skeletons now out of the way, Bow saw that he could charge the devil and tackle him one-on-one. Cormac held the last remaining skeletons at bay until Johan could Turn most of them and then he bore the brunt of the attack from Braken. Gull took pot-shots with his crossbow at whoever he could whilst Bow joined the minor devil in single combat. That combat was very short lived, however, as Dando instilled such a fear into the ranger’s mind that he fled the hall at full speed. The devil laughed at the change in fortunes and advanced to deal certain death to the remainder of the worthless band arrayed in front of him.
Braken was quickly put down by the combined might of Johan and Cormac, and the last remaining skelton met a similar fate very soon after. The rest of the party ganged up on the bone devil and he too was soon returned to the Abyss leaving behind just an empty husk and the amulet which Johan swiftly picked up and cast into the fire pit in the salamander’s room. There would be no devil summoning whilst he was around.
Bow broke from his induced fear alone in a corridor that he recognised from some time before. It took him several moments to realise what had happened and where he now was. He retraced his steps back towards the audience chamber where he fought the devil, but before he entered the room of the salamander his curiosity got the better of him and he decided to head on down the rest of the corridor to see where it led.
There were no other doors along its length and he surmised that the dead-end was a similar teleportation device to elsewhere in the complex. He advanced upon the wall and when he turned around he realised his assumption was correct. His lantern lit the scene of carnage where the party had fought the Temple guards with Theoderic.
Whilst Bow explored the corridor after his Fear induced rout the rest of the adventuring band explored the audience chamber. They could only find the (mostly) charred corpses of those they had already slain and a large earthenware urn beside Dando’s throne. A quick glance inside showed the fire blackened remains of rats and other vermin.
Gull looked all over the throne for a secret door release button but could find nothing, so Johan drew on the might of his trusty magical mace and smashed the throne to pieces. Beyond the back plate a narrow corridor extended into the darkness. Just as Johan had made his breakthrough, Bow returned to the room to relay all that he had found.
The Ranger, sore from his ordeal, led the party through the break in the wall along a short corridor that led directly down steps deeper into the bowels of the earth. The rest of the party follow him through but were slightly delayed due to the narrowness of the opening.
The party’s scout had managed to get a few yards ahead of the rest of his companions before they could form up and follow him in single file. He walked rapidly forward eager to meet any enemy before him and entered a small ante-chamber. On the far side of the room was a large chest.
Bow’s greed got the better of him and he strode rapidly to the chest in order to strike off its lock and plunder its contents. Unfortunately for the woodsman the treasure chest was not all it looked. As he stepped close to the chest, the floor and parts of the wall curled around him and began to smother him within its depths. The rest of the party heard his muffled screams and ran to aid their comrade.
The mimic was summarily dispatched and the party moved on. Vox realised that the earthenware urn that contained the scorched rodent remains must have been used to feed the strange creature whilst whoever needed to could pass it without fear of being eaten itself.
A final set of stone steps led further down into the gloom. Bow again led the way and at the far side of the small room he espied a huge amount of gemstones cascading out of another large treasure chest. He threw caution to the wind and advanced upon the chest without pausing to wonder if the room may have been inhabited by yet another of those mimic creatures. He cast his sword into the depths of the pile of gems but he could feel nothing in there of any bulk. He relayed to his comrades that the chest was just literally full of gems and nothing else. Gull put his appraisal skills to good use and concluded that the gems were all made from paste or glass; albeit very finely cut.
The party were frustrated at getting all this way and not finding the Sword they were looking for, so they searched for secret doors but could find none. Cormac dragged the chest out of the way just in case there was something underneath but all he found was some cryptic writing. Vox was quickly onto the scene and realised that it may be an important clue.
He did not have the correct spell ready at hand to read the cryptic writing so he suggested to the others that as they had to heal up anyway why didn’t they camp here, take some rest and a bite to eat so he could learn the spell that would reveal the meaning of the mystic inscription.
The Secrets of Dando’s Treasure - afternoon
Vox put his head into his spell books whilst Johan asked Balder for his divine help in healing his companions. Several hours later the little mage had learned what he required and read the words inscribed upon the floor aloud. “Magnus Dando” he exclaimed. A bright flash made the party shield their eyes, and when their vision returned there was another chest in the room.
This time, upon opening it, the party discovered a mound of silver and gold coins, a small ring, two scrolls, a musty tome and a fine sword that they hoped was the one that they were looking for.
Return to Steeplefell – late afternoon
The mission was now over, so the party retraced their steps back to the rope that was their exit from the dungeon complex. The rope was undisturbed so they climbed it and retraced their steps back to Steeplefell village where they were greeted in the Gryphon as heroes. When they looked around the common room and asked questions they found out that their one time companion Theoderic had taken his reward and sought adventure elsewhere.
They were rewarded for their rescue mission with a pouch containing a hundred silver coins. The party did not show their disappointment with the amount as they were now used to treasures measured in the thousands of gold coins. They were rich and the villagers were poor, so they accepted their reward of coins and free board and lodgings at the inn with humility.
Through Staneford and Nulb they Go (days 63 - 66)
The adventurers decided to stay in Steeplefell for a further three days to allow Vox to Identify the items within their new-found hoard. The two scrolls contained many high powered and useful spells that both Vox and Johan could use, and the sword matched the description that they were given for it – they had accomplished their mission. The vial of red liquid that Vox had previously identified as AGAU converted hundreds of the silver coins in their hoard to coins of gold. The scimitar that was the Temple Guard leader’s went to Gull for his help and everyone came out of the division much better off than they previously had been.
Vox also identified the libram as containing some every powerful wards, but he got nothing from the ring. Johan cast a Detect Evil spell upon the ring and tome and both glowed as inherently evil. The cleric quickly gathered them up and cast them into the fire. He would not be party to keeping such abominations in this world.
Their route back to Castleford meant that they would need to pass through Staneford and Nulb. As they passed through Staneford they decided to report their findings to the lords Rufus and Burne. They thanked the party for their continued support in putting down the Temple and suggested that they passed through the fens to see how Hallan was coming along with getting the moat house into use as a true fortification against any future evil advances.
The party took the route to Nulb through the fens and paid a visit on Hallan at the moat house as suggested. Their friend was pleased to see them and offered them food and drink whilst he showed them around the repairs. So far, the workmen had begun to drain the foul smelling fens, cut back the gnarled and sick looking plant life and cleared out all of the fallen masonry. The artisans had also moved in and had almost completed the ribs of the roof timbers. A pair of stout main gates and a drawbridge had been made anew and hung in the gateway, whilst the fallen masonry was reshaped for use a little later to repair the walls. All of the monsters’ corpses had been cleared out of the dungeon and it had been given a full airing to remove the stench of death and decay. Dozens of guards milled about on duty and messengers travelled to and fro throughout the duration of their stay.
The afternoon brought the party to Nulb. No longer was there an air of despondency and disrepair about the place. The motte and bailey castle had been completed and work had started on a stone temple dedicated to Sol Invictus. The two old inns had been completely razed and the scorched earth upon which they had been burnt had been raked in readiness for two new inns to be built in their place; in fact the foundations had already been set down.
Return to Castleford (day 66) – late evening
The weary travellers passed through the town gates as the sun began its final descent behind the gloaming hills in the distant west. The guards leant lazily against their guard room wall and waved the companions through. Any threat that was perceived to hang over Castleford had obviously been negated and the guards were a lot more at their ease.
All thoughts of hardship were left behind when the party turned onto Market Street. They knew they could now rest and recuperate for a while before they were to be tasked with their next mission. The party made straight for the Talehangers’ Inn and booked the best rooms in the house.
Training in Castleford (days 67-76)
After a long night of drinking and debauchery the party members, who nursed serious hangovers until they were rapidly dispelled by Johan’s divine orisons, headed to the Castle to report in to the baron Tancred. Bow was allowed to keep the Sword of Solitude as he would need it if they were going to take on the next challenge of destroying the Temple and sending the demoness Zuggtmoy back to her domain in the Void.
The adventurers split up over the next ten-day and went their own separate ways, only meeting back up each evening to eat and drink together. Bow and Cormac hunted down new weapons, armour and a decent trainer to help them improve their skills at arms, whilst Johan gave alms to the town’s poor. Gull spent most of his time running the gauntlet of the Wynde and improved his skills at the hands of the guild’s master thief. Vox, forever doe-eyed in her presence, dogged the lady Mathilde and improved his spell-casting abilities.
Ten days was more than enough time for the party to rest up so, fully recovered from their ordeals, they left the town behind and headed back towards Nulb to seek the whereabouts of the Temple which they knew was to the east or south-east of the village as that was where they spotted the lightning displays the night of the first earthquake.