Dungeon Crawl Classics

Humble Beginnings
The Portal Under The Stars

Everything before this was prologue. Before today the adventurers were regular peasants.

Before Old Man Roberts died, he had many of the young men and women of the village to his bedside and told them of his greatest regret.

When he was a young man, he wandered one night in the fields and, under the Empty Star constellation, he saw a strange portal to another world. Curiously, he went inside and saw gold, armor, weapons and other treasures, but was chased away by monsters and mechanical men. The Empty Star is in the sky again, for the first time in 50 years, and he begged the village youths to take the chance he never did.

Some were too cowardly to take the chance. Others weren’t, and this is their story.

At midnight they crept into the portal, which appeared between standing stones, just as Roberts described to them.

Cautiously, they went inside. A narrow tunnel led to a set of dark metal doors, into which was set a countless multitude of gems in the pattern of the night sky. Not ones for subtlety, two of the adventurers, a couple of Dwarven brothers from the Mountains of Otus, managed to secure the door to a rope, which they tied to Hodor’s pony. The pony, though small of stature, was strong of heart and valiantly ripped those doors free of their hinges.

Tragedy! a hidden trap exploded, sadly taking the lives of Brutus and Krutus, the Dwarves, as well as another villager.

The adventurers, not ones to let something go to waste, stripped Brutus and Krutus and the unnamed villager of their clothing and possessions. They also kept the doors.

Nervous and now sobered by the specter of death, they continued. A short hallway led to another set of their greatest foes, doors! Standing a silent, lonely vigil were four stone statues of armored men holding spears. Knowing it was likely trapped, the group sent forward an elf and human duo alone.

As they suspected, the moment they crossed the threshold, the four armored men threw their spears. Their aim was true and they pierced the elf, John Smith, several times, as well as Osiris once. Happy fortune! they both survived their dire wounds. Rudolph and Hodor, true gentlemen both, yanked the spears clear of John Smith’s body, and promptly kept the spears.

Having thrown their spears, the four statues stood forever still. Their armor, a fine obsidian scale mail, was taken, and their spears kept. The door, no longer guarded, opened without protest.

The party walked into an enormous chamber. Marbled floor and four walls into which were set four doors. The ceiling was forty feet above their heads. An enormous, thirty foot statue of a barbarian wizard stood in the corner. It watched them with cold, cunning eyes, its hand pointed out towards them. As they nervously shuffled into the room, the statue alarmingly followed the largest group of them with its outstretched hand, its entire base rotating.

Bornio used his rope to climb to the top of the statue, having a singular goal of vandalism on his mind. Once he reached the top of the statue, he utilized his crowbar to pry one of the giants eye’s loose. Unfortunately for Bornio, as he did so he lost his footing. Holding tightly to the eye, he fell thirty feet flat on his back, where he would lie forever, never to move again.

The moment its eye came free, the statue began shooting fire from its outstretched finger. Very soon, innocent Hodor and his pony, who’s name Hodor alone knows, was gunned down by the vicious fire. In addition four rubes stood together and were all cooked, many of them nearly to death, and one of them actually to death. Pink and her posse began opening doors, searching for some form of egress.

This cowardly route of running was not on the mind of Blast! Hardcheese, who had a mind for further eye theft. He daringly climbed to the top of the statue, and, utilizing the exact technique which had before been used so successfully by Bornio, pried the eye loose and similarly careened into open air, falling to his death.

The second eye pried free, the statue ceased its fire attacks and went still forever.

The party, what was left of it, decided to take a moment to catch their breath. They casually invited some of the villagers who were too nervous to initially join them. Believing their false tails of success, they gamely agreed to join in the plunder, little aware that they had just been invited to be cannon fodder.

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Humble Beginnings Pt. 2
Further into the depths, and further into danger

After the debacle regarding the giant statue of the barbarian wizard, the adventurers took some time to regain their composure. Some of the villagers who had been too timid to join in earlier decided they would chance maiming and death for riches and glory.

The large marble room had four doors. They had just come in from the southern door and John Smith had fled through the eastern door while Pink fled through the northern doors.

Having but a brief glimpse through the northern door they discovered a dark room with a large pool in the center. A diffuse light came from the pool, and around the edges lumbered six crystaline creatures, in apparently random directions. They decided to explore the eastern room first.

To the east was a small burial chamber. On the walls were seven niches with burial masks above each. Inside the niches the bodies of once-great generals were placed. They had since decayed into moldering heaps of rusted armor and weapons and loose skeletons.

As the adventurers approached the burial masks, grave robbing clear on their mind, the skeletons animated and began a sad, lurching shuffle, determined to defend their final resting place from these invaders.

Unfortunately for the ancient defenders, their long wait in these halls had made them ineffectual, and the adventurers savages crushed the pathetic creatures into bone dust. Then, to add insult to injury, they not only stole all seven burial masks, but rummaged through the bones, taking what weapons and armor were still serviceable.

Having thoroughly explored the eastern room, they turned their sights northward.

Here were the strange crystal men, continuing their eternal, meaningless shuffle. As the adventurers filed into the room, the light of their sole lantern casting eerie shadows into the far corners of this large room and the crystal men began a slow, lumbering trek towards them.

Was this the deliberate actions of an aggressive enemy, bent on the utter destruction of these fine adventurers? Or perhaps merely and artifact of this strange room and these strange creatures? None shall ever know, for Awnold, the sole hunter in the party, strung his bow in one fluid motion, and having set his killing instrument to proper working order, loosed an arrow towards the nearest abomination. Its flight was true and pierced the creatures eye, exploding out the back of its head, ending its unending shuffle, once and for all.

The Crystal men, all doubt in their actions now dispelled, leaped forward with both the grace and speed of cold molasses. They faced the dozen or so villagers, bravely defending their pool. The adventurers, relying upon the age-old tactic of numbers superiority, crushed the crystal monstrosities into dust with little trouble, and though one sad villager lost his life, it was a fair trade, as the adventurers saw it.

The pool was encrusted with literally thousands of bright, clear gems in the pattern of the night sky. Eres, not one for admiring artwork when he could steal it, immediately set to removing those gems, one by one. After a moment everyone else joined him, and soon enough it was a frenzy of prizing gems loose from the bottom of the pool.

It didn’t take long for the group to realize, though, that the gems were actually part of the floor, and this pool was suspended above another room. the water was draining into that lower chamber and the integrity of the floor was beginning to suffer from the loss.

They decided to leave one villager to continue the lonely work of stealing gems from the pool, while the rest of them explored the western room, which they had hitherto ignored.

They boldly strode into the eastern room, encouraged by their recent conquests. The door led to a short hallway, which terminated in a medium sized room, at the center of which was a large, ornate throne. As they gazed upon the throne, an enormous snake with a large horn on its forehead slithered from behind the throne. Fixing them with its giant, alien eyes, it let out a hiss, in a sibilant voice it spoke, “I am Ssisssuraaaaggg, and you intrude on my guardianship."

With those words and no warning, the giant snake attacked. From every angle, spears and arrows flew towards the snake, while the rest, armed only with daggers, pitchforks and like, rushed the giant serpent, plunging their weapons over and over into its scaled body. It thrashed struck several times, taking the life of a young Halfling and nearly slaying another human. However, it soon succumbed to its wounds and fell down to its grizzly demise. As the creature died, its body decayed into dust before their eyes, leaving only its demonic horn. While handling the horn the adventurers get the distinct impression that an alien presence resides within.

Having defeated the wicked creature and collected its horn, and never ones to let treasure go to waste, they removed the throne from the room (which was extremely ornate, being set with many precious gems and inlaid with silver, gold and even some jade) and placed it with the doors, which they had earlier acquired.

Catching their breath, taking some time to eat and relax, they were all shocked to hear a huge crashing noise, not unlike a glass full of water shattering on the ground, but at a grand scale. Rushing into the pool room they were dismayed to see that the pool had collapsed into the room below, leaving a huge, gaping hole in the floor. They could see the body of poor Nerdly, savagely crushed on the broken floor, some thirty feet below. They discovered a door which led to a spiral staircase, which they had not noticed before.

Down the darkened stairs they went.

At the bottom lay a long, narrow corridor. a pathway led between two sets of tables, each filled with miniaturized terrain and covered in tiny clay soldiers. After some searching they discovered four statuettes that were created from silver, they pocketed these and moved on. a door, heading south, lay at the end of the corridor. Into it, they went.

This massive room was layered into three tiers, or it had been. The collapsing pool had all but destroyed this once-majestic room. tons of water had destroyed much of the furnishing. Hundreds of life-sized clay soldiers had been stationed in this room, but the falling water and debris had destroyed nearly all of them. Whatever treasures may have been hidden in this room were now lost to history.

At the far end of the room, miraculously unscathed by the falling water, was a larger-than-life statue of the barbarian wizard-king sitting upon his giant throne. above his head, ensconced in the head of the clay throne, was a large clear orb, from which shown bright light.

The adventurers cautiously approached and, with little effort, lifted the orb from the back of the throne. No traps sprang into existence, much to the consternation of much of the party. Sam, Reese and Stu began a thorough examination of the throne, looking for hidden treasures or dangers. No such hidden object existed on the throne, but the wall behind the throne was another story. A hidden door lay secreted behind the throne.

Into it, they crept.

A narrow hallway led into a sparsely furnished room. a shelf full of equipment and curious items stood against the wall. On the floor was a sleeping pallet. Further into the room, a pentagram was cut into the floor. At its center a low stone table, upon which rested the body of a man in repose. Above his head on the stone table was an indentation the size and shape of the crystal ball they had just acquired.

After much discussion, they first removed the body of the old man (which they identified as the barbarian wizard, but much older) and made sure he was dead, by first cutting his throat and then continuing to dismember him. Only after that did they loot the room. Eres, having the idea that perhaps some magic might take place if a person laid upon the table while they placed the orb into the indentation, heroically volunteered Hodor to be the guinea pig.

Placing the Orb into the indentation had no effect upon Hodor, but it did something all the same.

Gazing into the crystal ball, they saw an endless field of bright stars on a faint gray background. A ghostly image of the war wizard drifted in the star-strewn ether, perfectly still. Then a harsh goat-like face filled the full sphere, staring intently at them. “I have
waited a long time for someone to take the warlord’s place,” said the strange goat-man in a deep voice.

“His astral voyage was cut short before he could rekindle the spark of his mortal coil. I am still in need of an ally on your world. Fill this copper brazier with
wood from a dryad’s tree and ignite it with the spark of a living fire. The blaze will reveal the location of the other half of the Rod of Rulership. Find that for me, and you shall be rewarded.” Then the globe dimmed to mere crystal.

Thoroughly spooked and chilled by the strange messenger, they nonetheless took all the treasure, pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down, and fled that place.

The harsh sunlight of midafternoon greeted them. They had adventured all that night and most of the next day. After fighting for their lives and living a single night as adventurers, heading home into the dull, familiar village had a strange, surreal feel to it.

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To endings and beginnings
Amidst friends and foes, the adventurers set out.

The villagers-turned-adventurers trudged home on the tail end of a clear, cold day. Though they didn’t know it, for many of them it was to be the last night they spent in Mafertat. If they were hoping to be hailed as conquering heroes, they were sorely disappointed.

From all sides, silent villagers watched them enter town, most with sullen resentment plain on their face. Some muttered under their breath, others simply turned away, wanting nothing to do with them.

As they reached the center of town, two red-faced youths hurried towards the party. They spoke in rushed words, explaining that Innkeeper Barnes had heard they had gone into the portal, and wanted to thank them personally for following Robert’s dream.

Most of the adventurers went to the inn, while Vinnie The Bat stayed out to the guard the cart. Stu Went to the Shrine of All Faiths to pray to his god, Nimlurun, Lord of Filth and Pollution. Meanwhile, Pink and Sam went to see the blacksmith, Tad, about getting proper arms and armor for themselves and their compatriots.

The group that went to the inn were pleased to find that Barnes did indeed want to thank them. He threw a party for them, offering free food and drinks for everyone. The adventurers set to with a will, eating the free food and drinking the free booze.

Meanwhile, Stu found solace, praying to Nimlurun. His body, cleansed in the putrid energies of the Unclean one, he set off to the blacksmith to find armament as well.

The adventurers, finding themselves short of coin, decided to try and trade the giant stone doors for several sets of armor. He followed them out to the street to investigate the doors. Tad set to haggling with Eres about the trade until Vinnie interrupted. As Vinnie used the brilliant tactic of distraction through incoherent nonsense, Eres used the opportunity to attempt a little theft.

Eres, after a quick survey of the environment, decided that it wouldn’t be prudent to attempt a break-in in the middle of the day without any tools or pre-planning. He skulked back to Tad and the others, and after some haggling, managed to trade some of their ornate weapons for more mundane arms and armor.

The party went late into the night. A man and four of his friends stood up and, made their way over to the adventurers.

For reasons known only to him, he insulted the party, calling them cowards, liars and worse. He yelled for a time while the adventurers, hesitated on deciding how to deal with this unsavory individual.

Billar Congar, for this was the name of the foul-mouthed low-life who had accosted them, grabbed John Smith, the Elf, by the shirt and yanked him out of his seat. He screamed into John’s face, calling him that most vile of insults which can be leveled at an elf, Pointy Ears.

Billy, perhaps unaware of John Smith’s legendary bad temper, had picked the wrong elf to insult. John hesitated for the briefest of moments, deciding whether this insult warranted a stab to the eye, or a punch to the jaw. John leaned back and let a powerful punch fly, catching Congar right in the face.

Congar, shock clear on his face, yelled that he’d been assaulted and attacked, with his four friends close behind. What followed was a brief tussle, which ended with Congar unconscious outside, Stu choking out one of the lackeys and Eres threatening one of the thugs at spear point. Awnold, meanwhile, had spent the entire bar fight asking Barnes for a drink.

Congars’ two remaining allies carried him away from the scene while the man who Eres threatened sat in a chair, pleading for his life. Eres offered the man a job as an adventurers, telling him that if he and another friend who was handy with a bow showed up tomorrow they could have an equal portion of any treasure they found. Danel Lewis, happy to not be stabbed, agreed and hurried off into the night.

Soon after, they turned in for bed, with the bulk of the adventurers spending the night in the common room.

As they sat together having breakfast in the common room, a young lady named Mia came to see them. Sent by Mr. Chandler, she said her employer would like to speak to whoever represented the adventurers. Vinnie, sitting in the center of the room, holding the Rod of Command, proudly informed her that he was the boss of the group. He followed her to Mr. Chandler’s palatial house.

Meanwhile, a representative of Mayor Graves asked to speak with them as well.

Vinnie, apparently forgetting that he was meant in some way to represent the interests of the group, decided it would be better to spend the interview intentionally misunderstanding everything Mr. Chandler said in the most insulting way possible. Mr. Chandler tried to explain that he had been a merchant for many years before retiring to this small town with his wife. He didn’t get far before he decided that any group who was led by Vinnie The Bat was one he wanted nothing to do with. He asked Vinnie to be escorted from his home with instructions to not return.

Reese and Pink went to see Mayor Graves. He explained that he had heard some details of their adventure and that, while he appreciated their adventurous spirit, it was best for them to leave town as soon as possible. He knew their next likely destination was Bogotus and was interested in a trade. A recent Greatstorm had destroyed much of their seed stock and Graves would need the trading caravan from Bogotus to come early this year.

He proposed a trade. The throne and the gems they had procured from the Portal in exchange for his horse and wagon, with the understanding that they would see a man named John Flanders in Bogotus about getting the caravan sent out early with a new horse wagon for Graves, as well as the needed seed stock. Reese and Pink explained that they needed to discuss it with their team before they agreed and Graves asked them to return in an hour.

An hour later they returned and sealed the deal. Graves had the horses set to go by the time they delivered the throne and they were ready to leave soon afterwords.

Pink and Reese, somewhat suspicious of the too-quick meeting with Mr. Chandler and the rather obtuse report which came back from Vinnie, decided, independently, to investigate and find out the truth. They went around to Mr. Chandler’s house and were happily surprised to run into each other. They talked their way inside and managed to calm Mr. Chandler, who was still quite upset with his meeting with Vinnie.

They explained that Vinnie did not represent them and listened while Chandler described his adventures as a young man and gave them some advice for the road. Reese excused himself early, claiming that he had to take a dump and couldn’t wait. Before Reese left Chandler asked them if they would kindly deliver his final draft of the book he’d been writing, the Art of Negotiation to his lawyer, Mr. Cooper, in Bogotus for him. They agreed and Reese left.

After listening to Chandler for an hour, Pink felt that she had a far firmer grasp on negotiating tactics then she had before she’d showed up. Before she left, Chandler retrieved a fine scimitar from under his chair. He explained that this was the Merchants Last Resort, and he wanted her to have it. Pink graciously accepted the gift and left to leave with her party.

About two miles out of town Billy Congar and nearly twenty of his lackeys were waiting for them. Billy boldly stepped forward and hollered that they could leave in peace, if they left the treasure. The treasure, he reasoned, was just as much theirs as it was the party’s, since it was on village property.

Eres bravely went alone to parley with them. Unarmed and outnumbered he challenged Billy’s followers to leave while they had the chance, if they didn’t want to die. He made a rather convincing show of it and managed to run off twelve of the followers, leaving Billy with himself and five others.

Billy, seeing he was now outnumbered, called out that his friends were traitors and cowards. Eres, never one to let such an opportunity pass, offered a job to the four remaining cronies. Three agreed, leaving only Billy and a lone friend standing together.

Billy, proving that he possessed at least a modicum of sense, decided to run away, rather than fight seventeen men alone. As he ran into the tall grass he called out that he wouldn’t forget this and they’d all regret it someday. I’m sure they’ll never see Billy Congar again.

As Billy ran into the distance, Eres vowed that if he ever saw the man again he would personally kill the rat.

With that they set off again, following the Duke’s road to Bogotus.

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On the road again
The adventurers make their way to Bogotus and get settled in.

  The adventurers, having dealt with Billy and his cronies, continued their journey towards Bogotus.

   The air was crisp and cool with a bite that caused the adventurers to cover themselves with thick furs and heavy clothing. The cold breeze coming in from the North had the scent of the ocean on it; fish, salt and water.

   All that day they traveled the dull road towards Bogotus. At the fork they turned south. They made camp on the roadway, setting sentries on rocks while others slept. The night passed uneventfully. It was cold, but not uncomfortable for the well-protected adventurers.

   In the morning they continued their trek south, passing by the town of Lodaz and instead camping at the corner between the Whiterun River and the Otus mountain range.

   As Hodor was watering the horses in the stream and others began washing themselves and their clothing in the freezing river, Sam, the warrior, stripped down and made ready to wash himself. Reese, the mad cleric of Nemlurun The Unclean, screamed that cleanliness was the greatest danger facing humanity and wrestled Sam onto the ground, giving him thorough drenching in the mud.

   While these antics took place, three mangy wolves emerged from the sparse woods bordering the river. The three hungry predators took a brief survey of the group and began loping towards the struggling pair of naked men on the ground. Jon Owen and Danil Owen, brothers both aware of the dangers of wolves, spared no time in loosing two arrows towards the advancing wolves.

   Jon's arrow went wide, but Danil speared the Wolf directly through the eye, instantly killing the largest of the three. The two remaining wolves, undeterred by the death of their brother, resumed the assault and reached the struggling Sam and Reese. Each taking hold upon the bodies of the two men, they bit savagely into arms and legs, causes serious damage and harm to the two men.

   Stu, the Wizard, seeing his allies so damaged by these vicious wolves, cast one of the two spells he knew, magic missiles. He created four orbs of shimmering light which immediately converged on the larger of the two wolves, and ripped his body into so many pieces instantly. Once finished with their gruesome work, the orbs of force left little that could be identified as a wolf.

   Sam attempted the age-old strategy of poking the wolves eyes out, but somehow managed to instead poke himself in the eye, much to the amusement of his peers. Reese attempted to heal himself with the power of Nimlurun, but received the distinct impression that Nimlurun was busy and shouldn't be bothered at the moment.

   Vinnie the Bat, seeing the scuffle, decided to spend some time helping with the struggle. He casually advanced on the wolves, and using his Rod of Rulership which he had acquired in the portal, took a mighty swing at the wolf. He missed entirely, swinging far too high to hit anything.

   Jonny and Danil took aim again and let their arrows fly, slaying the last wolf. Eres marched forward and made sure that wolf was indeed dead. It was. That evening, Ahnold went to work field dressing the wolves, obtaining their pelts and preparing the meat for supper that evening and the rest to be turned into jerky.

   Having defeated the wolves, they turned in for the night. They took turns watching the camp, and the evening passed rather uneventfully. Early the next morning the group was awakened by a mournful wail. Several of the men rushed to the noise, finding Vinnie the Bat huddled into himself, holding his pack. Tears flowed from his eyes as he bemoaned the loss of the Rod of Rulership. Some thieving ner-do-well had stolen the artifact during the night, leaving no evidence of their involvement during the night.

   The party set out again, the ever-positive Vinnie, finally beat down by the vagaries of life, listlessly stared at the ground as they continued their march. They came to the bridge and took a moment to speak to the guards there.

The guards asked them their names and business. Eres informed them that he was John Owens and they were the John Owens Trading Company. The guards let them pass without any hassle, advising them to offer no trouble to the guards, but especially no trouble to the Blood Wolves, who were barely above thugs in his eyes and answered only to the Duke himself. The party thanked the guard for the advice and continued on towards the city.

   Their first view of Bogotus was truly awe-inspiring. Thirty-foot walls stretched from one side of a sheer cliff to the other. Nestled behind these massive walls was a large, three-tiered city. The walls were nearly thirty feet thick, with the only gate wide enough for four horse-drawn carriages to pass side-by-side. Inside the tunnel leading to the city, murder holes were easily spotted above and to the side. A contingent of guards watched the traffic passing through the gate, but offered no resistance to the passing adventurers.

   They passed through the Rose Gate and continued towards the city proper. The main thoroughfair lead straight through the city to the second gate, which lead to Middle Town.

  Halfway between the two gates was a mile of road called Market Row, where the vendors and shops were located. Every sort of shop imaginable could be found in this area. It didn't take long for Pink, the resident merchant, managed to offload all the superflous treasure. She did well and managed to bring in a handsome sum of 600 gold pieces, enough for them to live like kings for years to come.

  With two goals to persue, they split the party, with Eres leading a group to the Rose and Crown Inn and Steuben Chapman and Reese Bronson taking the magical artifacts to be identified.

  Steuben and Reese took the artifacts to a magical shop called Alligan's. Alligan, the proprietor, quickly identified the Eye's of Entei and the Black Grimoir.

The Eye’s of Entei are a set of powerful artifacts which continually absorb heat, storing the heat in an extrademensional space, readying it to be released by the command of it’s user. Alligan promised to find the command word to release the stored thermal energy against their foes.

The Black Grimoir is a book of ancient spells and rituals. Alligan could not identify the language, and asserted that it was likely the book’s language has been entirely lost to history. He offered Steuben Chapman 100 gold for the book, and Stu agreed to the trade.

Alligan advised Stu and Sam to see a man named Damon the Demonologist to identify the horn of the snake demon, Sisseraug.

Meanwhile, at the Rose and Crown Inn, Eres and his posse were stopped at the door by a mountain of a man named Lorgrain. Lorgrain, a brutish fellow with sunken knuckles and a scary face, informed them they’d need to leave their weapons at the door to get inside. They did so, leaving Hodor to wait outside.

They were greeted by a bright and cheerful lady. She asked them to take a seat and, in a moment, came to their table. She introduced herself as Sara Llast and asked their names. After introductions she offered them lunch, and directed them to Johnathan Llast. They took her up on her offer of lunch and went outside to see Johnathan.

They found Johnathan standing outside in the courtyard, speaking to some of his business partners. Eres and Reese told him they were there to get a caravan back to Mafertat.

They delivered the letter that Mayor Graves had given them. Johnathan told them he’d send out the caravan and horse team as soon as possible, and offered them a job as laborers to get the caravan out sooner. They promptly refused the offer and left.

Stu and Sam, following the tip from Alligan, took their demon horn to an out-of-the-way tent in the slummier end of Market Row. Inside was a hunched figure wrapped in tattered robes. Holding forth a skeletal hand he uttered forth one word in a voice like a knife being drawn across a stone, “What?”

Reese informed him that the horn was from a demon and they wanted it identified.

“Give,” the strange man commanded.

Reese handed the horn over, after a moments hesitation.

“A very little demon used this horn as an anchor to our world. It longs to rejoin our world in the flesh.”

“How do I summon it?”

“Listen when it speaks, boy! It will tell you all you must know.”

“I’ve tried listening, I can’t hear anything.”

The man threw the horn back at Reese with contempt, “Think like a snake, you moron! Put your mind towards the task of finding the snake. When you eat your meals in the morning, think of the snake! When you lie down at night, think of the snake! when you are ready to hear, Sisseraug will speak to you.”

“Thanks for the help,” Reese said as they began backing out of the tent.

“Beware, those who consort with demons pay a terrible price!”

With those words ringing in their ears, they left to find their party.

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Adventures in Bogotus
The party makes new contacts, finds adventure and hookup with some ladies.

Their first night in Bogotus was interrupted by tragedy. A fiend, named Timmy Shark-Tooth, sneaked into the room of Ahnuld, Vinnie-The-Bat and the two villagers. He robbed them and murdered them. Fortunately, the brothers, Danil and Jonny Owens, came upon him in the act. They heroically slew the vile scum, but the damage was done. The remaining adventurers sadly divided his loot and moved on with their lives.

In the morning, the party split and pursued different objectives. Pink and Reese went to Middle town to see J. Cooper. The guard at the gate let them through with little hassle, informing them they were free to visit Middle Town for the day as long as they kept the day pass tokens with them. Pink lost little time in taking a mold of the passes so she could later forge duplicates.

It didn’t take them long to find Cooper and Cooper Law Offices. They were greeted by a jovial, fat man who said the cooper they wanted was his father. He went to an adjacent room and returned, informing them they could go see Mr. Cooper now. Pink complimented Cooper Jr. on his fashion sense, and Jr. told her he’d be happy to discuss fashion with her anytime.

J. Cooper Sr. was an older man with grey in his temples. He took the manuscript and paid the adventurers a sum of fifty gold for the work done. He let them know that any friend of Mr. Chandler was a friend of his and if they ever needed a good lawyer he’d have their back. They thanked him and left, stopping to get some more fashion advice from Cooper Jr..

Meanwhile, Eres and Sam Wo went to check out the town. Eres went to a temple of Justicia, Godess of forgiveness and justice. He approached a devout, but poor-looking woman, and told her of a secret mission he had for her. He wanted her to go to the river outside of town and retrieve an evil artifact, a rod in the shape of half of a demon’s head. He offered her ten gold to retrieve it, and another twenty-five gold to bring it back. She readily agreed, with the understanding that he would destroy the evil artifact once she brought it back. She left in haste to complete her mission.

After that, Eres and Sam Wo began meeting the locals, trying to find someone who knew about the Living Flame. After a time they met a pair of young noblewomen slumming it in Lower City. Tammy and Becky were friendly. They were fascinated by the two outsiders, their rough appearance and stories of the dangerous roads. After talking a while, Sam Wo broached the subject of the Living Flame. Tammy had no idea what that was, but Becky had heard her father talking about it. Lord Locke Cooke was known for having just such a specimen. He had acquired it years ago, and had become quite famous for using the flame as a weapon during the War of the Rose and Wolf. He displays it once a month in his mansion in Duke’s Landing.

Sam and Eres managed to hit it off with the girls, and they asked the boys to attend a ball with them tomorrow night. They readily agreed and the girls spent the afternoon taking Sam and Eres shopping.

Meanwhile: Reese went back to Alligan to pick up the Eyes of Entei, which he’d left with Alligan to discover the command words to activate them. Alligan had discovered the command word, and showed Reese how to utilize the eyes.

He told them of their origin. They were crafted millennia ago for a great God Wizard. He, with the aid of his deific patron, crafted twelve eyes. They had the power to absorb kinetic energy, almost without limit, and then release the stored energy in short bursts. The eyes were each named individually, with these two being called Rohidron and Bealderan, which in the tongue of the God-Wizard meant Great Flame and World Scorcher. Alligan told Reese that he would happily buy the Eyes for ten electrum each.

He informed Reese that the Eyes had a destructive capability that most had no knowledge of. They could be made to release all the pent up thermal energy in a single, cataclysmic blast. The power released could (and in fact had in millennia past) destroy entire cities. The user would of course die, but the Eye would survive, and begin storing energy again. Reese agreed to sell one Eye, and worked the price up to eleven electrum and twenty gold (1,120 gold). Having concluded their business, Reese left to go back to the tavern.

While shopping in Middle City, Eres managed to slip away for a time. He visited the most prestigious architect in town. He fabricated a story about deciding to start a life in Bogotus and wanted to build a manor that was very similar to Lord Cooke’s. The Architects apprentice gave Eres a knowing smile. He offered a trade. He’d give Eres the floor plans to Cooke’s Manor and even lay out the guard security in exchange for fifty gold. After a bit of negotiation, Eres took the deal and walked out with floor plans and understanding of the guard rotation. He also learned where the Living Flame was kept, and that the enclosure was fifteen feet to a side. With this knowledge he went back to the girls and Sam Wo. Both of them tried to ply their affections onto the girls, but only Sam scored. He thoroughly impressed the young lady with his adroit mastery in the arena of the bed.

That night the party (With Sam conspicuously absent) met back up at the Rose and Crown Inn. Eres found the woman he had set out earlier waiting for him in the common room. She had acquired the rod and sat in a corner, clearly overcome with nerves. She frantically gave the rod back to Eres and was duly paid her promised twenty-five gold pieces for completing the work. She eagerly left, apparently wanting no more part in cloak and dagger missions.

That night the party held a council. They discussed what to do about the Living Flame and the Dryad wood. Lord Cooke was set to show his Flame off again in twenty-four days, but Eres and Sam were invited for a ball the next night. Other than this singular invitation, they were not welcome to just wander in the Duke’s Landing. With some thought, Eres decided it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to acquire fake identification to get into Duke’s Landing.

After talking about it for a while, they reached the conclusion that to pull the heist the next day was simply beyond their ability. They decided to pursue the Dryad and then come back for the Living Flame.

They slept that night and in the morning went to see Alligan for advice regarding Dryads and Living Flame.

Alligan told them, without asking for payment, that Dryads were a type of creature that lived in forests and acted as their guardians. The collected near-consciousness of a large forest of trees can produce a single Dryad which will defend the forest against invaders or overly aggressive foresters. The Ugly Woods, to the south, being more than one hundred miles to a side, is reported to have thousands of Dryads in its shadowed depths.

A Living Flame, Alligan explained, is a creature from another world. When the stars are in alignment, there is sometimes gateways opened to other worlds and creatures will occasionally wander through. The Living Flame is just such an organism. It behaves much like any animal, driven by base needs, and can be kept as a pet, albeit a very dangerous one. Lord Locke Cooke famously has one in his mansion, which he utilized during the Rose Wolf War to great effect. He now displays it once a month in his manse and keeps it under lock and key the other twenty-nine days.

After some deliberation they decided to head south into the ugly woods to pursue the acquisition of Dryad wood. They began their preparation that day and resolved to leave sometime after the party which Sam Wo and Eres are to attend.

View
Bears, Trolls and Octopus Brains.
When the adventurers seek out an intelligent Troll they get more than they bargained for.

Still talking to Alligan, the party traded twenty gold pieces for information relating to a contact in the ugly woods, who could help them find a Dryad without wandering blindly for days.

The contact, Alligan told them, was a troll named Cho’Zar. Cho’Zar was, according to Alligan, a somewhat friendly troll who would trade information or gold for assistance in finding a dryad in the forest. Alligan drew them a simple map with instructions to follow to find Trollhaven, the land where Cho’Zar lived.

They began preparations to leave immediately.

Two days after after Sam and Eres’ date with Becky and Tammy, the party geared up and headed out for the ugly woods.

They brought Hodor’s pony, but left the two horses and the cart at the Rose and Crown Inn.

The journey took two days of walking through hilly scrubland. It was an uneventful hike. As night came they camped at the edge of the trees. In the morning a slow drizzle began, and their bright sky turned into damp darkness.

They began their trek through the forest. Progress was painfully slow, but they managed, with John Smiths fearless navigating, to find the path which led to Trollhaven.

Unfortunately, while following a shallow stream east, they encountered a single black bear. This specimen was in the late stages of Mange, and was clearly driven mad from the discomfort of its ailment. It immediately attacked, sending Sam Who to the ground, clearly dead from a mighty bear hug.

The group attacked, firing arrows and crossbow bolts. The beast was injured, but not dispatched.

Steuben Chapman, enraged at the temerity of this bear to strike his ally, cast a powerful magic missile attack. Six purple meteors of power came rushing out of a small portal opened in the air. The missiles struck the bear with the force of a sledgehammer, wielded by a powerful man. The poor bear was blown into several constituent bear pieces by the mighty blow.

Meanwhile, Reese Bronson, trying to cast a spell to aid his allys, somehow managed to displease his God. Feeling the immediate need to beg forgiveness, he spent an hour in quiet supplication on his knees, begging his God for forgiveness for whatever sins, real or imaginary, he may have committed. Sometimes its hard to worship an insane, predatory God.

Poor John Smith, his body unnaturally twisted, lay with his face in the mud. Sam Who turned him over, to check for signs of life, and as he did so, John took a deep breath, filling his lungs with air. He started hacking violently, but otherwise seemed uninjured, though his walking staff had been snapped in half.

Having defeated the bear in mortal combat, they continued on their way.

Another two hours of travel brought them to a wide clearing in the dense forest. In this open area (about one hundred yards to a side) were several cottages, a few small crop fields, some pens for domestic animals, and a large permanent tent, roughly in the center of the clearing.

The adventurers arrived quite late, and the rain was still pouring relentlessly on their heads. The little hamlet was deserted, with no villagers out in the open during this downpour.

The adventurers walked boldly to the central tent and called for the attention of whoever resided inside. An obsequious man answered. Forty-something, in good shape with brown hair, this mousy man introduced himself as Borem. He bade them come inside to get out of the rain. Sam Who, Reese Bronson, Pink, and Eres followed him inside, leaving the others to stand in the rain.

As they filed into the large room, they were struck first with the animal smell in the large tent. They could see a large, shadowed form moving in the back corners of the tent, gnawing on bones and largely ignoring them.

Borem asked them what their business was in Trollhaven. They explained that they were there to find a Dryad. He declared that Cho’Zar could indeed help them find a Dryad, and would they like to stay the night? They asked if they could speek to Cho’Zar directly, but Borem explained that he was the voice of Cho’Zar, as if that was all the explanation they required.

They conversed for a while, asking Borem about Cho’Zar and what had been going on. Borem entertained them for a time, mostly dodging their questions, and invited them to sleep out in the open field, offering to erect a pavilion, with a large, dry strip of cloth underneath for them to sleep on. The party agreed and Borem began the preparations, rousing some of the villagers to begin work.

Reese Bronson wandered to the nearest farmhouse and politely knocked. After a moment, a little girl answered the door, followed by her father and mother. They spoke to Reese for a moment, telling him that things were essentially good for them and that he’d enjoy his time in Trollhaven. Reese thanked them for their time and left. The man of the house introduced himself as Hildren, though Reese seemed generally uninterested in him or his.

Meanwhile, Eres, ever the mastermind of his little cadre, sent Danil Owens and Jonny Owens, to listen at doors until they spied upon a couple in an argument. They listened for a while and eventually found a home with a man fighting with his wife.

They knocked on the door and a moment later a large man opened the door. He asked them what their business was and they answered they were new to the area and just wanted some information. They were convincing enough that the family invited them in and told them of their woes.

Everything had indeed been great until Borem showed up. Before then Cho’Zar had spoken to the people and had been friendly. Recently some people had even disappeared, Borem claimed they had gone of their own accord. The family told the brothers that this story was highly unlikely, and they were worried, but were too afraid to leave.

Danil ducked out of the house and spoke to Eres, who was skulking in the dark and rain. He related the stories they had been told.

Eres, having heard enough, crept into the tent where Cho’Zar and Borem lived. Once there it didn’t take him long to find Borem’s things. Borem had a sleeping mat and chest for his clothing and other personal effects. Eres quickly searched through his sleeping pallet and came up with nothing, he than unlocked the chest with little trouble. Inside he found some clothing and some food, but what most caught his eye was a bound leather book. The book was bound locked, but Eres easily circumvented the lock by cutting through the leather binding.

The book contained a journal of this Borem. He had come to this place roughly six months ago. The entries from that time mentioned a creature that he could bend to his will and a village full of potential subjects.

With all the evidence he needed, Eres rushed to a nearby farmhouse he had spotted earlier with well used weapons hanging from the wall. He jumped through the window and, over the protestations of the outraged family, showed them the evidence.

Presented with a golden opportunity. the family, which consisted of a father, mother and an old grandfather, agreed to gather as many fighting men as they could and meet the adventurers by the newly-erected pavilion. Surprisingly, the old man took the weapons down from the wall, claiming he was quite the swordsman in his day.

Eres scampered back to the pavilion, letting his party know that crap was about to hit the fan. He then started to stall Borem.

Borem, all smiles and laughs, was overseeing the process of setting up the sleeping area. His work completed he set out for his tent. Eres intercepted him, asking him about Dryads in the area. Borem answered that he knew where to find them, but couldn’t describe it in words. Eres asked a few more questions, clearly stalling.

After a few moments of Borem trying to extract himself from the conversations and retire for bed, a group of armed villagers, led by the old graybeard, blocked is passage to and called his name. Borem turned to look at them and looked nonplussed by the confrontation. He turned a bemused smile on Eres and his compatriots, only to find Eres aiming a crossbow at his throat.

“Hands where I can see them. Get that little wizards book you carry with you and place it upon the ground,” Eres said.

Borem looked sadly between the group of traitorous villagers, and these smiling, villainous travelers. “I just want to say, that I wasn’t planning on killing any of you.” With that he brought his fingers to his lips and let out a whistle, which was cut short by the crossbow quarrel puncturing his windpipe. He fell gasping to the ground, blood spurting between his clutching fingers.

A furious roar echoed through the little clearing. A moment of stunned silence was followed by the ground shaking as something enormous raced across the sodden earth. Out of the shadows, a nightmare on two legs emerged. A huge, gray monstrosity. Its muscles bulged beneath its rubbery skin as it began to lay into the villagers. Within the space of a single heartbeat, two villagers had fallen, one being flung far into the night, the other crushed to pulp beneath the beasts monstrous fists.

In this moment of horrified confusion, Borem took advantage and sprang forward, his lethal wound ignored, to strike at Eres with a blade he had kept concealed within his robe. His hand, slick with his own blood, fumbled the knife and he went back down to his knees.

Their path clear before them, the adventurers sprang into action, attempting to kill the creature which now controlled the fearsome beast. With steel and magic they struck the man. John Smith tried to cast magic missiles at the beast, but made a simple mistake. The backlash of arcane energies rushed into his body. He immediately sprouted a dozen hideously pustules from his face.

With only superficial wounds dealt so far, the wizard, Steuben Chapman, cast his favorite spell, magic missiles. He opened a portal to another realm, releasing 6 purple meteors of power, which struck with bone-shattering force, crushing Borem into a pile of bloody, broken bones on the ground.

However, the beast continued its rampage.

As Borem lay, dead on the ground, his chest began to stir and rubbery tentacles clawed their way free of his robes. A strange monster, resembling a brain with octopus’ tentacles emerging from the left and right hemisphere, struggled free and began to float away.

The party renewed their assault, striking the beast with all they had. Firing arrows, hitting it with clubs, daggers and swords. The beast, clearly near death still struggled on. The troll, now within striking range of the party, lifted poor Buzz Aldrin off his feet, one hand upon his head and the other upon his feet, with the clear intention of tearing the hapless man in half.

Just as Cho’Zar began to tense his muscles, preparing to slay Buzz, the old graybeard that Eres had met in the house he’d invaded, brought his blade down in a perfect overhand chop, neatly cutting the floating brain-octopus into two halves. It fell, limply, slowly to the ground. Thunder could be heard in the distance, and the eyes of the troll, heretofore the blank eyes of a dumb animal, regained sharpness and clarity.

Blinking, Cho’Zar looked around the clearing. Standing in the falling rain he examined the man clutched between his fists. In a mild baritone, a shockingly high voice for such a large creature, Cho’Zar said, “What the devil is happening here?”

View
Making friends, exploring alliances, fighting hydras
The party gets to know Cho'Zar a little better.

Rain fell in the suddenly quiet clearing. A beast, standing twice as tall as a normal man, held Buzz Aldrin between its gnarled fists, prepared to tear the unfortunate man in half. A sudden clarity entered its eyes. Blinking, the rain pouring down its hideously deformed face, the beast examined its surroundings. In a mild baritone, a strangely high pitch for such a creature, it said, “What the devil is going on here?”

Noticing the man held between his hands for the first time, he put him down upon his feet with a gentle pat. Buzz Aldrin scurried to the back ranks for his compatriots, grateful for the reprieve. “I do say, what is going on here?”

Eres stepped forward, grasping the mutilated corpse at his feet by the hair and holding it aloft for Cho’Zar to see, “This man was controlling your actions. We saved you from his influence.”

Cho’Zar inspected the corpse being held up, “Yes, I was just talking to this man. I was there talking to him, now I’m standing out in the rain with you all. Quite odd.”

Victor Traid, the older man who assisted in the battle, stepped forward, “What they say is true, Cho’Zar. These men are heroes.”

Cho’Zar considered him a moment. “I see. I need some time to digest this. You look as if you have things set here. I’ll retire to my tent. Goodnight.” With that, Cho’Zar headed towards his tent, swiftly disappearing into the rainy night.

Eres followed, wanting to speak to the Troll. He went into Cho’Zar’s tent, hoping to look through Borem’s possessions.

Meanwhile, the party looted Borem’s corpse, finding a pair of magical daggers and a sack containing 30gp.

When Eres entered, Cho’Zar was looking at his room as if lost. he noticed Eres behind him, “Would you look at this mess? Can you believe this? I bet he wouldn’t treat his own possessions in such a horrid fashion. It will take me weeks to clean up all this mess. Bah!”

“Uhh, yeah, looks pretty bad. You think I could go through Borem’s stuff, just in case some if it is time sensitive?”

“Oh, yes, I suppose so.” Cho’Zar cleared a large place on the floor and moved Borem’s sleeping mat and chest there, then continued his cleaning.

Eres examined the chest. He found some fine clothing inside, some food and cheese. He took the box, the clothes and the bedding. Pink took the food.

They slept through the night and in the morning asked if Cho’Zar would escort them to the Dryad tree. Cho’Zar agreed. Before they left, Steuben Chapman picked up a magical signature from about a mile and a half away, towards the mountain range. They decided to collect the Dryad wood first, and then check out the magic.

On the way towards the Dryad they talked to Cho’Zar. Pink rode upon his back, fashioning a crude harness from some rope and leather.

Cho’Zar described his experience in the village, his daily life and his encounter with Borem. Borem had said he was a travelling potion maker, and had heard tell of a sentient troll. Troll Blood, being extremely valuable and equally difficult to get a hold of, he asked if Cho’Zar would provide him with some. Cho’Zar agreed and took a dagger from Borem and cut a large gash in his forearm. That was the last memory he had before he was aware of being in the clearing with the party.

The party concluded that it was either some form of magic that Borem knew, or it was part of the properties of the magical daggers they recovered from Borem’s corpse. Further testing would be needed to confirm or deny.

They reached the Dryad tree without incident and took plenty of wood.

On the way back they asked Cho’Zar about where he had come from. He explained that he was actually a prince of Bogotus.

His home had been threatened by a band of marauding Hill Giants. He had traded power to defeat his foes for a curse with an oracle named Oteh in the Mountains of Otus.

In exchange for the form of a Troll, he gave up his humanity (“whatever that means. I’ve never missed it”) and was cursed so that if he was ever around more than one hundred people he would lose control and act like a true Troll.

They reached Trollhaven and soon set out for the magical signature that Stu had felt.

It was a short walk, and Cho’Zar came with them.

When they reached the mountains, where Stu could feel the magic coming from, they found a cave entrance, leading down into the earth. Cho’Zar complained the entrance was too small for him and he’d have to stay outside.

Inwards the adventurers went. They had Hodor lead the way, which may have been an unfortunate choice, since Hodor is by any measure somewhat retarded.

In any event, they reached the bottom and were surprised to find a rather cozy room complete with a large table for alchemical preparations and a smaller one, clearly intended for eating. At the smaller table sat a strange man. He had dusky skin and red hair. He had been sitting in the dark at the table. In front of him was a cup and two other places were set at the table, each with a cup in front of them as well.

“Welcome,” the strange man said, his voice obsequious and weaselly. “Please, sit, I’ve been expecting you.”

At this point only Hodor, Danil and Johnny were at the bottom, the rest were hidden in the tunnel. They decided to play it off like there were only three of them in total.

“You must be mistaken,” said Danil, “We’re just travelers who happened upon this cave.”

“Oh? you weren’t responsible for Borem’s death? I was sure whoever killed him would head here next.”

“Borem bad!” declared Hodor.

Danil and Johnny tried to shush the gentle giant, but the damage was done.

“Oh, so you have met him.” The man noticed Hodor looking up the pathway behind him and asked, “are there more of you? You seem to be expecting someone.”

“No, no,” Johnny rushed to assure him.

“Yeah, there’s more of us,” Hodor helpfully supplied.

“well, come on down, don’t be shy.”

The rest of the party gathered in. The man commented that there certainly were more than he expected. They agreed and asked him what his business was down here and how he knew of Borem.

The man introduced himself as Ig and explained that he was an Ifrit who was bound to serve Borem. Even though he could feel Borem’s passing, he was still trapped here until his Oathstone was recovered. He promised the party treasure if they recovered his stone. They agreed and he warned them that the way to his treasure hoard was guarded by a giant Hydra of some power.

He offered them treasure, four potions of healing, two potions of dragons breath.

The party scouted out the area ahead, seeing the telltale shape of a sleeping Hydra in a large pool in the center of a large chamber. They rushed in, prepared for a fight. The Hydra obliged.

The party attacked ferociously, killing one of the heads. The other 6 attacked, killing Buzz Aldrin, Danil Owens, Reese.

The battle rages on, only time will tell who the victor is.

View
Victory, Treasure, Return!
Having freed Ig, the Ifrit, the heroes prepare to return to Bogotus.

In the smoky, fiery darkness the multi-headed beast thrashed and bucked, its many necks slithering over each other and the slick ground, striking repeatedly at the tiny intruders who had already harmed it.

Fire burned across the creatures back and many necks, oil burned atop the fetid pool as well, smoke rising to the ceiling, choking adventurer and monster alike. Four of their party had been dispatched by the monster, ten remained. They fought like tigers.

When things seemed at their grimmest, Zoltar had an idea. He drank one of the potions of firebreath. Thus armed, he blew a thick line of fire directly above the Hydra’s body. Perhaps he was trying to scare it, or perhaps the goodly cleric had a moment of doubt. In any event a moment later his aim proved true and he dispatched the wretched beast.

At the same time, Eres cast his last spear, catching one of the heads in the eyeball, pinning it to the wall.

All this abuse was too much for the beast. It slumped to the ground, its body and necks smoldering in the blaze. The party recovered their downed allies and were delighted find that they had all survived the fight.

After examining the room for a moment and finding it sadly bereft of treasure, they investigated the door set into the stone wall on the far side of the room.

There was a pretty impressive lock on the door, but Hodor made short work of it with the handle of his sword. Lock destroyed, the door swung open on its uneven hinges. Inside, the room was something from a nightmare. A dozen humans hung on the walls, their wrists spiked to the stone wall by large nails. The humans had been eviscerated, their innards removed and a strange, gooey substance placed inside their chest cavity.

The viscous goo was nearly opaque, but strange shapes could be seen moving sluggishly through the thick slime. Beyond that, there was a strange spider which skittered around the room. It had metal grafted onto its body and was examining the humans and their implanted larva one by one.

Thoroughly spooked, the adventurers retreated to the previous room, closing the door to discuss what they should do.

After a lengthy discussion, weighing all their options, they decided to consult with the Ifrit they had met at the start of the cave.

Ig answered as if the answer was unimportant and obvious, “You mean the incubation room? That’s where Borem was growing more of his kind.”

“What happens if we don’t destroy them?” asked Eres.

“Well, They’d escape out into the world and there’d be more of his kind,” was his reply.

“Any downside to killing them?”

“Your conscious might be pricked, I suppose.” They all joined in a hardy round of laughter.

There course clear to them, they returned to the incubation room.

The team set up a strategy to attack several times before the spider could respond. They lined up their archers and spear throwers, followed by their melee combatants, all prepared to rush in. They counted to three, knocked opened the door and began their assault.

Firing two arrows and two spears they struck the creature twice. It did not respond, except to walk a little less straight. After a moment, it became clear the creature was non-hostile. They all ran in and crushed it to smithereens. Pink was particularly alert and noticed that there was an electrum piece inside the creature. She reached inside and retrieved it.

Next, they set Hodor to destroying the creatures nesting within the humans. He set to with gusto, cutting the strange, octopus-like creature out of the humans and then crushing them to death under his heel.

When he reached the last one, the human began jerking slightly and opened its eyes. “We’re watching,” it whispered, “we’ve you seen you murder our children. We won’t forget, we won’t forgive.”

Hodor, totally unconcerned, began the process of cutting the creature free, but Eres interrupted and stepped forward, “You’re watching us? Just who are you?”

“We are the ones who walk among you, who watch and prepare. You, human, we won’t forget your face.”

“Oh yeah? Well, you were all pretty easy to kill. Bring it on.”

“You, lowly human, you will regret your words.”

“You think you’re more advanced then us? You can’t survive without humans. You’re just a brain without us.”

“We can survive in any organism. We prefer humans because they are the dominant race on this miserable planet.”

They had Hodor slap the human around a bit, but he said, “Go ahead and hit this vessel, it does not hurt me.”

“Oh yeah? Pull him out, Hodor.”

Hodor happily obliged. They kicked the creature around a bit and stuck it back into the human. They were disappointed to find they had killed the creature, but perhaps it was for the best.

They continued on, another door led into the treasure room where they found a large catch of both currency and loot. Of notable mention were a magical scythe and full-plate, which were a set, and Ig’s Oath stone.

They returned to the room where they had originally encountered Ig. He was there, looking more vibrant and alive, tiny flames flickering through his eyes and over his arms and hair. He was prepared to accept the stone, but they asked if he would first prepare some potions for them. He hesitantly agreed to prepare four potions of healing, two potions of regeneration, and two more potions of fire-breathing. He began the preparations immediately, and the adventurers settled in to wait.

View
Into the mountains, into some trouble
The party takes a side-trek into the mountains

After the events of Borem’s Lair, the party returned to Trollhaven. Cho’Zar was waiting there for them. He seemed only mildly interested that some of the villagers had died in the cave, saying “Villagers are like a yearly crop. Sometimes they just don’t make it. Nothing to get upset about.”

The party asked Cho’Zar about his curse again and how to break it. He freely divulged that he had gone to a seer in the Otus Mountains named Orteh and asked for power to defeat his foes. Orteh offered him a curse that would prevent him from ever returning to his beloved homeland in exchange for the power he wished. He accepted. He was transformed into a troll and cursed to lose control and turn into a mindless killer whenever he was in close proximity of more than one hundred sentient creatures.

Eres indicated that they would like to go on a quest to free Cho’Zar from his curse, but they might need a few more adventurers, as their ranks were getting pretty thin. Cho’Zar said he would check with the villagers and see if there were any who would be willing to adventure with them.

Cho’Zar spoke with Victor Traid, who found a few volunteers. A halfling named Three Stone, a former Cobbler named Oak, and a former Highwayman named Miller. Three Stone said he was in charge of the two humans. Eres spoke with them for a bit, interviewing them for the party. They agreed upon terms that Three Stone and the two would be paid 20gp or 10% of the found treasure, whichever was higher. They were quickly integrated into the party. They commenced their journey.

Cho’Zar agreed to lead them partway into the mountains, even going so far as to scale cliff faces and secure ropes for them. Most of them made it up without much incident, but Hodar had serious trouble reaching the top, falling three times. Cho’Zar took pity on the giant dullard and carried him up the three concentric cliff faces.

After coming to a more level range, Cho’Zar left the party to head back to Trollhaven, stating that he wasn’t comfortable leaving his village for more than a few hours. He left them instructions on how to find the sage. “Follow the setting sun, when you reach a tall spire, look for an entrance at the base. There are three specters. Ask your boon and each will offer you a price in exchange. If you turn each down they will take your life. Do not approach them lightly.”

The party agreed they understood and left. They marched all the rest of the day and camped out under the stars.

The next day they continued their quest. Around Midday, they came upon three Dwarves studying a map and arguing about something. The party sent Three Stone to speak with them.

As the Dwarves noticed Three Stone coming towards them they hurriedly put there map away and the one in the lead greeted him, “Hail and well met, traveler.”

“Hail and well met,” Three Stone replied.

The three Dwarves noticed the larger band of adventurers standing some 30 feet behind the little Halfling. “That is quite the expedition you have there, little one. I am Odem, and these are my cousins, Tronson, and Bronson. What is your name, friend?”

“I am called Three Stone,” replied the Halfling, “It is most fortunate that we have met you Dwarves under these circumstances. We are on a quest to retrieve a treasure map of great value, but the way is guarded by a creature which only speaks Dwavish. It is pure fortune that we have come upon not one, but three Dwarves. For a cut of the treasure, might we enlist your help in recovering this map? Your part would be small, only speaking to the creature.”

“Hmm,” replied the Dwarf, “I must discuss this with my compatriots.” With that they gathered in a tight huddle and whispered to each other.

After a moment Odem returned, “We find your terms agreeable. We will help recover this map and then help recover the treasure. However, we want to have a full half of all the treasure, after all, without our help, you would receive no treasure. What say you, Three Stone?”

Three Stone thought it over for a moment, “Sure, we can agree to those terms.”

With that they shook on it and introduced themselves to the party.

The party, now including three Dwaves, continued that day and again slept under the stars.

The next day they continued and by Midday had reached the tall spire which Cho’Zar had described.

The party wanted Odem and his cousins to go alone, but Odem insisted that he be accompanied by at least three others, one for each Dwarf. They sent Hodor, Three Stone, and Zoltar.

The group of six started into the cave. It was a long, narrow corridor of stone on a downhill grade, which terminated into a large, bare, stone chamber in the center of which was a raised dais, upon which stood a low altar.

Behind the altar hovered three spectral apparitions. They hung together behind the altar, patiently waiting.

Odem nervously moved forward to stand before the three sages. The middle one said a short Dwarvish phrase in a voice which sounded like churning gravel. Odem looked around quizzically. Tronson and Bronson both shrugged, at a loss. He replied in Dwarvish to the hovering sage.

The sage took a moment to consider and then replied. Odem shook his head, saying a negative in Dwarvish. The second apparition spook, in a soft whisper, like a blade being drawn against silk. Again, Odem shook his said, even more vehemently saying no.

The third sage spoke, its voice having the gravity and finality of the grave. It spoke for a bit longer, but in the end Odem said no again, shaking his head and waving his hands, as if to ward them off. His protestations did no good. He was lifted into the air, his body began disintegrating and, in a brief moment, he was broken into tiny particles, which were scattered to the wind.

Twin howls of disbelief issued from the cousins, as they lurched forward, as if they could save him. They fell to their knees, heads bowed in grief.

Zoltar spoke, “What happened, they killed him?”

Through his tears, Tronson spoke, “It asked Odem what he wanted. Odem said he wanted the treasure map. It said it would give him a treasure map in exchange for his arms. Of course he said no. The second said it would give him a map in exchange for the lives of all his children. He said no to that too. The last one offered him the map for his eyesight. He said no again, and then he.. he..” overcome with grief, Tronson couldn’t continue any longer.

Hodor bravely stepped forward. “Hodor handle this,” he said.

He reached the altar and the first specter spoke, “What gift do you wish, mortal?” it asked in its gravelly voice, in common.

“Fix friend,” Hodor boldly stated, in his usual eloquence.

“Clarify, which friend?” Said the specter.

“Fix friend you turned into a troll.”

“Ahhhh. Yes I remember the that one. You wish his curse removed? Than in exchange you will take his curse upon yourself, agreed?”

“Yes!” said Hodor.

In an instant he began transforming. His skin turning a grey-green, his skin bulging and straining, a violent, primal scream ripped from him. His armor bulged and eventually exploded off him, the leather bindings failing before the magical transformation. A moment later a huge, hideous beast stood before them. It looked around for a moment and then made its way up the stone tunnel.

In the absence of the newly made Troll, the remaining party looked at each other, debating whether to approach the sages or not.

Their moment of contemplation was interrupted by Tronson. “You did this,” he whispered, raising his head to glare at Three Stone. “You got Odem killed,” he and his brother stood and drew their swords, rushing at Three Stone together.

The Halfling called for help, but he needn’t have bothered. He quickly, and expertly, dispatched the two Dwarves.

The adventurers gathered at the base of the spire, Hodar already preparing a tree for a weapon, and prepared to return to Trollhaven to see Cho’Zar.

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