Unearthing the Past

A Grand Ball

The next morning, Uthad was approached by a member of the town guard. Both he and Niene were asked to accompany them to the city barracks to talk to the guard captain. After arriving, they were temporarily placed in a cell with Bastion and Illaria, two individuals who had been arrested at the site of the burning building the party had occupied the night before.

The guard captain, Mathúin, interrogated the group and their involvement in a fight and possible arson. The group had been spotted in the area fighting with others, but no bodies were recovered and noone was reported coming into the temples for healing. The party indiccates an issue with undead in the city, but the captain behaves as though he doesn’t believe them. His show doesn’t convince the party and they can tell he knows more than he is indicating.

Without any proof of their involvement, the captain doesn’t have anything to hold them on, but warns them not to leave town until his investigation is over and not to get into any more trouble.

The party left the barracks and decided to investigate the items they acquired from Lord Perinold’s home the previous day. Niene remembers there is a large bank in the heart of the city with lockbox storage. The group goes in with Illaria posing as a noble and the others as her guards and assistant. Retrieving the lockbox they find an ornate mask meant to celebrate the inauguration of the first Queen of Kaddastrei.

The party strikes up a plan where Bastion will pose as Lord Perinold while Illaria will pose as his date. Uthad and Niene will get jobs as the wait staff and sneak in their weapons and hide them under the bar. While preparing for the party, Niene notices a special delivery of wine to the bartender at the far end of the room.

It takes some time for the party to get going, but once it does there are dozens of couples milling about, ordering drinks, conversing, and danving. When Bastion and Illaria enter, the group notices two individuals react oddly. Through out the evening Bastion is able to identify a number of individuals that are undead.

Halfway through the evening Queen Éilís makes an appearance. Not staying long, she speaks with several nobles, including Illaria. Bastion scans her with his ability to sense health and finds she is extremely healthy, if not the healthiest person he has ever seen. The queen’s stay isn’t long however and soon she departs to return to the castle.

Its not long before Bastion and Illaria are approached by two individuals earlier identified as the undead. Combat ensues and the party dispatches a number of vampires and their mortal thralls. A number of nobility and wait staff were neither vampire, nor thrall, remained in the room, unable to escape. Illaria and Niene attempt to calm them down, while Bastion and Uthad interrogate two individuals that were in league with the vampires.

One individual was a noble who walked in on a murder scene, the next thing he knew he was being compelled to do errands for the lord of the manor where the party was being held. He would deliver messages to dead drop locations, and act on behalf of the lord, he knew little more than that. The other individual however knew a great deal more. He was a kitra, an individual who served the vampires in hopes of becoming one himself. Each kitra is tattooed at the base of their neck to indicate their master, in the same way cattle are branded. He would say little, but indicated that while they killed a number of vampire nobility tonight, the the Cult of the Dead goes much deeper than they think.

When asked about the relationship between the vampires and the nation of Tor Ulthuan, he indicated there was no formal agreement, however Ulthuani elves are opportunists and will make deals that benefit them the most. Currently the cult is trafficking mortals in and out of the country, mostly as livestock, but some as slaves to the Ulthuani. There are several caravans that come and go from the city that are involved in the trade.

Having exhausted all the information from him, the party decides to let him go, but not before Bastion burns a magical message into his forehead warning his masters that they are coming.

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An Investigation Begins

Reading through Findal’s Journal, which the cataloged a long term investigation into a series of murders that had plagued the city for some time, the party decides to pickup where Findal had left off.

The journal had mentioned a young street urchin living near the slums that was being used as an informant and that had possibly seen the murderer with his last victim. The party uses the information in the journal to track him down and while he is leading them to somewhere they can speak without fear of being overheard they are attacked by an individual who turns out to be Findal’s assistant, Raekk. After a tense encounter, the two parties reach an understanding and Raekk decides to join the party in their investigation into the murders.

The urchin described seeing an individual who didn’t seem to belong in the slums. While he wore the clothes of a common street thug, he held himself with the posture of someone of higher station and was “too clean”. Having see the individual go into the bar, he watched and followed him leave later in the evening with a woman who seemed smitten with him. They weaved through back alleys until the suspect likely caught on they were being followed and darted down an alley, losing their tail. Moments later the urchin heard a scream and running to where the sound came from he found a crowd around the body of the girl he had been following, her throat torn out.

The party investigated the the location of the murder and found a damaged symbol of Pelor that appeared to have been thrown away, but little else. They struck upon a plan to use Niene as bait, having her pose as a bar patron while the other keep an eye on her. Late into the evening a young man matching the description given by the urchin enters the bar and approaches Niene. While talking to him she suddenly found herself enraptured and willing to do whatever he says. He leads her out the bar and the rest of the party stealthily falls in behind. As he drags her back and forth, weaving in an out of the alley ways, the party follows. At some point he notices them and back tracks until Raekk casts a web spell, trapping Niene against a wall and slowing the suspect. When Uthad and Raekk corner him, he begins to fight them with his bare hands, causing a decent amount of damage. At some point Niene frees herself and manages to burn the suspect with a spell, unfortunately killing him. Upon his death, his body disintegrates, leaving them with just his possessions to investigate.

On the body they find a few rings. Taking them to the jeweler’s they had visited before they found that one of the rings had been a custom order for two individuals, one a minor lord named Perinold. Deciding to stake out his home and see if he was the individual they killed, they see a courier show up and deliver something to a servant who mentions to the courier that the lord did not come home last night and hasn’t been seen today, though he doesn’t seem very concerned. When the servant leaves Raekk suggests breaking into the home through a side door and seeing what is in that package. Sneaking in, Raekk collects the fine silverware from the home. Moving further in he finds the package next to the front door. Opening it, it contains a small chest which they decide to open later but leave behind another package wrapped up to appears as though nothing is missing.

When they get home Raekk takes a few hours to open the lock and discovers it contains a small jar filled with blood, a large and ornate key, a note containing “Row 12, Column 2”, and a very familiar arcane gem. The gem was identical to another Arcane Gem recovered from a gnoll warlock on their journey to Caer. After some study, the gems are identified to be linked and are some sort of communication device. Soon after the party hears odd noises outside and when they go to investigate they find that a dense mist blocks all vision outside the apartment. Soon after a swarm of ghouls and ghasts attack. Niene consecrates the apartment and as the battle rages, Uthad throws up a circle of protection from evil, creating a bubble the undead can’t enter but they can attack from inside of. More undead enter the apartment and Niene finds herself trapped in the garden of the apartment, paralyzed by a bite from a ghoul. Suddenly a fire errupts at the side of the house, launched by an unseen assailant, possibly one controlling the undead attacking them. As the fire begins to spread, the party wipes out the rest of the undead. Before the fire can engulf the entire apartment, Uthad gathers up his gear and hoists Niene to her feet, letting them grab their gear and escape the blaze.

Breaking out into the streets, they make a break for it, not bothering to figure out who their attackers are, and head straight to the Church of Pelor, seeking sanctuary.

Loot/XP:

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Onward, to Kaddastrei

Spending the evening in Ballyclare, the party wakes early in the morning and has breakfast. The local innkeeper warns them to stick to the roads and not pay any attention to the dancing swamp lights before they leave town.

After traveling for several hours with few issues, the group encounters a goblin scouting party and quickly dispatches them. As they reach the outskirts of a small village on the southern side of the swamps, the party finds it on fire and under attack by another group of goblin attackers. The sole defender, a gnomish warrior named David who had single-handedly defeated several of the goblins, but was at this point surrounded and in need of help. After dispatching the goblins and their troll pet, the party finds that Dyne had been struck by a poisoned dart and needed immediate assistance.

The group scoured the swamp and was able to find herbs that could negate the effects of the poison, but the cure Dyne they would need to travel onwards to Kaddastrei and purchase the proper medications.

The remainder of the trip took little time before they were greeted by the great walls of Kaddastrei. Stopped by the town guard, they are directed to the apothecary district where they find an antidote for the poison affecting Dyne. After exploring the city and gathering information from the locals, the party locates a modest apartment for 40g a month.

After setting up shop in their new apartment, the party had 2 immediate goals.

  1. Sell their goods
  2. Research the Black Grimoire

Dividing the tasks, Niene travels to The Queen’s Academy with the Black Grimoire and is directed to meet with the head librarian. He immediately recognizes the script as ancient Acrèbaran, but is unfamiliar with the glyphs and diagrams also found in the book. Niene, having already already deciphered the text of the book thanks to her repertoire of spells, spends her time familiarizing herself with information on the region of Acrèbara and spending time with the head librarian, an elderly half-elf named Findal, whom she comes to think of as a grandfather.

Uthad spends his time cataloging their spoils of war and gathering information around town of various shops and vendors that would be best to visit in an attempt to sell their goods. Traveling with Niene in the mornings before she travels to The Queen’s Academy, they visit several smiths, general goods vendors and shops like High Market Jewelers, Obscura Antiquities and Oddities, and even a emissary from the dwarven city of Hammerfast, collecting a large sum of money in the end and a lead on a tailor who can work with Graypelt’s coat.

Deciding to show the others what she has come up with, Niene takes Uthad and David to meet Findal. When they arrive they find his office destroyed. A long mirror on his wall was cracked, the hemlock and garlic strands were torn down, and the religious symbols had been removed. All his papers were strewn across the room, his book shelves thrown to the ground and in the middle of it all lay his lifeless body; his neck snapped by something with immense strength.

The town guard, having been alerted by the party, begin to question Niene as she was the last to see Findal alive. Having been convinced by Uthad that Niene doesn’t have to strength to have broken Findal’s neck, they are given permission to investigate on their own, so long as they don’t get in the guards’ way. They, however, don’t mention a small note found in Findal’s hand, and addressed to Niene and that led them to a hollowed out book with a key inside.

Following clues in the form of old proverbs, the party locates a trap door in the wine cellar of Findal’s home. Again using the clues on the note, the party navigates a series of traps before ending in a room with a door guarded by a giant clay golem, reminiscent of smaller animated clay figures Findal had in his office. Answering his riddles, they are given access to the final room, a study full of notes, maps, articles, and a journal that chronicles research into a series of murders that goes back many years. Initially thinking Findal’s death related to their research into the book, they realize they merely were in the wrong place and Findal’s death was due to his research into these murders.

Loot/XP:

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Ballyclare and the Tower of Storms

The party talks it over and comes to a consensus that the best choice of action it to get off the barge before entering Tor Ulthuan and travel by foot, even if it adds several days onto their journey. Close to midday the party spies a shallow location on the river clearly used to ford carts and use this as an area to disembark. Following the path south-west with two people pulling the cart and another pushing, the traveling goes slowly, but after a few hours they come to a crossroads indicating four directions:

Having come from the direction of Aelin-uial and knowing their intended destination lies further to the south, the party heads for Bundoran. Having set up camp and woken early the next morning the party hears a strange cry . Dyne is able to identify it as a large bull elk bugling to a mate and sets out to track the animal while the others remain with the cart. He is successfully able to track the creature and sneak up on it before throwing a rope over its neck and calming it.

An hour passes before Uthad and Niene become concerned. Its just about this time that Dyne comes riding over the hillside, astride a great and majestic elk. Tying the creature to the cart with a makeshift harness, they are able to greatly quicken their pace and make it to Bundoran much sooner than they had expected.

After investigating around town a little, the party discovered a few points of interest:

  • The Queen’s Academy can be found in the capital city of Kaddastrei to the south.
  • If the party takes the road south to Ballyclare there will be signs directing them on to the capital.
  • The journey is going to take several days, but the village has a few horses they can buy to help speed their travel.

Dyne believes there is a chance he can tame the elk to use as a mount, but is concerned he might not succeed and then they would be without anything to pull the cart. The group decides they will purchase two horses to pull the cart and are able to talk the seller down from 75gp each to 58gp each.

The ride to Ballyclare is uneventful, though as they approach the town they see a great storm raging over it and much of the surrounding area. The storm appears to be stationary, but they are unable to discern anything out of the ordinary and continue on. Arriving in town near the end of the day, the party passes a group of militia recruits in a muddy field outside town. They attack one another with wild abandon, swinging wooden swords and shields. Watching them with dismay is a cloaked man on horseback. Near him, standing in a puddle by the road, is a dour dwarf smoking a pipe while rain pours off his wide·brimmed hat.

The storm continues to rage and has turned the roads into little more that troughs of mud, exhausting the horses once they get to town. As they make their way into the inn from the stables outside, they see a creature locked in a cage in the middle of town, afforded little to no protection from the storm. As they pass the figure they notice that while humanoid, he is clearly not human but instead half man, half goat. he meets Dyne’s gaze and much sorrow can be seen in his eyes.

Ordering dinner, the party inquires from one of the barmaids about the creature in the cage. She informs them its a “GoatFolk”, they normally stay away from town and are peaceful creatures, the town has even traded with them in the past, but recently a storm has come to town and rumors of attacks by the creature have circulated so when they found this one snooping around one of the farms outside town they took him prisoner for fear he might be scouting out for an attack.

The party goes outside to speak with the creature. He seems hesitant at first, but when Niene eases his discomfort with a cantrip he quickly warms to them. He explains that he is an Ibixian and comes from the mountains away from town. He returned to his village only to find it deserted. Searching for his people he came to town to investigate if they had come to seek shelter from the humans, but while scouting the town to see if there was any danger is was captured by a farmhand. Not wanting to injure anyone he surrendered without a fight and was thrown in the cage they find him in now, being blamed for the storm that has raged over the town for close to a week.

The party returned to the inn and waited for the head of the militia to return. Buying him a drink, the party learns the details of what has happened in town. Some time ago a party of dwarven stonemasons was escorted to the ruins of an old tower some ways outside town. Their intention was to rebuild a watch tower built sometime ago by adventurers to keep an eye over the land surrounding the village of Ballyclare. It was destroyed generations ago, and with recent issues from creatures in the bog to the south, hills to the west, and woods to the north, the town decided it would be prudent to rebuild it. Some time later Faringray was recalled to town to train militia troops, so he left the dwarves safety in the hands of his men and returned. Shortly after he got back a massive storm rolled up and after several days one of the stone masons stumbled into town and told a story of how the guards were overrun by a group of goatfolk. His hands bound with training new troops, Faringray is unable to go himself to investigate, so he asks the party if they would be willing to investigate what has happened. Indicating he finds it hard to believe the goatfolk would attack the village, and that the prisoner outside wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight against skilled adventurers, he authorizes the prisoner’s release into the party’s custody should they wish it.

Setting out in the morning the party travels west though the rain and fog until they reach the tower. Milling about the ruins they see a group of ibixians , and using a spell designed to harm the undead and do nothing to the living, they quickly discover they are zombies.

After dispatching the group and investigating the ruins, they hear barking noise coming from a hole in the ruined tower floor. Identifying the voices as those belonging to Gnolls, Bawdewyn informs the party of a long standing feud between his people and the gnolls and how most likely the gnolls want to wipe out the human village just for the pleasure of destruction. As they descend into the ruins lightening strikes the top of the tower ruins, dislodging a tube that contained a magic wand and flag.

Moving into the ruins the group dispatches more undead ibixians and some gnolls, in the process freeing the dwarven stonemasons who are being held prisoner. Continuing on the party avoids several traps and dispatches another group of gnolls before coming to a large room with a bubbling cauldron surrounded by painted goblin skulls. Remembering the colors of the flag, the party throws in the correct combination of colored skulls and is unable to unlock the massive door leading into the final room.

When the doors fold out of the way they are greeted by a group of living and undead gnolls, undead ibixians, and a gnoll warlock. After a lengthy fight the party ends the warlocks attempt to desecrate the grave of a fallen warrior in an attempt to raise an undead army to attack the town.

Once the warlock has been defeated they party feels a wave of energy wash over them, as if some entity were pleased by their success. On the way out they discover a chest in the middle of the cauldron that had been in the previous room, now drained of the foul chemicals that once bubbled within.

When the party climbs out of the ruins, they find that the storm has cleared and the sun is shining clearly. Before heading back to town, Bawdewyn requests the party’s assistance in burying those of his people that were resurrected as undead. He remarks that while they fought several of his people, there should have been many more. He asks the party if they would be willing to allow him to travel with them in the hopes he might find out something about his people and what has become of them.

Returning to town, Faringray thanks them and pays them a reward. Additionally in the safety of their inn they are able to open the chest and recover the rewards inside.

Loot/XP:

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The Journey Ahead

Previously the party had come to the conclusion that they would need to travel to a much larger city in order to properly research the items they had come across while exploring the ruins. Niene suggests they travel to one of The Great Libraries, as they would most likely have the resources needed. She recounts what she can of the 3 closest libraries:

  • The Great Collection of the Empire. This one is probably the closest as its in the capital city of Altstadt, but most books that are considered “dangerous” are restricted. In order to look at any of them you must get a writ of access from the dean of the university or a government official.
  • The Treasure of Enlightenment in Tor Ulthuan. The High Elves of Tor Ulthuan are sure to have information that can be used to research what they have found, but there is little to no chance they would ever be given access to the library.
  • The Queen’s Academy in Caer. This is the best chance. While the furthest away, it is well known for its open access to anything in the library and when first founded was world renowned for dispatching individuals to gather as much knowledge as they could and return it to the library for all to see.

The party starts investigating the best way to travel to Caer. After a day or so a helpful citizen directs Niene to the barge master (rolled 20; Gather Information). Normally he directs shipments from Marienheim, but it was suggested that he could be convinced to take the party on the southern river to Caer.

The barge master, Karl Eberhardt, takes some convincing, especially considering that in order to get to Caer the barge would have to pass through Tor Ulthuan. After considerable negotiations Niene, with Uthad’s help, (rolled 19, Diplomacy) was able to convince him for a nominal fee.

Planning to set out in a few days, the party gather their property into crates, purchase a cart, and buy provisions for the journey. On the evening before they were to set out, the party is approached by the Gavel of the town. He asks if its true they plan to leave and asks if there is anything that can be done to convince them to stay. When he sees there is nothing he can say to keep them in town he thanks them for all they have done and tell them if they ever need anything, he will do whatever he can for them for saving his son and his town.

The next morning the party wakes before dawn and loads their cart on to “The River Wench”. As the sun peaks over the horizon they set off. Three days out the barge moves into an area where the Schaumfluß River merged with two other bodies of water. The river became much rougher and soon it became clear they needed to secure their cargo. Moving quickly they are able to strap down everything, but in the process a large wave hits the barge and knocks Dyne overboard (Rolled 1, Balance). Both Niene and Uthad try to throw a line to him, but the wild motion of the barge makes their throws go wide (both rolled 2, Use Rope). Thankfully Dyne’s time in the wilderness had given him a number of skills and he was able to navigate the currents and catch up to the barge (Rolled 19, swim). Exhausted and soaking wet, but no worse for wear, Dyne collapsed in the pilot house of the barge to regain his strength.

Several more days pass uneventfully until Dyne notices something moving along the shoreline (rolled 16, Spot). Pointing it out to the others, Niene and Uthad are able to spot a group of 3-4 goblins attempting to remain hidden while moving through the brush along the banks, trailing the barge and most likely attempting to size them up (rolled 25, 22, spot). Informing Karl of what they have seen. Rather than stop and risk capsizing in an attempt to take out a few measly goblins, the direct the barge further away from the shore line to avoid attacks. As they move away Dyne speaks arcane phrases and points toward the shore. An orb of fire sprouts from his fingers and flies towards the group of goblins. From Dyne’s guidance the orb slams into the ground in the middle of the goblins. Four goblins are thrown into the air by the blast and land in a clear area. Three of the goblins manage to stand up and run into the bushes however the 4th remains on the shore, burning, clearly they got the message.

3 days pass before Karl approaches the group. He informs the group that they are nearing the border and sometime tomorrow they will likely cross the border into Tor Ulthuan. He explains that the borders are fairly heavily guarded and no one can cross them without coming under the scrutiny of the Magisterial Guard. He warns them that in order to pass through the borders without incident the party should remove all armor and place it in the pilot house. Any weapons should be clearly laid out in the pilot house as well, in order not to come across as though they are attempting to hide something. Anything taken as an attempt at subterfuge would be met by swift action, which could lead to impounding of the barge and the passengers being arrested. The alternative is to stop the barge along a low spot on the shore before the border and travel by foot the rest of the way.

Later at the evenings meal the party discusses their options. It occurs to Dyne that they are carrying some powerful magical artifacts and he is concerned at the attention this might draw. There is the possibility he could cast a spell on one of the crates that would mask the contents. So long as the items remain in the chest, open or closed, they would appear, at worst, as a mildly enchanted item. Karl is clearly unhappy with this notion. He interjects that if it fails they will surely be arrested, but if the party feels this is the best action he will go with it.

They come to a vote:

  • Continue on the river, enchanting a chest to mask its contents to hide them from the Magisterial Guard.
  • Continue on the river, hiding nothing and hoping the guards won’t notice or care about the items they carry.
  • Disembark before crossing the border and take the long way around, adding several days to their journey.
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Reflection and Study

After returning to town they retire to a back room at the inn to reflect over their recent experience and to try to tie together everything they have faced since their first adventure together. Niene pulls out a piece of parchment as the party recounts everything they can remember, trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

  • Initially the party responded to a group of kobolds raiding a supply wagon to the village of Huln’s Lode. Kobolds raiding supplies is nothing strange, but the ruins they discovered were.
  • Visiting the village of Marienheim, they found the village infected with a massive outbreak of a fungal infection. Venturing into the vale, the party collected ingredients to form a cure and was able to save the town.
  • While exploring the vale, the party discovered a monastery dedicated to Fharlanghn. The monks had dissapeared, but in the ruins underneath the party found evidence of them turning from their deity to a new dark God.
  • Delving deeper into the ruins, the party encountered zombies covered with mold, though quickly dispatched by Uthad. Perhaps this would have been the same outcome for the villagers had they not found a cure.
  • While searching for the missing children, the group defeated a band of kobolds that worshiped a dark and evil diety. The kobolds appeared mutated, with many covered in a mold similar to that found on the zombies in the levels above.
  • According to King Sunhammer’s Decrees, the dwarves seem to have been changed by the creature as well, turning to worship it and ultimately destroying their city and disappearing.
  • The missing priest had fallen under the sway of a dark deity that had been imprisoned. Once freed, the creature appeared to be a mass of filth, mold, and disease.

Putting the pieces together, it would appear that this Great Old One, Nyarlathotep was either directly behind, or connected to most of the events that recently occurred in the region. With that knowledge in hand, Niene and Dyne felt they should get to work researching Ciaran’s possessions to see what mysteries they held.

Appearing to the simpler item to decipher, they chose to first investigate the dagger. After several days of staring at the dagger, it would seem that was the wrong choice. Both Niene and Dyne could tell the dagger was special in some regard, but why was just beyond their grasp. Holding the dagger made them slightly uncomfortable, hungry, and slightly agitated. Whatever power the dagger held, it didn’t seem to be a friendly one.

Ready to give up, it was a surprise then when Dyne, holding the dagger and attempting to light a candle with a simple spell, instead set half the table on fire as the spell came out much more powerful than he had expected. (Dagger provides caster with a +2 to spellcraft when equipped). Niene seemed to believe they had found the dagger’s function, however Dyne was not so sure. Something about the dagger seemed to call to him, though what, he was unsure. Perhaps the dagger still held some unknown power, but they had spent enough time researching it, perhaps the answer would reveal itself in time.

Moving on to the tome, Niene cast a spell giving her the ability to understand foreign scripts and languages. The early part of the grimoire appeared to be a diary of a man lost and wandering in the desert. Out of food and close to dehydration, he stumbles into a cave looking for shelter. Traveling deeper into the cavern he finds it exits into an oasis. Drinking his fill of water, he explores the oasis for hours. As he returns to the water, from a distance he spies a large creature moving near the shore. He describes the creature in few details, but indicates that its appearance shook him to the core. Running back to the cavern he makes his way out into the desert in the middle of a sand storm. When he awakes he finds himself in a bed, being tended by the village healer. They claim a caravan found him wandering in the desert, mumbling and speaking words they had never before heard before he collapsed. believing him to be sick from the sun, they brought him to the village healer.

The story ends abruptly as the pages of the tome go blank for a large number of pages before beginning again with maps of unknown lands and ancient cities. There are notes scribbled along the borders of the maps, along with random diagrams and symbols, however they seem to defy translation. The pages again go blank for several pages, picking up here and there with other diagrams and excerpts from the diary indicating the author researching dangerous books, attempting to find something to prove what he saw was not a fevered dream like the townsfolk believe. The pages fill with sketches, maps, and diagrams before going blank once more.

Again the diary picks up after a large number of blank pages. The author tells of being at home and hearing unnatural noises outside his home. Unsure what the noises are, he initially is paralyzed with fear. The author finally works up the courage to venture outside and finds his livestock slaughtered by finding strange tracks int he sand leading out into the desert again. He immediately returns to his house, locking every door and window and barricading himself inside his home. When he searches the area in the morning, the tracks are gone and the only signs of the creature are the corpses of his animals. The diary leaps forward several weeks and it appears that the creature has returned almost every night since. The author indicates that he cannot take any more and that the creature will get him soon unless he acts.

Once again the pages go blank, this time ending with diagrams of various artifacts, interspersed with varying numbers of blank pages. Again, similar script and symbols line these pages next to the drawings, however they indicate a clear meaning. One page however stands out amongst the others. A diagram of the dagger is covered with strange notes, some however appear to be more recently penned than others. The party conjectures that these secondary notes might belong to Ciaran, and indicate a ritual involving 7 sacrifices to free a powerful God. This seems to be what the party stumbled upon earlier.

The pages once again return to the strange symbols and script. Some pages seem to have a rhythm to them and Niene believes they may be a spell or ritual of some sort, but the effect or purpose is unknown. Once again a single page stands out, holding the name Nyarlathotep. The pages continue on for some way, almost seeming to be both a chronicle and a spell book.

One last time, the pages go blank before ending with a final excerpt from the diary. The author is in an ancient city, lost to the sand ages ago. He keeps lingering on how he made a mistake and should never have followed the tracks. The author asks for forgiveness from some unknown person and laments his fate. He seeks solace in the fact that it will all be over soon and that his book will be lost with him so that no one may follow in his footsteps.

The information the party is able to translate only makes up a small portion of the actual content of the book. While under the effects of the spell, Niene is able to translate some of the alien script into letters she is more familiar with, but their meaning still seems to elude her. With some research material she believes more of the book would make sense, but without finding something like a Rosetta Stone or more complete notes, the actual purpose of the tome will go unsolved.

Gathering her notes, Niene provides the others with what she has found and makes suggestions of locations she knows to have the resources needed to properly translate the tome. The University in Altstadt had The Great Collection of the Empire, but didn’t contain a wealth of information on foreign countries. The Treasury of Enlightenment in Tor Ulthuan, though she doubts the Elves would give them access, and finally The Queen’s Academy in Caer. She is sure there are more, however those are the only ones she can think of off the top of her head, and that are relatively close to where the party is now.

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The Darky Dark Below

Over the next few days, both Uthad and Dyne had the same dreams, not every night, but enough that they felt there was something more to be discovered in the ruins. Something kept calling them back and whatever it was wasn’t going to leave them be.

As the party descended into the ruins, they came across a party of 7 dwarves from Huln’s Lode. Huln had dispatched them to attempt to locate the town’s priest of Pelor, Ciaran Brellis who had been missing for over a week now. Ciaran, excited over the find of a site of Pelor with such historical significance, had insisted he be given access to the site in order to ensure that important religious historical artifacts were not damaged by “indelicate hands.” The group’s leader, Baldrick Anvilmar, confided to the group that he believed Ciaran’s motives were more out of self-gain, than ensuring the safety of the holy ruins. At first the priest went down with an escort, spending a few hours a day, but as time went on he would go down for longer periods and sometimes without escort, against Huln’s wishes. One night Ciaran left to visit the ruins and didn’t return the next morning. After several days, and several missed services, Huln sent the party out to find him. Should any thing happen to a man of the cloth, especially one that didn’t exactly see eye to eye with dwarves, questions might be asked could raise tensions between the members of the mining camp.

As the party began down the passage, it became clear that once, very long ago, this had been a staircase of some kind, but time had not been kind. Water had once filled the passage and worn away the walls and floor in many places, creating slick and dangerous surfaces on which to walk. The dwarves had little problem at first, laughing at the party as they slip and fell, spending more time on their rear-ends than on their feet, but as it became clear how dangerous the journey down was, they became much more somber. It danger became a reality as almost the entire group ended up sliding down the passage out of control.

At the bottom the passage opened onto a walking path along the side of a massive cavern. Unfortunately the rail of the path had long ago been worn away by the waterfall that once exited here. Two of the dwarves, Algrim and Dorin Stonefist, brothers, were unable to find a surface to grab onto and flew off the path into the abyss below. Had Uthad and Dyne not been able to catch themselves, young Niene may have met the same fate. Fortunately however they were able to grab ahold of her as she went over the ledge and pull her back up to safety.

Baldrick gave a short speech to the group, explaining that their compatriots had “returned to the stone” and they could only hope to die in such an honorable way, in the service of others, before urging the party to move forward.

Looking westward, the party sees the walkway continues, but tapers down to little more than a narrow foot hold in more than one place. Baldrick suggests using several lengths of rope to use as a safety line, tying everyone together so that should one person slip, those tied to them would be able to keep them from falling to their deaths. The party was able to make it across with little incident.

The walkway ends at the base of a bridge across the chasm. The bridge leads into the rockface, with a staircase leading down to the side. Back in the tunnels the party finds the remnants of a market place and artisan shops. Searching through the ruins they are able to locate some trinkets, a large stone engraving, and a handful of potions. Able to identify a few health potions, the others remained a mystery.

Continuing to the level below via the stair case, the party finds a large steel door blocking their path, however a large chunk has broken away, giving them just enough space to squeeze through. The hallway opened into a large circular room sporting a sun motif on the floor. Passages headed in each of the four cardinal directions and a flight of stairs circled down to the level below. The motif on the floor indicates the rooms at the ends of the passages, the Great Forge, back to the Markets, the Military Wing, and the Infirmary.

Choosing to visit the Great Forge first, the party moves north. They find the forge in disarray, distressing the dwarves greatly. The anvil is in one piece, but badly damaged over the years while each of the smelting pits has been left to allow their ores to harden, destroying the equipment. Confused about why this is so distressing, the party asks them to explain. The dwarves explain that where a dwarven city to decide to up and move, they would shut down all the forges and go to great lengths to ensure that the equipment would remain in good shape should they decide to return. If the city were under siege and defeat inevitable, then they would " Crack the Anvil ". A mechanism would be activated that would destroy the anvil, and the smelting pits would be allowed to harden. Looking at the forge here, it appears that whoever was working the forge just up and left without taking the time to ensure the site was properly shutdown.

While searching the area, Dyne came across a long handled warhammer with an octagonal handle. Thinking back to the gate they had passed through, he remembers that there were a set of locks near the door that the handle would fit into perfectly. As the party searched, Orek, one of the younger dwarves, moved out into a large body of water in the forge, saving is weapon through the water to see if there is anything hidden under the surface. Without warning, something under the water pulled him beneath the waves. As the others rushed to his aid, three large creatures rose from the waves. The creatures could be only be described as “a wriggling shape at least 10ft in length. It is a nauseatingly textured translucent worm whose head gradually narrows into two ominously long, questioning tentacles.” The creatures disturb the group and are clearly alien to this world. Distracting the group long enough, the creatures buy another of their kind time to drag away poor Orek before being defeated themselves.

With no sign of the missing dwarf, the only choice was to continue onward and hope they find him later. The party next attempted to investigate the infirmary but found that the passage abruptly ended in a massive chasm. The chasm was large enough that one could not see the the walls or floor. As the group moved away, the caught sight of another of the dwarves, Ragni, being grabbed by something out of the darkness and pulled up and into the air. Several minutes of searching were unable to locate anything more than a few strange insect-like sounds, him at which point Baldrick Anvilmar loudly voiced his frustration toward the darkness.

With almost half the beginning party remaining, the group felt that perhaps investigating the military wing would be best, with luck they might come across some weapons that would be useful in a fight. Finding the gates to the military wing closed, the party was able to solve an ancient riddle and use the hammer discovered by Dyne to open the doors. As they moved in, it became clear that long ago the dwarves had locked themselves into the barracks as a last defense against the horrors that tried to take over their home. Baldrick assigned the last two members of his group to cover the party’s back as their combed through the debris looking for loot. Finding several weapons, sets of armor, and a magical ring, the party moved into the other rooms finding more evidence that the area had been barricaded to protect the dwarves within.

Suddenly the party heard sounds from the hallway, similar to those heard in the chasm. Baldrick went to check on his men, but soon the party heard his warcry and the sound of a fight. Rounding the corner, Uthad was the first to see the adversary. “These gastly creatures cross a humanoid face with an obscenely bloated tick, with legs each tapering to needle points. From the creature’s back, the face howls, screams, grunts and gibbers its eager hunger.” Dyne moved into the defense rooms that lined the hall in time to see Thorek being dragged off by another of the creatures, but no sight of his companion Strom. The party fought the creatures, who let out maddening wails that shook the party, but did not defeat them. Defeating three of the creatures, it was clear that these creatures were acting intelligently, perhaps directed by someone, as they worked together to pick off the group one at a time.

Moving forward in search of whatever was controlling these creatures, the party returned to the circular room and moved down to the lower level. Form here they had the choice of moving to the Athenaeum, the Throne/Reception area, the Conclave, or the Noble Residences. Niene requested they neck investigate the Athenaeum, in hopes of finding some lost lore or something to explain what is going on in the ruins. Initially blocked by the gates, the party once again was able to open the passage by solving an ancient riddle. Little was left of the library, however they were able to discover a few scrolls, even one scroll that Niene could possibly use to learn to cast a new spell.

Leaving the Athenaeum, the group discovers the passage to the Conclave, the dwarven version of parliament, ends at the same chasm. With only Baldrick remaining, the party doesn’t spend time investigating and instead checks the entrances to the noble residences. When the arrive in the passage they find the gates down, however the mechanism to open the doors has been destroyed and the gates impossible to open. Upon closer inspection it appears that perhaps some selfless dwarf broke the locks as his last act, attempting to buy those inside some time before the horrors were able to break in and get to them.

With nowhere else to go, the party moved forward into the throne room. Again a gate slowed the progress, however they were quickly able to pass it and continue on. As they reached the end of the passage they could hear a familiar voice speaking in alien tongues. Peering into the room, the group saw a cloaked figure standing at the base of a massive monolith, clearly the same monolith where the group found a kobold altar near the peak. To the sides of the figure were the missing dwarves, entranced and shackled together. Uthad, remembering his dream, looked to the overturned throne at the base of the monolith and was able to spot the weapon from his dream.

As Uthad attacked, the bold from Dyne’s borrowed crossbow bounced off a wall of energy projected from the monolith. The figure, unphased, calmly informed the party that is was too late and that the Great Old One, Nyarlathotep, would soon be loosed from his prison to free his brethren and rightfully take back what was stolen from them by the “false” Gods. As he spoke, he removed his hood, showing that he was the missing priest from Huln’s Lode, Ciaran Brellis. He spun a tale, informing the group that as he studied the ruins, the Old One spoke to him in his dreams and told him how the Gods were liars. At this point Ciaran knew he had to do whatever he could to free his new God. As he finished his story, he cried out the last line of the incantation and impaled himself with his dagger.

As he fell, the dwarves to [[:ciarianbrelis:Ciaran’s]] sides cried out as well and collapsed. Suddenly the spell circle inscribed on the floor lit up and another one formed in front of the monolith. The light was over powering, but as it died down the party beheld a massive creature in the center of the circle. The creature was disgusting to behold. “A giant mass of dark liquid.. its surface heaving as it spatters the area around it with globs of slime. Dozens of small red eyes dot the creature’s surface, glaring at the party like beacons of hunger and hate.”

Uthad rushed to the weapon he had spotted before and found that the holy symbol afixed to the side could be removed and channeled he rage of Pelor. The creature put up a difficult fight, but soon the party had the upper hand and the creature attempted to retreat back to the spell circle. Defeated, the creature was banished back to its prison and as it went, it it pulled Ciaran with it. The party attempted to save him, but was unable to do so. Once gon they found he left behind a tome filled with a mystic script. Niene spent a few moments studying it, even casting a spell allowing her to read any language, however the meaning of many of the words still defied her. It was clear that she would need to spend some time studying in a well stocked library in order to discover the true meaning of the tome. The group was able to use their healing skill to revive all the missing dwarves except one of the two brothers, Algrim.

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Sweet Dreams (Fields of Gold)

It’s been several days since the party’s return with the children. In that time Uthad has worked with the villagers, training them as best he can to help them better defend themselves. He have been teaching them what he knows of Pelor and training them in more martial aspects. At the end of the day Uthad collapses in his bed, exhausted, and it doesn’t take long before sleep finds him.

Almost as soon as he closes his eyes, Uthad feels a bright light on his face. Instead of being harsh and annoying, the light is instead warm and invigorating. Uthad basks in its glow for a moment longer before opening his eyes. He is surprised to find that he is no longer in his bed but instead in a field of golden wheat. The sun shines brightly across the land and in the distance he can see more farmland, orchards, and many vineyards. He continues to take in the view and as he turns to where the sun glows it appears that the sun sits atop a massive tower at the top of a great golden citadel.

In an instant you Uthad can feel himself being pulled down, far beneath the ground. He finds himself standing in a great cavern beneath the earth and though he are surrounded in darkness he can still feel the light of the sun upon him. Before Uthad stands a massive obelisk and in front of it he sees a large stone throne. As he gazes upon the obelisk Uthad realizes it is the same obelisk the party defeated the kobolds near, but this time rather than being on a platform near the top, he stands at its base. Suddendly Uthad is overcome with a cold and dark feeling. Its twisted and disturbing, and just looking at it makes him feel ill. His gaze falls to the base again and now he sees a cloaked figure chanting at the base of the obelisk. The words he is speaking are garbled and their true meaning never reaches his ears, but Uthad can tell they are words that should not be spoken. Again his gaze is drawn down, to the ground in front of the throne where he see a mace. Suddenly Uthad realizes the chanting has stopped and as he looks up, the figure is now looking right at him. It raises a hand in his direction and Uthad instantly feels weak. He begins to collapse, but again the warmth of the sun reaches out and revitalizes him. The glow gets stronger and stronger until he can no longer see the cavern, only the light.

Uthad closes his eyes once more to take in the warmth of the sun, and as the last of it recedes he opens his eyes to find himself lying in bed feeling more rested than he has in weeks.

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Sweet Dreams (Whispers)

Dyne is exhausted. It has been a couple of days since returning with the kids and in that time he and the others have been helping the townsfolk learn to better defend themselves. Dyne in particular have been helping them learn what herbs can be found outside the village and in the woods; what can be used for food, what is poisonous, what can be used to treat a wound, and what can cure a cold.

As soon as Dyne’s head hits the pillow he are out like a light. Normally he doesn’t remember his dreams, those that he remembers tend to be pretty simple; A small cottage near the woods, the life of a farmer, him leading a gang of brigands from his forest village to right the wrongs of a local noble while the king is away, and that weird one with the dragon. This one is different though. He is sitting on a throne in a deep cavern. In front of him are thousands of subjects, but when he tries to focus on their faces they are distorted, twisted and disturbing. The whole time he hears a buzzing. Gradually it grows into a whisper.

Release me.

He looks around but noone seems to be speaking.

Release me.

Still he can’t tell where the voice is coming from.

Release me.

As the whisper gets louder he realizes its coming from behind him. Dyne slowly turn around and find he is at the base of a massive obelisk that reaches up into the cavern. Golden pathways encircle it and connect to the cavern walls and on its surface are a series of runes that are foreign, yet he knows he have seen them before. In that instant he realizes he is standing at the base of the obelisk the party encountered in the ruins. They had battled the kobolds on one of the top rings, but the throne he currently resides on seems to be at its base. He peers at the runes on its surface, trying to etch them into your mind when the whispers return.

RELEASE ME!

Dyne wakes in a cold sweat. His head is pounding and his entire body aches. Looking out the window, Dyne sees that the sun is already halfway into the sky. He quickly cleans himself up and prepares for today’s lessons with the villagers.

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Sweet Dreams (A Brief Lesson)

It has been several days since the party returned to town with the children and in that time the city has gone to great lengths to learn to defend themselves from the dangers in this harsh environment. During this time Dyne has taken groups out into the wilderness to train them on herbalism while Uthad trains others on martial techniques and spirituality. Niene instead spend most of her time in the library of the local church. It’s not very big, most like a small cupboard with a few books and scrolls, but there are a few notable books. She collects notes of everything learned in the caverns and takes a chance on speaking with some of the dwarves in town. Many of them don’t know much, but a few of them mention the Sunhammers.

Taking what was learned from the dwarves Niene scours over the books relentlessly. She finds a fragment of text here and a smattering of legend there, but the most she can gather is that the Sunhammer clan was a group of dwarves that disappeared eons ago and to many dwarves that wasn’t thought of as a very bad thing; seems they were thought of by many as kooks and to others as zealots.

As Niene studies she found herself growing more and more tired, but refused to give up the hunt. Unfortunately sleep proved itself to be more powerful, and before she knew it she was snoring loudly with her head upon the table. In her sleep, Niene dreams of what she has read, of a clan of dwarves living on the surface in a great city, then of a great darkness covering and enveloping their lands. The imagery causes chills to run down her body but the discomfort passes and the imagery changes. She dreams of studying in the library again, scribbling notes on a page that can hold no more marks. She turns and walks to the cupboard and crouches down. Reaching into the very back of the bottom shelve she pulls out a book. As she begins to open the book he finds herself instantly awake, stiff from sleeping in the chair, but refreshed never the less.

As she surveys the table she come across a page of notes she don’t remember writing, but is clearly in her script. On it are several mentions of the Sunhammers along with one prominent name, Karthas Hewnbeard Sunhammer. Remembering the last part of her dream, Niene runs over to the cupboard and reaches into the bottom shelve. Nothing. It was a crazy thought, oh well. As she starts to pull her hand back though, she feels it brush against something that seems to have fallen into a broken corner and is hanging partway through the bottom. Grabbing a hold and pulling it out, an old and dusty copy of “The Histories and Legends of Darkmoon Vale: A children’s story book.”

Briskly flipping through the pages, something catches her eye. Flipping back until she finds it, a single page denoting a new chapter, emblazoned with a glyph of the sun, with a golden hammer placed before it, “A Tale of the Sunhammer Clan”.

Thousands of years ago, in the great forge city of Karak Algaz, a simple dwarven tailor toiled to make ends meet. Karthas Hewnbeard was born to one of the lower castes at birth, and was not afforded many benefits in life. Many nights he and his family would go to bed hungry, unsure if they would be able to afford their next meal until one day while at his loom he was presented with a vision. In this vision Pelor spoke to Karthas, teling him to take those that would follow him and head east and start a new kingdom where no one would go hungry. Karthas began preaching his vision to anyone that would listen and found that he had a great way with words. Many turn him away as a mad man, but many of the poorer individuals in the city looked to him for salvation. Soon he had a great following and had earned the ire of the dwarven king. The king, afraid that there would be an uprising called for a meeting with Karthas and demanded he return to his job as a tailor and leave this nonsense of Pelor behind, dwarves came from the stone and were the children of Moradin, not Pelor. The surface was a fine place to visit, but no where to form a kingdom. For hours the debated until finally Karthas convinced the king he meant him no harm and that rather that leading his subjects away from him, he would instead be founding a new settlement that would expand the influence of the dwarven kingdoms.

With the king’s blessing, Karthas’ group set out from the great stone gates of Karak Algaz. They traveled through rocky terrain and across barren lands for weeks until they came to a region where the sun shone brightly. Karthas gathered the followers and announced they had arrived where Pelor had shown him the new kingdom should be built and stated that this day forward they would no longer be outcasts, but members of a new clan, the Sunhammers.

The dwarves toiled for years, building a great city and soon found a great vein of gold right beneath their feet. They sent shipments back to Karak Algaz as tribute and thanks and used the remainder to adorn their great city so it shone as brightly as the sun. The kingdom grew quickly and prospered greatly with the dwarves working both the earth below and the land above. But all was not to remain prosperous for long. Soon reports surfaced of dwarves working in the deepest parts of the mines that appeared to have lost their minds and attacked their comrades. First attributed to having been underground too long, believing that Pelor wanted his people to be in the light of the sun, the new king, Karthas Sunhammer, decreed that the dwarves were all to spend several hours a day working in the sun, then once night arrived they could return to the mines.

The reports of dwarves going mad and attacking others grew and many reported cases of strange boils or growths being found on those that had lost their minds. The king attempted to cover up these reports, not wanting word to spread to the other kingdoms until one day he closed the gates to the city and allowed no one to pass. Traders reported being turned away and others threatened with death if they did not leave. Later visitors claimed no one seemed to be on the walls at all, but they could not find any means to enter the city and had abandoned the search. Then finally one group of travelers reported that when they visited, all the surface buildings lay in ruins. Dwarves from the Seven Kingdoms formed an expedition to see what had happened to their cousins. When they returned they told tales of how their inspection of the site appeared as if the city were toppled on purpose, the entire surface kingdom designed to collapse in on itself if it were under siege. Seeing as dwarves will design their tunnels to collapse should they be under attack, knowing they can dig their way out elsewhere, this seemed a valid reasoning. The accepted theory was that some darkness had come upon them, whether from outside or within was unknown, but the Sunhammers had felt their only recourse was to retreat underground and cut off all ties to the surface.

With no contact from the kingdom, people slowly forgot its location. Many would go looking for treasure, but as they years passed so too did the thoughts of dwarven treasure buried beneath the earth, and as the stories died away, so too did knowledge of where this once great city once stood.

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