Monday, 30 June 2014

Doggerland Session 6:36 (Dungeon Level 1)

Return to Castleford (25th June 2014)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Johan – Cleric
Maximillian – Thief
Tarquin - Fighter
Theoderic - Fighter
Vox – Magic User

The Return of Maximillian and the Arrival of Tarquin - Moonday 22nd Hextember (day 83) – late morning

The late summer morning sun swiftly burned off the morning mists from the Imeryds Run as the exhausted party headed out of Nulb on their new found steeds. Vox had finally recovered from his magical efforts and was ready to travel again.

The road back to Castleford was sparsely occupied so the party made good time, despite the fact that only the fighters knew how to ride. The destruction of the pirate gang masters and their accomplices from Nulb and Castleford had made the roads much safer for travellers and caravans to travel upon in recent weeks. The torrent of bandit raids just a short time ago had dried up to a trickle now that their main headquarters at the moat house in the fens had also been destroyed.

The sullen guard at the South Gate of Castleford nodded the party through after the party explained that they were there to return their fallen comrade to life. They led their horses to the stables at the Talehangers’ Inn where they were met with great enthusiasm; Bow had spent a fortune here over the last few weeks and the pot boys and ostlers were eager to earn more tips for their services.

Once the horses had been stabled, the party headed for the main tap room to wash the dust from their parched throats. The bar was quite packed for the time of day and several groups of merchants and other adventuring types were present all around. The inn-keeper spotted the party straight away and attended to their every need; reserving the best rooms for Bow and his comrades, whilst putting Gull’s body in a place of honour in a side room.

Just as the party settled down to a hearty lunch, they spotted the arrival of one of their old companions; the thief Maximillian. They called him over and they caught up on old times whilst they made introductions between party members who had not met before. He explained that he had become a little jaded with small town Guild matters and needed a short break away from the stuffy confines of Abiswick.

On the far side of the room, a well-armed and armoured individual rose from his seat and made his way across to the party’s table. He introduced himself as Tarquin and that he was a sword for hire looking for adventure and treasure. The party eyed him warily but invited him to join them none-the-less.

Each of the party members had errands to run, so this was a good time for them to carry them out before they left for the Temple again the following day; an extra sword would be useful if they encountered any more combat. Bow whistled for the inn keeper and booked a room for their two new companions.

After he had paid over the necessary coins, Bow left the inn, grabbed his horse from the stable and set about town in order to see what he could achieve on his personal list of things to do. He sold the horse to Ernest, the horse merchant whom they rescued from the moat house, at a good price and enquired after a variety of other artisans and merchants who may be able to help him with his list of items. Ernest offered him the best advice he could and Bow went upon his way. He found the wizard that Ernest proposed and was able to get a few more of the party’s magical items Identified. Once he had completed these tasks he headed back to the Talehanger’s Inn in time for supper, an evening of heavy drinking and, after a luxurious bath a nice comfortable bed.

Cormac spent most of the day trudging around the town in pursuit of a particular type of magical sword; unfortunately there were none of that type of rare weapon to be found in this town. One or two merchants offered to look out for this particular type of sword for him and said they would contact him at the inn if they came across one.

Johan, after he had finished his lunch, took the body of Gull to the Temple of Woden in the artisan’s quarter. He asked whether the high priest could raise his companion from the dead and he was told that this was indeed possible. The priest of Woden was able to bring Gull back from the netherworlds but the cost was most of the contents of his coin purse. However, the thief still had several trinkets worth many a year’s work left on his person. When he came round from his ordeal he thanked Johan for his concern and said that he wanted to spend some time with his family to contemplate his future. He had died or been close to death on several occasions and had come to realise, rather belatedly, that adventuring was a dangerous pursuit. He said that he may join the party at a later date if he rediscovered his zest for danger. The cleric and thief shook hands and parted their ways.

When Johan returned to the inn he was greeted by the sounds of challenge from Vox. As he entered the courtyard he saw the little mage ducking and weaving away from a great sword held by the new fellow that had joined their party earlier that day. As Vox caught sight of the cleric, his attention wavered and he was clouted by the flat of Tarquin’s blade. Vox grumbled under his breath that clerics always seemed to ruin everything but realised that he was bleeding quite profusely so he scampered into the inn and declared to Tarquin as he passed him that he was good enough to join the party in his humble opinion.

The Old Crone - Tirsday 23rd Hextember (day 84) – mid morning

The party rose late the following day and slowly ate a large breakfast as they loaded their packs for the next stage of the adventure. Vox nursed a big headache and sported a large scab from the cut he got from Tarquin’s blade the evening before. Johan’s offer of aid was rejected by the suspicious magic user.

After all of their preparations had been made, those that had horses mounted up and followed their companions on foot towards the town gates. Just before they reached the end of the road, an old lady stepped out from the shadows of a nearby building and called for them to halt.

Cormac recognised the old crone as the one whom he had met in Nulb. Bow and Vox chose to ignore her and carried on travelling towards the gates; the rest of the adventuring party trailed on after them. The doughty fighter, however, chose to stop and see what she wanted.

After she had thanked him for stopping, she proceeded to offer him information about their quest if their intention was to head back to the Temple. She had been informed by the High Priest of the Temple of Sol Invictus in Castleford that the amulet they had gathered from Lareth, who had commanded the moat house until the party’s timely arrival, and stored safely under magical glyphs had been stolen. It would take a mighty mage or superb thief to manage that task. If past disturbances were anything to go by, then that third amulet would be used to open the third set of magically locked Temple doors at the next new moon in just five days’ time.

She then went on to mention that the fourth amulet was to be found within the Temple confines three levels down in a crypt that was consecrated in honour of Sol Invictus and was protected by strong dweomers. She also mentioned that the Golden Orb was also on the third level down but in a small side section of the dungeon. This was well protected by elements of the Temple but may be easier to find as it was listed on the map that the party had found in the tower within the Temple grounds.

Finally, she advised that, in a few days’ time, the Castleford garrison would be called out again to strike the final blow against the Temple in the hope that the upper levels could be cleared and the third amulet reclaimed.

Cormac thanked her for the information and rode to catch up with the rest of his companions who were by then out of the gates and had travelled past the leper colony in the cluster of hovels just outside the town walls. When he passed on all that he had learned, the party decided to get in before the Thuringians raided the Temple in order that they did not miss out on any potential treasure.

Return to the Temple – early afternoon

The party passed through Nulb on their journey back to the Temple via Nulb. The five horses between them carried those who wanted to ride and their heavy packs, but Bow decided to walk with Max and Tarquin now that he had sold his.

They made good time and after a brief break in their journey to water the horses they debated what they should do next. Johan and Tarquin suggested that they should go to fetch the Golden Orb first as it was contained within just a small part of the dungeon and most likely easy to find, but Bow argued that maybe they should plough on through the rest of the dungeon to get the fourth amulet and pick up as much treasure as possible before the Thuringians got their hands on it. A show of hands decided that they would continue on with the rest of the dungeon to grab the fourth amulet.

Reanimated Dead – late afternoon

Once they arrived back at the overgrown entrance to the Temple grounds, the party retraced their steps back to the elemental room. All along the way they saw the after effects of their actions above ground but there did not seem to be any other signs of movement from anyone or anything else other than carrion eaters.

They cautiously re-entered the Temple building above ground but again noticed that there were no signs of anyone having been there other than themselves.

They descended the wide stone steps down to the pyramid dais room of the earth elementals in combat readiness but encountered no resistance. It was only when they had crossed the chamber and spread out that they noticed that the bodies of the bugbears and gnolls they had dispatched a few days earlier had gone; but the bloodstains in the earth remained.

This caused a ripple of fear to spread throughout the party, so they readjusted their weapons and made ready for an imminent attack. Bow, braver than the rest, strode to the curtain beyond which the bugbears initially came and twitched it aside. The movement he encountered when the curtain was moved made him pull the drapery back further to reveal the reanimated corpses of those humanoids that they had previously killed. A rough growl from one of the bugbears showed which one was in charge as the zombies stumbled forward to engage the interlopers.

Tarquin, eager to impress his new found compatriots, made a bee-line for the living bugbear commander whilst Johan called upon the mighty powers of Balder to destroy the minions of evil. Two or three of the shambling corpses dropped to the floor again, bereft of their controlling shades, whilst the other fighters engaged in combat.

Again, the fact that the party had encountered these types of beings previously held no fear for them and they soon dispatched the zombies and their living bugbear commander with only a few scratches between them. Johan checked those that were injured for grey ooze that may have invaded their wounds, but no-one seemed to be infected.

Meanwhile, Maximillian, who was always keen to explore but avoid trouble, headed over to the other curtain. He was closely followed by Vox, whose curiosity was piqued. Max flicked a small glass marble beyond the curtain but only heard it ricochet off the far wall and ping around like a normal marble would upon a flagstone floor. Unsure whether he should pass beyond the curtain, he instead decided to set a small firetrap on the curtain. He warned the young mage, who was now breathing down his neck in his keenness, to avoid the curtain if he did not want to get hurt.

Just as Johan finished checking over the wounds of the others he looked up from his handiwork and noticed at the far end of the dark corridor the approach of a torch. Somebody had heard the earlier commotion and was coming to investigate.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Doggerland Session 6:35 (Dungeon Level 1)

Dungeon Level One (18th June 2014)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Johan – Cleric
Theoderic - Fighter
Vox – Magic User
Part of amended map to Dungeon Level 1 - copyright TSR/Wizards of the Coast
The Return of Theoderic

The villagers of the sleepy village of Steeplefell bade their heartfelt farewells to the doughty fighter as he shouldered his pack and headed off into the early morning mist. The recent successful missions by the party he had met only the day before had made travelling the roads a lot safer lately, and so he was able to make good time on his journey to Castleford.

He had decided not to wait upon the party’s return as it had been agreed that after he had safely delivered the captured village maidens to their home he could make his own way. He did briefly think about returning to the dungeon beneath the Pool of the Standing Stones to catch up with them again, but the pull of the big city and the reward of a hundred silver coins in his purse meant he decided to leave them to their own devices; and anyway, they may very well all be dead by now if rumours of the Bone Devil were true.

However, after a few days of carousing his interest in civilisation paled and he again sought adventure and more treasure. His first thoughts turned to the party he had met only a few days previously, and as he headed towards Nulb, rumours of the fabulous treasure that they had brought back with them from the dungeon only piqued his interest in them even more. They would be his meal ticket, and if he wound up saving the world in the process, all the better.

He managed to get directions to where they had headed from a few of the denizens of Nulb and followed the path that they had trod only a few days previously. He passed the remains of the burnt corpses of the trolls along the trail, so he knew that he must be on the right track.

Finally he arrived at the overgrown remains of the Temple. Again he saw the results of the party’s handiwork outside the main Temple building and just inside the vestibule he spotted the crushed remains of several stirges.

Just as he entered the nave, he caught the dim sounds of fighting from up ahead. He readjusted the straps on his armour, took a fresh grip upon his shield and readied his sword for combat. He approached the central stairwell and took a deep breath before he headed down into the twilight world beneath.

Johan’s Exit - Freyasday 19th Hextember (Day 80) – afternoon

Johan was stranded alone on the opposite side of the pyramid dais from his companions. He still held within his hands the bronze casket that contained the sacrificial implements; he was determined to work out what they were for. The four elementals had stopped in their pursuit of the ranger and had turned their attention to him. He decided that he might best escape their clutches if he passed through the curtain he had seen Vox go through earlier.

Just as his thoughts turned to the young mage, he saw a bolt of lightning shoot forth from the diadem that he now continually wore upon his brow. This struck two of the elementals, but did not stop them in their stride towards the lone cleric. The earthen elementals stomped towards the cleric as he dithered at the base of the pyramid and then split up to entrap him between their two-pronged advance.

Johan spotted his chance and sprinted towards the curtain, casket under-arm. Vox again saw a chance to further his curiosity about the way the world worked, so he launched a Fireball at the elementals now that they were within optimal range. Two of the earthen beings were struck and one of them stumbled a little upon the impact of the magical fire. This gave Johan just enough time to get to the curtain.

As his feet struck the solid flagstones beyond the drapery, the elementals stopped their pursuit. They stood motionless for a few moments before they returned to their original points of emergence from the earthen floor. Once they had all reached their original point of entry, they slowly disseminated and flowed back into the ground without leaving a trace.

The rest of the party were intent on watching their companion’s escape, but a greeting from above made them momentarily forget him. Theoderic descended the stone steps into the chamber cautiously and re-joined his former companions at the bottom of the stairs.

Gnoll Attack

As the elementals returned to the world of their origins, Johan was left stumbling around in the dark; for he had brought no lantern with him in his flight from them.

Vox, as he knew about the darkness of the corridor beyond the curtain, went to look for him in order to confirm or dismiss his notion that the cleric had been killed by some hidden trap or monster in the darkness. He lit his lantern and proceeded cautiously across the floor, but avoided the entrance points that the elementals had come from. Nothing happened on his journey over, but when he arrived at the curtain and twitched it aside he realised, with disappointment, that he had got there just in time to save the cleric from wandering off and becoming lost in the darkness beyond.

Just as he stepped through the drapery, the rest of the party at the base of the steps on the opposite side of the room heard the shuffle of feet and the low rumble of otherworldly voices. The three fighters quickly halted their greetings and catch-up conversation and made ready to meet whatever threat that would come down the steps.

A few tense moments were dispelled when the four gnolls spotted the three warriors, howled their war cries, and sped into combat with weapons and teeth bared. The fight was over almost as soon as it began. The party now had the measure of these seven foot tall dog-headed humanoids, and the experience they had gained in fighting them previously meant that they were able to exploit the weaknesses in their attack plans.

Meanwhile, the lantern-aided Vox had caught up with Johan beyond the curtain and informed him that it was now safe to return to the main room as the elementals had been dispelled. However, Johan was determined to rest up and regain a few spells so he could study the evil casket and rid the world of the evil items. Vox shrugged his shoulders and returned to the rest of his companions just as they dispatched the last of the gnolls. Cormac made his way over to the second curtain and he found that beyond it was the mirror image of the one that the two magic wielders had passed through. Vox began to explain to Bow and Theoderic what Johan was up to.

Whilst Cormac confirmed what was beyond the second curtain, Bow explored the right hand room with the stones and barrels again. After he had prised off the lids of a few barrels he surmised that they were most likely all full of lantern oil, but little else of interest was to be found in the room. He replenished his own lantern oil stocks, lit a rag, and dropped it onto some of the spilled oil. He then swiftly left the room and closed the door after him with a wry grin upon his face. He then moved along the wall past a curious Vox and Theoderic to the other room that Johan could not see and picked up the few treasures in there that he found in a small cupboard.

A few minutes later the oil that had been lit in the side room had built up enough pressure that it exploded; it sent a shower of the stones mixed with shattered wooden door splinters over the earthen floor.

The Cleric and the Bugbears

Whilst all this was going on, Johan had made himself comfortable opposite the one side tunnel that the two companions had spotted with their lantern. He placed the evil casket beside him so that it did not get in the way of his divine preparations but could be picked up in a hurry should the need so arise. In the darkness, for Vox had taken his lantern with him again, he began to chant and pray to gain some divining spells from his god Balder.

After a few minutes of meditation he was disturbed by the explosion that Bow had set up. A few seconds after the low rumble had died away, he then heard a door open from some way down the side corridor that was now ahead of him. This roused him from his reverie; he then heard the swooshing sound of weapons being readied and the soft pad of several sets of footsteps approached him rapidly. He managed to pick up the casket and began to stumble back towards the main chamber using the side wall as his guide but he was struck from behind by a pursuer who could obviously see in the total darkness of the corridor.

Fear put speed into his steps and he burst into the main chamber with three bugbears in hot pursuit. The fighters spotted his hasty return and subsequent pursuit so ran to his aid. Theoderic and Bow passed the cleric in his headlong flight to the entrance steps and thus blocked the bugbears from their quarry. Cormac ran across from the other curtained corner and joined his belligerent companions in their attack on the bugbears, whilst Vox shouted encouragement from the safety of the steps.

Again, the fighters got the drop on their attackers as past experience of fighting these large, hairy beings came to the fore. It only took a few moments for the three fighters to dispatch their opponents.

Buried Treasure!

After the three fighters had wiped the dark blood from their blades they returned to the main entrance steps where they took stock of their current situation. Whilst they were discussing their options, Bow noticed that the shower of stones and wooden shards from the oil keg explosion had disturbed the soil where the nearest elemental to the door had ‘melted’ back into the ground. He tentatively poked the depression with the blade of his sword and after a few moments it hit something that yielded in a different way to the earth in the hole. He put his blade away and hauled the earth out of the hole using his hands to find a leather sack that contained a large amount of gold coins and a few other items of treasure. The rest of the party then joined him at the other three entrance holes and dug up further hoards of coins and curious items.

Return to Nulb - evening

The large sum of treasure and the beaten up countenance of each of the adventurers forced the companions to realise that they were in sore need of rest and a fresh plan on how to tackle this dungeon.

Johan then raised the issue of the return to life of their companion Gull. He argued that as they had done this for Hallan, they should do so for Gull – they had just found more than enough gold for this after all. His arguments convinced the rest of them, albeit grudgingly in a couple of instances, so the fighters picked up the body of their comrade and made their way out of the main Temple building.

Bow and Cormac were about to head off to make a sling for Gull’s corpse when they remembered that the barn with the six riding horses was just to the north outside the Temple grounds. The horses were beginning to get a bit restless due to a lack of fodder but they snickered their appreciation of a few apples from Vox’s pack. The party mounted up in readiness for a slow return to Nulb; Gull’s horse had to be led, but so did Vox’s and Johan’s as neither had any skill at riding a horse.

Rest and Recuperation - (days 81-82)

The light was fading from the sky as the party returned to Nulb. The horses clopped slowly into the village with their burdens and were halted outside the new motte and bailey fortification. Bow and Cormac dismounted and approached the gate guards.

They were told that there was still no tavern as such (but one was being built on the razed remains of the Boatmen’s Tavern up by the Pool), but with a few minutes’ negotiation, and the crossing of several gold coins into eager palms, they managed to set up a cot each within the confines of the new wooden castle.

They laid Gull’s body onto a trestle table and Johan Spoke with his Dead spirit. He asked him whether he was happy where he was and where his nearest family were to be found. Gull’s spirit replied that he was not happy where he was as he had been taken too early and that his family were in Castleford. This convinced Johan further that they must resurrect their companion.

Vox, a little wary due to the spell’s side effects, Identified the treasure haul from the elemental room, but this forced him to sleep a lot over the next two days to recover from the exertion required.

During this down time for the young wizard, Cormac asked around town after the old crone and her herb lore to see if they could get Gull resurrected. He found her at her herb shop with her equally craggy daughter. She responded politely to his questions but said that she did not know of anyone that had the skills outside of Castleford or Loidis.

Meanwhile, Johan spent most of the time resting and gaining as many healing spells as he was able to. Once a day he gained a full complement of healing spells in place of his usual offensive and defensive ones and was thus able to bring the rest of the party up to full health.

In between times he was also able to converse with the artisans who were busy constructing the new church dedicated to Sol Invictus, the new stone castle, and the numerous other new buildings in Nulb, which included the new tavern and a house for the local lord to be invested in. He wanted to find out how much it would cost, and how long it would take, for them to build a temple dedicated to the Old Gods. He was told that this could be done, but the artisans would need plans and so forth so that they could give him a quote for the work required. They also mentioned that it would most likely not be wise to build such an edifice within a Thuringian controlled township. He thanked them for their advice and went back to aiding his companions.

Whilst the two magic users went about their business of working out the party’s treasure and healing their wounds, the three warriors, after getting the nicks honed out of their sword blades and the rents repaired in their armour, managed to find a variety of places in which they could purchase drink and enjoy themselves – the local soldiers and a few other townsfolk had plenty of beer, ale and wine to sell them, as well as places to drink it.

Rest and Recuperation – Moonday 22nd Hextember (day 83)

Vox finally awoke from his the efforts of his second Identify spell, fully refreshed, and much to his chagrin healed up. He gathered the rest of his companions around him and asked them what they would like to do next. They had recovered the Sword of Solitude and one of the amulets (Bow still had not told them that he had the first amulet about his person too), but still needed to find the rest of the items in order to be able to dispel Zuggtmoy back to her own realm.

They concluded that as they would need to return to Castleford to get Gull resurrected anyway, they might as well go to the Baron Tancred to see if he had any more information for them. Surely Lareth from the moat house would have surrendered information on the whereabouts of some of these items?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Doggerland Session 5:34 (The Temple IV)

Going Underground (11th June 2014)

The Adventurers
Bow – Ranger
Cormac – Fighter
Gull – Thief (NPC)
Johan – Cleric
Vox – Magic User

Map of the Temple above ground (copyright TSR/WotC)
Exploring the Temple Ruins - Freyasday 19th Hextember (Day 80) – mid-morning

The dark stairwell beckoned Bow like the maw of Leviathan. He cautiously advanced down the worn stone steps with his lantern held aloft in his left hand and his trusty sword at the ready in his right. He descended steadily into the Stygian gloom; the light from his lantern only just relieved the blackness beyond the reach of his arms.

After a few moments his feet hit level ground and he stopped to adjust the hood on his lantern. The corridor he found himself in stretched away beyond the strength of his lamp’s feeble rays, but on the edge of the umbra he could just discern what might be a side corridor that led beneath the rest of the Temple.

He cautiously retraced his steps back up the stairwell and passed this knowledge onto his companions. After a brief discussion they decided to check out the rest of the Temple ruins before they descended into the depths and possible danger.

The party readied their weapons and spells and advanced cautiously in a clockwise direction around the upper level of the Temple.

The first door they came to opened at a touch to reveal a small vestry. Pieces of broken glass, charred wood and cloth lay strewn around the floor. A brief poke around the remains revealed only a pile of desecrated black robes. However, a swift look above their heads revealed a good quality black robe lined with light blue satin that must have been missed by the Temple destroyers. Vox stowed it away in his pack for possible later use.

The pinkish marble pillars of the vestibule gave way to white marble pillars shot through with the same ugly red veins of the nave. However, the large stone altar that was present before a deep wide well was made of the same material as the vestibule pillars.

The roughly humanoid shape scalloped out from the creepy looking rock sent shivers down everyone’s spines, especially when Bow recognised that the brown stains contained within was more dried blood. This was obviously some kind of sacrificial altar dedicated to the demoness herself.

The party passed by the altar with a collective shudder and investigated the wide, deep hole. It was as dark as pitch inside so Cormac lit an old Temple cloak and dropped it down. The light it cast did not really reveal much but it stopped falling after roughly eighty or ninety feet and then the flames sputtered out before they could reveal anything.

As nothing else of interest could be gathered from the altar and its attendant well, the compatriots moved on towards the rood screen that separated the nave from the high altar beyond. They passed the wide stairwell with the broad, deep steps that led down to the dungeon below and advanced past the rood screen on either side towards the dais and throne.

The way to the dais at the far end of the Temple was via a huge bronze cauldron. The edges and lip of the eight foot vessel were dented from the results of many hard blows. Its six legs held it about a foot above the flagstones and its contents remained intact; old charcoal, bits of blackened bone and pieces of unidentifiable matter lay at the bottom of the bowl. One chain was left attached to its ring on the lip of the cauldron but the rest had been destroyed and removed.

Beyond the massive cauldron the party ascended four steps up on to a round dais that contained an enormous throne of purple basalt. This offset the polished, black granite that made up the dais itself. Above the throne, emblazoned in easily read runes was the phrase:

“The power of Death brings mortals low but raises the Nameless One high”

This did not mean much to any of the party so they did not take much notice of it thinking it was merely a Temple chant rather than some mystical cypher. Vox strolled up to the throne and climbed up on it. The rest of the party drew their collective breaths as he sat down but nothing happened to the mage. The throne was most likely built for someone at least twice his size he surmised.

After the anti-climax of finding out that nothing seemed to be of interest in the upper part of the Temple, the party decided to get a move on exploring the final two rooms so that they could then descend into the catacombs below.

With the two scouts leading the way, the adventurers quickly made their way to the door to the east of the large cauldron. Without caution the door was burst open to reveal a large room beyond. This chamber was most likely the vestry of the head priest. The exquisitely detailed but sickeningly portrayed carvings were obviously created by a master craftsman and would have been expensive to make. The ruined furniture within would have been of greatest quality before it was burnt, smashed or slashed. Amongst the ruined furniture and slashed carpets and rugs lay several skeletons; one was wearing a black Temple robe. The party searched the room in case it contained any treasure that had not already been taken. Vox pushed aside a pile of faggots that had been set fire too but failed to take completely although the wall was scorched, and he spotted a small unopened door. He pulled it open and spotted two more of the elaborate robes found earlier contained within. He picked them both up and stuffed them into his back pack.

The Ban Sidhe – early afternoon

The final side room to be investigated lay within the confines of the east wing opposite the west altar and its accompanying door down into the depths below the Temple. The party would have completed their circuit of the upper Temple once this final section was explored. Bow bypassed the destroyed altar and the large circular pool of black liquid and made his way straight to the door beyond. He swiftly pulled it open, passed through it, and strode across the vestry with its damaged furniture and ruined cloaks. He again held his lantern aloft and cautiously made his way down the stairs. A similar set up greeted him as that which was beneath the east vestry; but a mirror image. He nodded to himself and went back upstairs to tell his companions what he had discovered.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party had been looking over the altar and pool for clues to any riches. They were just about to give up but Cormac’s curiosity got the better of him. He tore a strip from one of the discarded cloaks that lay about and dipped it into the pool. Other than a stale, brackish smell that emanated from the pool as he disturbed it he could not tell what the liquid was.

Just as he was about to let go of the rag the limpid surface was broken by a ghostly apparition. The spirit of a woman broke the surface without rippling it and rose to its full height. The party stepped back in awe and fright at the hateful look on her visage. The party drew their weapons not knowing how they would attack a non-corporeal being but trusted to their magical powers and weapons to aid them.

The scream that erupted from the spirit shook the dust from the rafters above and caused a cloud of winged beasts to dive down from the ceiling. The party, except for Johan, took to their heels in terror at the sound the ghostly woman made, and dropped whatever they had in their hands at the time in their effort to get away as quickly as possible.

Johan took a firm grasp of his holy symbol of Balder and commanded the spirit to be gone, but his efforts failed. The now groaning spirit advanced upon him so he readied his trusty mace and shield for the fight of his life.

Whilst Johan fought with the ghostly apparition the rest of the adventures flew headlong towards the door, the stirges from above dogged their flight every step of the way. In their fear they could not stand and fight the little vampiric parasites so they were attacked by the flying horrors almost at will. However, they were able to grab hold of a few that had attached their proboscis and crushed them in their rush of blind terror.

Eventually, the adventurers regained their senses and were then able to quickly destroy the menace that hovered about them. Only two of the stirges got back to their nests, their thirst for blood satiated.

As the party returned to the spot where Johan was struggling with the spirit they roared their support and charged into the melee again, not knowing whether their weapons could damage something obviously not from this plane of existence.

However, they need not have worried because the first blow from Bow’s back-up magical sword slew the creature and returned it to whatever abyssal plane it had come from. Johan was a little upset that the ranger took the credit for slaying the spirit as he thought he would have bested her within the next few minutes.

The Sundered Doors

The stirges had taken their toll upon the fear-stricken adventurers so Johan dispensed with much magical Healing. Once they had refreshed themselves and seen to their wounds they headed back towards the main central staircase.

The double-width stairs were steep; as if they were carved for beings much larger than humans. They ended at a large pile of door rubble similar to that found at the main entrance to the Temple. Under the insistence of Bow, the party searched through the chunks of bronze, iron and hard wood to see if they could find anything of value or interest.

Cormac and Bow both spotted a shape similar to the amulet that was stolen from Johan many weeks back in the inn although this was made of a strange black metal rather than gold. Bow recognised it immediately for what it was as he already had the one from upstairs in his pocket safely hidden away unbeknown to the others, but Cormac only thought it was an interesting bauble until Vox and Johan took a look. They realised from its markings and its exact same size as the other amulet that it was one of the items that they were looking for to send the demoness back to her realm in the Abyss. Vox inspected it closer and noticed the runes were written slightly differently; on this black amulet the third rune was smaller whereas on the other amulet the last rune was the smallest when read from left to right. He also noticed that at the heart of the rune that represented the Eye of Zuggtmoy there was a small square shape as opposed to a triangle at the heart of the gold amulet’s Eye.

Bow pocketed the amulet with the one he already had secreted away and the party continued their onward march. It was dark in the corridor and each of the adventurers held either a lantern or a torch, however, when they passed through the portal they noticed that there was a faint glow that emanated from ahead.

The Pyramid

The adventurers passed into a huge square chamber with rough-hewn walls and a dark earthen floor. The centre of the room was taken up by a large pyramid with a flattened top that held four tall pillars. The phosphorescent glow came from lichen or mould on the walls, and it was just strong enough, when their eyes adjusted, to see the two sets of drapes on the far side of the chamber. As they looked about them upon entering the chamber they noticed two doors on the walls behind them. However, their full attention was on the flat-topped pyramid and its four pillars that they could now see held sundered chains upon iron rings maybe seven or eight feet up. It was obvious that these pillars were there to hold sacrificial victims helpless with their arms chained above their heads. What manner of despicable ritual would have been held there did not bear thinking about.

When they reached the bottom step of the pyramid they then noticed that there was a bronze box at the base of one of the pillars. Bow’s curiosity got the better of him and he ascended the steps. Just as he did so, the earth in each corner of the room erupted and a roughly man-shaped being began to take shape and stand up.

Earth Elementals

Bow just had time to get to the top of the pyramid and grab the box before the earthen men took up their final positions. The party then ran off in all directions, Vox towards the left hand curtain on the far side of the chamber, Gull and Cormac headed to the door on the right when they came in, and John to the door on the left. As Bow left the pyramid the earth elementals, as that was what Johan identified them as, began to advance upon him.

Vox stole a glance over his shoulder before he thrust his head through the curtain. The corridor beyond was very dark but the glow from the mould in the pyramid room illuminated just enough of the space beyond the gap in the curtain that he could make out some large yellow stone triangle shapes on the floor.

Johan opened the door to the room that he had made it to but as he had no light source he could not see much more than that the room was small and appeared to have no other exit. He left the entrance to the small chamber and moved back to the main entranceway.

Meanwhile, the fighter and the thief opened the door to the room they had run towards but all they could see with the aid of their lanterns was a big pile of stones that took up the middle of the room and several large barrels and kegs that filled the far wall. As they saw nothing of real value Cormac returned to the main entrance to guard the party’s exit where Johan began to cast a Glyph of Warding, and Gull made his way to the other curtain at the far end of the room.

The ranger picked up the bronze box and stowed it in his pack. He then made his way down the side of the pyramid after he had watched to see what the elementals would do. After an initial few moments of standing still, they seemed to patrol in a set pattern. Vox remained alone at the far end of the room.

From the apparent safety of the pyramid stairs, Bow took a look inside the box and saw that it contained a bronze maul, knife, bowl and ewer. He was disappointed as he thought that it might contain the Golden Orb Skull that they were looking for. He thrust the pieces back into the bronze box and climbed the pyramid steps again to replace the item from where it came in the hope that it would dispel the elementals. After Bow had replaced the box, the party noticed that the earthen guardians had halted again. Gull had not reached the second curtain but noticed that the rest of the party were now returning to the main entrance, so he retraced his steps past the guardians.

Vox, after he realised that he was on his own, cast a Protection spell upon himself that he hoped would get him past the earthen guardians. Bow descended the pyramid steps again and watched the pyramid guardians so that he could time his run to the main entranceway; they had begun their patrol again, but the pattern meant he had to be careful to time his run correctly.

Johan left the safety of the entrance and ran back to the pyramid past the guardians to grab the contents of the box as he thought that they would be important. He then made his way down the pyramid side nearest to Vox to give him support whilst Bow made his run back towards the main entranceway.

Vox however was able to pick his way through the earth elementals whilst Johan was at the top of the pyramid, but Bow took a mighty blow from one of them as he tried to avoid contact. Unfortunately, he did not know that Johan had cast the Glyph and thus triggered it when he passed over it in the entranceway without speaking the pass phrase. The elementals continued to dog the ranger, so Bow and Cormac sprinted up the stairs to escape their attention.

The Death of Gull

The guardian’s pace had picked up and this panicked the rest of the party. Unfortunately Gull was not fast enough in his return from his solo mission to the second curtain and he was caught in the stampede for the entrance. He was thrust to the floor by one of the guardians and the following one stomped on him in its haste to chase the ranger. Johan was too far away to aid his companion before the light dimmed from his eyes and he cursed himself for thinking about the sacrificial items rather than his companions.

Johan now realised that he was in the room alone whilst the thief had been pounded into the dark earth and the rest of his companions had fled the chamber.