The longest winter

Happy as a pig in....
Frank's Birthday treat

The (birthday) Party:

Elden Spirefield, Half-Elf fighter (played by Matt)
Frank Wyvernstooth, Half-Orc Barbarian (played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore, Half-Elf Rogue (played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore, Half-Elf Cleric/Wizard (played by Dave)
Rayne, Tiefling Rogue/Sorcerer (played by Amanda)

Fuddlemore, Gnome Monk/Sorcerer (N.P.C.)

After defeating the Tech-Gnomes (and finding Fuddlemore’s Cat), The party head off to Skerryport, where they aim to find a boat, and get Fuddlemore to some of his people.

Fuddlemore shows them a quicker way to get down from the plateau; an ice slide made by the young monks for pleasure. He insists it is quite safe… As he slides down at rather a fast speed.

Frank and loraella make it down the slide safely, but Elden goes too fast and overshoots, landing in a large pile of snow. Rayne and Marellian have difficulties, so Rayne causes a ‘Drench’, to turn the slide into a water chute, making their way down easier.

After pulling Elden out of the snow pile, they make their way along the trail to Skerryport.
They soon come across a recently abandoned farmstead. The front door is open, and pigs can be seen rooting around inside. Frank declares that as it is his birthday they should all join him in a traditional birthday celebration of ‘Catch the pig’. He challenges Marellian to a match.

At first, the pigs seem to be too slippery to grab hold of, but it is Marellian who manages to grab hold first. Sadly, he is unable to maintain his grip, and the pig escapes him. Frank eventually wins, whereapon he tells the girls it is their turn.

Frank warns Rayne there is to be no using her claws, but it seems she doesn’t need to use them anyway, catching the pig faster than Loraella can manage. Elden and Fuddlemore both turn down a chance to play; Elden is sitting on the wall keeping watch, while Fuddlemore cites his diminutive size as a hinderance. Frank takes this news well, and takes on Rayne in the final.

It seems by this time that the pigs are exhausted, as the both players catch their pigs easily. Frank picks up both pigs and takes them inside the farmhouse, where he finds a nice straw bed to kip down with them for the night. The others find a small loft up out of the way, while Rayne and Elden decide that they should keep a watch.

During the night, Elden and Rayne hear a shuffling noise coming down the trail. Fearing it is undead, Rayne casts Disrupt undead at it, but nothing seems to change. As it comes into view, it appears to be a human woman, but her face is twisted in a rictus grin, and a crazed glint is in her eye. She lurches forwards, and attacks them.

Elden seems to make short work of it, dealing her a fatal blow almost instantly, but to his amazement she continues to attack, raking him with her nails. Luckily, Elden seems to be immune to the grinning madness she is carrying (possibly because he is mad enough already…) Again and again both Elden and Rayne deal significant damage to her, but she continues long past any time of death. Rayne begins to wonder is this woman is a type of undead after all.

Alerted by Rayne’s cries, the others awaken and hurry out to help. Loraella puts an arrow clean through the woman, and she still continues her attacks. Then, suddenly, she drops down dead. Frank wonders what all the fuss was about, and Elden shows him the ammount of wounds that he and Rayne have already given her. Frank shrugs and explains that some Orcs fight on after the death blow is dealt: it’s just a form of battle frenzy.

The next day, the party continue onwards to Skerryport. They have been travelling for a short while when they come across a posse of men and women, armed with farm implements and other makeshift weaponry. The farmers explain that the Grinning man has passed close by recently, and they are out hunting down all the mad ones his passing has created. The party tell them that they had a run in with a mad woman the previous night, who they had to kill. Marellian explains that they buried her ouside the wall of the farmstead. One of the farmers is worried it might be one of his family members, but the party think that it is unlikely, as the woman doesn’t look similar to any of the people in the posse. Thet wish the farmer posse good luck and warn them to be careful, before heading south once more.

Early afternoon sees them reach the gates of Skerryport. Two bored looking Tiefling guards stand idly by the gate, and they appraise the party as they aproach. One spies Rayne, and asks her where she’s been all his nine lives (to which the other stifles a laugh). Rayne is quite indignant, to which he explains he was just having a joke, as she is a new arrival to what is the home of Tiefling kind in this land. He asks her who here ‘Sire’ is, and she tells him she has no idea, so he advises her that (should she wish to find out) she should visit the Bloodfinder, who will be able to find out using a bit of her blood to seek out her bloodline.

The party are told that there is a flat fee of one gold per head to enter Skerryport. They seem okay with this, until they find that the guards have taken into account the party’s familiars. Rayne and Marellian send their birds away, so in the end only Fuddlemore’s cat is counted. Fuddlemore pays for all the party, saying it’s the least he can do after they saved him, and they enter. Marellian asks the guards where they can find a boat, and they tell him that if the party need a guide, they would be best to visit the Bawdy house, just inside the gate on the left hand side. There they will be able to hire a Bawd to show them around. Marellian thanks them, and the party move on.

At the Bawdy house, an emanciated looking Tiefling sits behind a desk, chewing on a quill pen. The party ask for a guide; he writes down their names, and ollacates them ‘Peaches’. Peaches turns out to be a young girl of about 12, who seems much more worldly than her apparent years. She leads the party around Skerryport, pointing out all the places of interest. Rayne asks where the Bloodfinder is, and Peaches leads them there, but Marellian is sidetracked by a group of Tiefling females dancing to the beat of a drum played by a young male. An added attraction for him is that the girls are all dancing naked. He then makes a (foolish?) gesture off appreciation; giving them money, and they all flock around him. As he trns redder and redder from their suggestive comments, the young male with the drum is annoyed that he has taken away the dancers, so the party quickly pull Marellian away from the girls and follow Peaches to the Bloodfinder.

Rayne steps inside to meet with an aged Tiefling who is the keeper of the bloodlines. He asks her to cut herself and drip some blood into a dish. He then pours the blood from the dish into the center of a large plate which has a mutitude of dried bloodstains spaced around the rim. He explains that the blood of her progenitor will call her blood to it, and from that he will be able to determine whose blood she bears. Rayne and the Keeper sit silently for a while waiting, but nothing happens. The Keeper explains that it may be possible that they do not have the blood of her progenitor due to some mishap or other, and that he can make enquiries through summoning rituals on her behalf to see who her progenitor is, but it will take a couple of days. She agrees to return in three days, and takes her leave of him.

Peaches leads the party down to the harbour, where Fuddlemore asks leave to board a Gnome ironclad, and is granted. He spends some time with the captain, leaving the party to their own devices. Frank asks Peaches if there are any decent inns, and she takes them to the nearest one.

Fuddlemore catches up with the party, and explains that he has sent messages back to his order regarding the Tech-Gnomes. He explains that in order to visit the enclave of elves he knows of, they would be best to take ship east. Once again, Peaches comes up with the answer, telling them about a captain Algrammar who needs help to take a cargo east. They visit him, and he agrees to take them to where they need to go in exchange for their help in getting his cargo to it’s recipient, a hermit who lives on one of the large ice islands where he studies the lives of the icebergs.

(Sadly, technical difficulties brought this session to an early close….)

Gnome Improvement?
Into the Tower of Tufty

The Party:

Elden Spirefield: Half Elf Fighter (Player missing)
Frank Wyverstooth: Half Orc Barbarian (played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore: Half Elf Rogue (played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore: Half Elf wizard/cleric (played by Dave)
Rayne: Tiefling rogue/sorcerer (played by Amanda)

Fuddlemore: Gnome monk/sorcerer (n.p.c.)

The party ready themselves to climb the stairs to the top floor of the monastery. Fuddlemore tells them to be on their guard, as the Tech-Gnomes may have patrols out. As it is, there is only a lone watchdog that comes to investigate, and Frank is able to kill it quickly. It is not one of the explosive type, for which they all breathe a sigh of relief. Fuddlemore studies it intensely, explaining that the Tech-gnomes had only used clockwork beetles before his capture, and this was a step further. Obviously their technological expertise is increasing the more they experiment. He wonders what else the Tech-Gnomes have created…

Heading south along the cloister walk, they come to a round tower, in which is a defaced statue with an offering bowl in front of it. Fuddlemore explains that there are four of these towers, meant for meditation purposes, each with a statue of one of the four founders of the monastery. Elden investigates the offering bowl, and finds that it contains a necklace of shiny stones, similar to a prayer bead necklace. He takes it, while the others prepare themselves for some kind of holy backlash, but nothing happens.

Headed west from the tower, they reach a room which has been completely trashed. The remains of a barricade lie scattered about, and the contents of the room have been reduced to splinters. Fuddlemore explains that this was the abbot’s office, and the teachers made their last stand here when the Tech-Gnomes went on their mad rampage. He wanders around the room, deep in his memories of that terrible day. The party search around, but there is nothing left in this room of any use to them. Stirring Fuddlemore from his memories, they quickly leave.

To the west they find another tower, exactly like the first. Elden looks into the offering bowl and finds a small statuette of a black dog, which he takes, again without harm. Fr4om here the cloister walk turns northwards, where they come to a doorway that leads to the dormitary.

In the dorm, there are three Tech-Gnomes, similar to those they faced downstairs. There is also a newer, improved version that tells them their resistance is useless, and to submit to the power of Tech-Gno. Obviously, the party have no intention of submitting, so a fight ensues.

The fight is quite even for a while, until Frank manages to destroy one of the old style Tech-Gnomes. It explodes, causing severe harm to Elden, along with injuries to Frank and Marellian. Fuddlemore pulls Elden from the fight, trying to staunch his wounds, and uses up his healing kit on them. Marellian uses his acid burst to blind one of hte other older type Tech-Gnomes, and while it flails about wildly, they retreat out of it’s explosive range and pepper it with long range attacks until it is destroyed. Frank and Rayne take on the new type Tech-Gnome, which does not explode when it is destroyed, and the last Tech-Gnome explodes without causing too much harm to the party. Even so, most of the party have several wounds, and are out of healing. they search the dorm, but all they find is a faded picture on a wall that has a signiature on it that reveals it was painted by Tufty. Sadly, someone has attempted to wash it off, so the party do not know what the painting was.

North of the dorm is a third tower; again, similar to the other two. Elden looks in the offering bowl, but it is empty. Fuddlemore takes down a brown robe from a peg, saying,“ah, I wondered where this had gone.” He explains it is one of the monastery’s Monk’s Robes, which are magical in nature. Putting it on, he appears much happier than before (and much more monk-like). The cloister walk turns east, and the party continue on.

Halfway along the walk, there is a bridge heading south, which is made out of metal and ends at a thick metal door. Fuddlemore tells the party he doesn’t remember this being here before, and they surmise it must be the entrance to the tower of Tufty. They are aprehensive about going into the tower while so beaten up, and leave it for later, instead continuing towards the last tower. As with the other three, the statue has been defaced, and Elden looks into the offering bowl. It is filled with a green liquid, which he thinks might be a healing potion. Marellian is concerned, as it looks like acid, but after a more detailed check, decides it is healing potion, and they all take a drink. This heals them slightly, but as Marellian is out of spells and they are all still injured, they decide to find a safe place to rest up and take on the tower in the morning. Fuddlemore suggests that the Tech-Gnomes had left him for a long time in his ‘prison cell’, and that it would make a good defensible place should they come looking. They can think of no other idea, so go along with his plan.

The next morning, healed up and ready, the assault the tower of Tufty. With a Knock, Marellian opens the door, revealing a semi-circular platform with stairs on one side going up, and the other side going down. At the far side of the platform is a large area left open, housing the gigantic form of a metal being, shackled to the wall of the tower with metal coils that seem to have fused into it’s skin. The floor they are on is level with the being’s waist, so they decide to climb up a floor to see it face to face.

the top floor of the tower is again semi-circular, but with a clamp projecting outwards towards the giant being. It’s tongue is clamped into this clamp, making a bridge of sorts into the beings mouth. The party do not like this idea, and unclamp the tongue, allowing the giant to release a mighty scream. Cringing, Elden guards the stairs against anything that comes to investigate, while Marellian attempts to talk to the giant. A voice projects into Marellian’s head, saying simply; “Free me”

Marellian wonders how the party would be able to free the giant, and uses acid to dissolve one of the bindings shackling it to the wall. This works for a moment, but the binding repairs itself very quickly, and Marellian does not have enough acid to burn all the bindings. In the end, they come to the decision that the bindings will loose their animation when the Tech-Gnomes are dead.

On the bottom floor, the party find the six Tech-Gnomes that were the originators of the Clockwork curse. They are also the most advanced Tech-Gnome forms, each having experimented upon themselves constantly to bring their dreams to fruition. The ring-leader, Atcham Spring-lock greets them, asking them if they have come of their own free will to be upgraded to the power that it Tech-Gno. Marellian answers him with an arrow, and the fight begins…
(GM’s note; this is the second time Marellian has shot someone while they are talking terms….)

At the far side of the chamber, two of the Tech-Gnomes are upgrading a third. They are adding extra arms to it, making it a formidable foe when finished. Frank rushes them, and engages them in hand to hand combat, but it is Rayne who strikes the first blow, using her Death mask to destroy the one known as Lubricant Pull-Rod. The other, Bender Cog-Turner, uses it’s springy legs to leap up to the floor above; Frank uses his raging leaper power to follow it and continues the fight there.

Loraella fires her missiles at Tyrell Patchet, while Elden engages Cardin Crank-arm in melee combat. Atcham spring-lock fires a bolt of electricity at Fuddlemore, but the Gnome monk is able to close with him and uses a flurry of blows on him. Marellian uses magic missiles, and then gets into close range to use his burning hands. Meanwhile, on the level above, Bender Cog-turner changes into a ball and weaves away from Frank’s swinging axe. This makes Frank mad (or madder…) and he strikes the ball hard, splitting it apart, and destroying Cog-turner. Crowing, he leaps back down to attack The Tech-Gnome that was being upgraded.

Elden finally strikes a telling blow on Cardin Crank-arm, who had been fending him off with it’s multiple arms. Marellian, who had just got into position to take out both with burning hands, has only Atcham Spring-lock to aim for instead, and is sucessful in dealing enough damage to destroy it. Loraella’s arrows finish Tyrell Ratchet, leaving just Gyrate Fly-wheel, whose upgrade had failed to be completed in time. Frank manages to destroy it (with help from Rayne and her Abyssal claws), To which Marellian hears a “Thankyou” from the metallic giant being as it’s bindings are destroyed, allowing it to return to it’s own plane.

Fuddlemore tells the party that they have done a mighty deed, and that the souls of the Gnome monks have all been freed from the terrible blasphemy of the Tech-Gnomes. He asks only for one thing from them; could they get him to Skerryport, where there is a Gnome ironclad ship serving as an ice-breaker to keep the port clear. Marellian asks him about the Elves, and Fuddlemore replies that in order to find the Elves, they will need to take ship west. Skerryport is therefore a good place for them to go, as it has the biggest port on the coast. also, should the party help Fuddlemore get to Skerryport and talk to the Gnomes aboard the ice-breaker, he will come with them to show them the way to the Elves.

And so, the party set forth once more, headed south , to Skerryport…

To be continued….

Running like Clockwork
The fate of the Gnomes is revealed

The Party

Elden Spirefield (player missing; played as N.P.C.)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Rayne (player missing; played as N.P.C.)

Arissa (N.P.C.)
Fuddlemore (N.P.C.)

After a good night’s sleep, Marellian prepares his spells for the day, and then reads out what he can from the shredded journal. He is confused by the fact that he has read the passages in a random order. Shrugging, he puts the papers away, and the party prepare to leave the shelter of the ruined watchtower.

Shortly after leaving the watchtower, they come across strange regular patterned shapes in the snow. They set about uncovering some to reveal worked stone blocks. Marellian is excited, wondering what ancient city these once belonged to, but there is no way to work this out, and the party do not have the time or manpower for an extended dig, so leave them for some future expedition.

After a few hours of wading through the snow, The party spot a large herd of elk making their way north-east. Frank decides to hunt one down, but his scent carries on the breeze and gives him away. The elk herd run off, with Frank chasing. The others call him back, explaining it’s not worth the energy to chase them, and he grudgingly returns. He explains that it is his birthday tomorrow, and he fancied something tastier than trail rations to celebrate it with.

A few miles further south-east the party spot a figure running towards their direction. It is apparent that this figure hasn’t seen them, and it is stumbling and holding it’s side. As it gets closer, they see that it is a human male, with dirty clothing and an unkempt look. He sees them too late, and a look of fear crosses his face, before he realises they are not part of the group following him. He begs the party to save him, explaining that he will be burnt on the sacred pyre for running away. As They take this in, they hear the sound of hunting dogs, and a trio of handlers with their hounds come into view. The leader of the hunters calls out to the party, congratulating them on capturing their runaway, who has led them quite a chase these last few weeks.

The leader of the hunters, whose name is Druses, explains that they are from a place called Eldrene. Arissa murmurs that El-Dren-eh means the wounded land, which surprises the hunters. Druses asks her how she knows the ’king’s tongue’; to which she replies that in her land it is the ‘noble tongue’, and as she is of the noble class, she is expected to know it. One of the dog handlers mutters to Druses that Arissa has ‘Fire kissed hair’. Marellain asks if there are no red heads in their land, and Druses explains it is very rare, and seen as a gift from the fire god they worship. There is a prophecy about a ‘Queen with fire kisses hair’ who would come from afar and be found by a fool. Elden wisely holds his tongue about which fool did the finding…

The party are reluctant to let the hunters take the runaway serf back, and are suspicious about Druses asking Arissa if she would accompany them back to their land. Arissa is torn between staying with the party and being feted as a queen in a land that is solely human. In the end, her prejudices win out, and she decides to leave with Druses. Marellian tells Druses that the party will accompany Arissa to make sure she will be alright, but Druses tells them Eldrene is many days to the east, by the God’s forge mountains. Marellian still insists they could go there, but in the end the party decide that if the hunters stay with them until they reach the white crystal cliffs, that will give the party time to know them better. Arissa, to her credit, claims the runaway serf as her servant, saving him from any harm. Druses is not too happy, but cedes to her wishes.

As the white crystal cliffs come into sight, Druses insists they must now head eastwards, and bids the party farewell. Marellian still has his doubts, but waves them goodbye with the others. He tells Arissa if she ever needs them all she needs to do is write. Arissa thanks him for his kindness, and heads off east with the hunters. Elden is relieved he no longer has to babysit her as she had no combat skills.

The party head southwest, in order to find the pass that leads up onto the top of the white crystal cliffs. Now that the cliffs are close by, they can see a large black cloud that seems to hang atop the plateau. Marellian muses that maybe it is a sign that the gnomes are busy working up there.

While heading southwest, the party meet a small group of fur clad figures who are travelling north east. several of the figures are pulling sledges, while others are at the helm of dog-sleds. The first thought is to hide and see who it is, but Marellian thinks it might be gnomes, and hails them. The leader pulls back his fur hood, to reveal a human face, blond haired and with a beard. He answers Marellian’s hail and tells them he is surprised to see travellers this far north.

After introductions, the party find out that this is a small band of Ignoi from the Rheon clan, led by a warrior named Toracteha (Tor for short). Tor asks them if they have ever dealt with the tribes before, and the party shake their heads. Tor calls for a yurt to be raised, and gathers them inside to get to know each other better.

A strong drink, called Charka is brought out in drinking horns. Tor explains that tradition and ritual is very important to them, and that the Charka must be sipped while discussions of news are exchanged. The party tells him a brief version of why they are headed to see the gnomes, and he replies that the tribe has traded with the short ones before, but that the black cloud put them off this year; there have already been too many ill omens. He explains that the tribe are split and wandering (according to tradition) after the death of the chieftain. The band here are his family and retainers. In this way there is no blood spilt between the main rivals for the cheiftaincy.

Tor explains they are headed northwards following the migration of the Elk. It is early this year, but he has seen ill omens; 3 days ago they saw the ‘Grinning man’, which everyone knows is a sign of doom. Luckily the Grinning man was headed southwest, and did not veer towards them. The party reveal they have not heard of the ‘Grinning man’, so he tells the the tale of the Grinning man.

After the Charka is drunk, the trade of goods is made. Elden finds that Tor has a greatsword that his grandfather took from the body of a half-giant he had slain, and trades it for some jewels. Some other trinkets change hands, but Marellian had talked earlier about reading about something in a book, so Tor brings forth an ancient heirloom: a very old book. He reveals that he will trade it for something just as valuable. Marellian asks if he may have a look at it first, and discovers it is a Tome of understanding- a very valuable book indeed. He doesn’t have anything valuable enough, but Loraella does… so he manages to persuade her to trade her gem of true sight for the book, and gives her a magic ring instead.

While Marellian is trying to persuade his sister to give up her most valuable item, Tor invites Frank to come and stay with his family next year at the ‘Great Thing’. Frank asks what sort of thing, and Tor explains that after a year of wandering, the tribe meet to pick the new Chieftain. There are games and hunts and trials of strength; he’s sure Frank would enjoy it. Frank aggrees, and asks where it is to be held. Tor tells him that ‘He who was left behind’ knows the way. On seeing Frank’s puzzled look he explains that is the name they call Ambassador Garthane of Flintharrow.

The yurt is pulled down, and the tribe members hug all the party members, and wish them good luck with their task. Tor waves them off with a ‘Make sure you come see us next year’, which Frank has to explain. Elden thinks that the tribespeople were very friendly, but Rayne is a bit annoyed that one of the small children kept trying to pull her tail.

Finally, the party reach the marker that shows the trail up to the plateau, only to find the trail has become overgrown. Luckily, Frank can read the signs of where it was, and they climb the cliffs quite easily. It winds it’s way up a switchback in the cliffs which may be traversed two abreast, with good footing. They make good time, but at the top are met with the black cloud, making it hard to see far ahead.

While making their way through the smoke, they find a smoke mephit. It teases them and tries to have fun at their expense, but luckily Rayne speaks it’s language, and tells it they will not put up with any of it’s tricks. It moans they are no fun, and wanders off to find easier targets. As it leaves, it mutters it hopes they go round in circles in the smoke, but Frank’s trailfinding is good enough for them to reach the outer wall of the monastery easily.

On finding the gate, Marellian calls out to the Gnomes for help, but there is no answer. The Gate to the complex is barred on the inside, but Marellian uses a knock spell to open it, and Frank pushes it open. As they enter the courtyard, they are met by two clockwork hound Watchdogs, one of which howls at them, a sonic attack that staggers most of the party. The other lashes out at Elden with it’s tongue, Tripping him.

Frank charges the howling watchdog, and smashes it to bits in two hits. This causes it to explode, showering Frank with debris. Meanwhile, Elden struggles to his feet, while the watchdog bites him. Marellian, Rayne and Loraella, wary of an explosion, back away from the battle, using long range attacks, while Frank flanks the watchdog, hitting it and causing another explosion.

After the battle, Marellian heals Elden and Frank, before they explore further. They find a small building to the south of the courtyard, and a larger one to the north, before a strange headless creature, stitched together from various pieces of flesh comes shambling round the corner of the building at them. This flesh golem flails at the party, slamming Elden with both arms and sending him backwards. Marellian uses his acid darts on it, while Rayne uses her Abyssal claws and tears into it. As it falls, a small flying eye with clockwork wings comes flying into view. It surveys the party, before darting away again. They all look at each other, wondering what is next, but nothing else happens.

Wary of further attacks, the party explore the courtyard further, but there is nothing else to fight. The small building turns out to be a smithy, complete with a mechanical smith, but the smith does not move, even when they touch it. Marellian surmises it must be ‘turned off’. With nothing else of interest left, they head to the door of the larger building.

This door is also locked, and Frank asks Marellian to do his knock spell again. Marellian replies he only had one prepared, so Frank readies his axe to smash down the door, knowing it will attract too much attention but having no other option. Luckily, Marellian suddenly remembers he has a scroll of knock in his possession, which allows them to enter quietly. They find themselves in a corridor which ends at a ‘T’ junction. From this junction the passage west has two wooden doors on the south side, and ends at an iron door, while the passage east has one wooden door on the south side, and also ends at an iron door. Using her new ring of x-ray vision, Loraella determines the first door to the west is a cloakroom, while the second door west seems to hold a stairway. There is another of the headless flesh golems in the stairway armed with a mop and bucket; it seems to be cleaning the floor. She is unable to penetrate the thick metal of the iron door.

Rather than open any of these doors, the party decide to check the door to the east. Once more Loraella uses her x-ray ring, revealing what was once an office, but now seems to have iron bars penning in an old Gnome. Happy to have found a Gnome at last, Marellian decides they should open the door and talk to him.

The Gnome tries to hide as the door is opened, but appears when Marellian starts to talk. He is relieved to see them, and asks if they can free him. Frank uses one of Marellian’s vials of acid on the bars, weakening them so that he can snap them off (although he thinks he could have bent them apart easily anyway) so that the Gnome can exit.

The Gnome is in a bad way; he hasn’t eaten in days, and survived by licking condensation off the window. Marellian offers him food, and heals him. He reveals that he is callen Terelinn Fuddlemore, and was a teacher here at the monastery. He tells them he is possibly the last surviving Gnome here now, and tells them the tale of The Clockwork Curse .

Terelinn is able to supply the party with details of how the monastery is laid out, and they decide to head straight upstairs, where they believe they will find further evidence of the clockwork Gnomes. As they head for the stairway, they are met by two of these Gnomes. They each have weapons grafted in place of hands. One of them yells to the party there are no limits to the power of Tech-Gnome, and they both attack.

It seems that the Gnome’s statement proves false, as they are both taken down easily by the party with only minor injuries caused. Marellian heals these scratches, and they prepare to climb the stairs….

To be continued..

A time gain on the Plain
Heading South

The Party

Elden Spirefield (player missing, played as N.P.C.)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Rayne (played by Amanda)
Arissa Stowe (N.P.C.)

The party stand around in the cavern, wondering who has taken General Ironcore’s war desk, and what type of creature lies dead on the floor. Frank offers to give someone a boost up to see if they can climb the vertical tunnel. After a boost up they all realise the tunnel is too slick-sided for climbing. Marellian asks for quiet so he can scribe his spider climb scroll into his spellbook, explaining that if he manages to copy it first, he can cast the scroll on one of them, allowing them to traverse the climb easily. Frank fancies playing spider, so Marellian casts the spell on him. After a bit of wandering around on the ceiling to get used to the feeling, frank shoots up the tunnel. He arrives at the top to find himself inside a rather large and well built Igloo. It looks like several people were here for quite some time, but cleaned up after themselves, leaving nothing behind. Just for the hell of it, frank skitters around over the ceiling of the Igloo for a while, before a faint call from below reminds him that he’d better throw a rope down to help the others up.

After the rest of the party have been pulled up the rope (some easier than others), Frank shows them the tracks he found leading out into the snow of the Plain of Soot. There are several sets of rather large, three-toed creature tracks, that end in a place where snow has been swept away as if by large wings. Marellian declares that these creatures must be a species previously unknown to science, as nobody has any idea what sort of creature would make such tracks. Sadly, as none of the party has any means of flight, they are unable to follow where these creatures went, although Marellian does send his owl familiar off to see if it can find anything of note. While they wait for the owl to return, the party decide to rest in the Igloo and prepare themselves for a long trek southwards to where there should be an old ruined watchtower.

Marellian’s Owl returns with no sign of the creatures they were hoping for, but it does reveal that the Igloo is some ways south of where the paths out of the Sundered Valley come up. They estimate that by coming up this way they have shaved a day’s travel time off their journey. Fed, fortified and well rested, the party set out in a (nearly) southwards direction, following the clifftop of the Sundered Valley. The Plain of Soot itself seems to run off eastwards for a few hundred miles, so keeping the valley edge in sight would prevent them losing their bearings and wandering around aimlessly.

After some time walking, the party are ambushed by a pack of Abominable Snowmen, who were camouflaged in the snow. Marellian casts burning hands, burning the first Yeti, but it seems unafraid of the flames and continues to attack. Rayne calls upon her Abyssal heritage, and grows claws, with which she hits the second Yeti. Elden misses with his club, and yet again bemoans the loss of his greatsword, as the Yeti deals him a mighty blow in return. Frank and Loraella chip in, before a second burning hands spell from Marellian causes one of the Yetis to flee. Rayne uses her sorcerous powers to summon a Fire Beetle, and it’s bite burns a Yeti, causing it to flee as well. Elden attempts to hit, but even a touch of destiny provided by Arissa fails to help him enough, while Rayne hits a Yeti with her Abyssal claws again. The third Yeti runs, but one remains, taking hits from Frank and Loraella, before a second touch of destiny allows Elden to finally hit, and Rayne’s claws finish it off. Frank skins the Yeti corpse after Marellian and he discuss the magical properties of Yeti fur in protecting against cold. Arissa asks Frank if he will make her fur mittens and boots from the Yeti hide.

As they continue their trudge southwards, they keep an eye out in case of more attacks, but the Yetis seem to have been driven off by their defences earlier. Instead, their Sharp eyes spy a lone figure, mounted on an Elk, headed towards them from across the Plain. As it gets closer, Marellian hails it, bringing it to them. Marellian then notices that the Elk is in fact undead, and the rider upon it is sheathed in an icy armour. glowing red eyes stare at him , and a dusty voice says; “You are brave to cross the Plain of Soot, Mortals. foolish, but Brave.”
For some reason, this seems comical to Frank, but the others are wary of this strange figure. Marellian explains that they are on their way to see the ‘gnomies’, to which it nods it’s head. It explains;“Your quest meets with my queen’s favour. The Darkness within your town is not destroyed, but grows anew. As does that which you faced in the Dwarven stronghold. The children of the Corruptor must not be allowed to roam free, or else all my Queen has done to preserve this land will be for naught.”
The party are confused, having been brought up to believe that the Queen of the Ice was evil and wished to destroy all life. The knight of Ice shakes his head; “How quickly you mortals forget. Once there were four Godesses, each resposible for a season. The sun God sought to destroy the seasons, wishing to keep his reign constant throughout the year. He had fallen under the sway of the Corruptor, and was vanquishing other Gods in order to bring this to pass. My Queen did what she did to prevent him from destroying all the Gods. If she had not, you would all be under the heavy hand of a singular, mad God.”
The party ask how they can destroy the Corruptor’s children, but the Knight of Ice explains he cannot answer that question, for it would allow the Corruptor free reign in the mortal realms. What little he has given them is not enough to ‘break the rules’ regarding immortal intervention. He wishes them well, and vanishes in a flurry of snow and ice.

After a short discussion regarding what they have just heard, the Party head southwards again. It is not long before their sharp eyes make out a huge bulk moving slowly across the plain, leaving a wide trail of thick ice behind it. This monstrosity is a Glacier Toad, one of the Ice’s most enormous creations. Wisely, the party decide to try and creep away without attracting it’s attention, but Marellian is not very good at sneaking away, and it begins to head towards them. Frank shouts for them to run, as it’s ponderous bulk should be unable to keep up, so run they do. Luckily, Frank’s guess proves correct, and they outdistance it, arriving at the Shieldwall Hills safely. Elden is exhausted by the long run; possibly an effect of his energy drain from the wraith in the caverns the night before. Arissa supports him as they walk slowly south, looking around them for a place to rest.

Pretty shortly, Loraella and Rayne, scouting around, each find a hole in the side of hills. Frank and Marellian think the two holes are connected, so one goes to each hole. Frank bellows into one hole while Marellian listens at the other. Sadly, all Marellian can hear is a hissing sound, as he disturbs a Cryo-Hydra. Luckily, he is able to call for help before it emerges fully from it’s den, and Rayne grows her Abyssal claws once more as she steps in to help. Elden rushes in at the sign of battle, but is badly bitten by two of the Hydra’s heads. Marellian uses up his last Flaming hands spell on it, while Frank takes a raging leap, and gives it a good solid hit. Elden, bleeding heavily, manages one last swing of his club, and luckily kills the beast before it is able to hurt him further. Marellian gives him first aid, before the party enter the Hydra’s lair to see what treasures may be contained in it.

After assuring the rest of the party that the Hydra is a solitary beast, Frank and Marellian usher them all into the Hydra’s lair. There, amongst the regular items, they find a pitted Longsword, which they give to Elden. There are also a set of Bracelets and a ring. Marellian is able to determine that the bracelets are greater bracers of archery (which Loraella takes), but is unable to identify the ring, so he pockets it for later study.

With the Hydra’s lair explored, the party decide to look in the other hole. There, they are attacked by a couple of Derro. Marellian tries to talk to the Derro, but they are far to insane and haughty to talk to ‘abovesiders’, so he resorts to using his wand of magic missiles on them. Rayne summons a large black dog to attack, and the Derro are easily despatched. Before they can explore further, another pair of Derro charge at them, but they too are quickly cut down. Finally, they reach the lair of a Hag, who rakes Frank with her dirty nails, before Marellian uses his wand again. Sadly, this seems to be the end of his grandfather’s wand, as it starts to smoke and turns black. Luckily, Elden with his new sword, Frank and Rayne flank the hag, while Loraella uses her new bracers to feather it with arrows. The Hag soons succumbs to it’s wounds, leaving the party to hunt it’s chambers for more loot. Among the spoils are several magic items, which Marellian examines. He is able to determine that there is a set of studded leather armour +2 (which Frank takes), but is unsure regarding a magic cloak and staff. He tells the others he needs to cast an identify spell on the other items, but he has no spells left for the day. Luckily, the ruined watchtower is not too far ahead, and they decide that it would be a better place to rest than a cold cave.

When they get to the watchtower, they are pleased to see that one part of it remains in a fit state for habitation. Upon entering, they see that someone has been here recently; firewood has been stacked up, the place is clean, and there is a table and chair that have been dusted. In one corner is what appears to have been a sleeping pallet, but the bedclothes have been shredded by some angry creature. Also scattered around are several pieces of paper; these have also been shredded, and some are badly singed by fire. Picking up the pieces, and finding some that are still legible, the party are finaly able to read part of The Shredded Journal .

To be continued…

Coming up empty
Beaten to the loot?

Party Members

Elden Spirefield (player missing, played as N.P.C.)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Rayne (played by Amanda)
Arissa Stowe (N.P.C.)

A discussion takes place in Arroyo concerning the return of the two young men. They seem to be unperturbed by their brush with death in a giants cookpot, and want to go with the party. Luckily, their mother is a stern woman, and forbids it.

Bad news for Elden, as he attempts to replace/repair his greatsword. The village smith is unable to repair the sword, and does not have the skill to make a new one. The party do ask Elden if he wishes to stay behind now that he only has a club for his weapon, but he is hopeful that he will find something on their journey.

Once more the party leave the village of Arroyo, determined this time to leave the Sundered Valley behind them. They again head north, and travel further than they had previously. Marellian sends his owl to search ahead, and it signals it has found something: In the sidewall of the valley there seems to be a very large ancient skull of some unknown creature. The party are very excited, hoping this is the first part of the riddle they heard (all except Frank, who seems more interested in whether the skull has any teeth).

Frank climbs up into the skull, revealing that there is indeed a cave opening inside the eye socket. The party assemble in the socket, and move further into the cave. Loraella and Rayne creep silently forwards, followed by Frank and Marellian, with Elden and Arissa at the rear. They notice that the floor of the cave is littered with bones, noticably lizardlike in features.

At the far end of the cave is a mass of webs, in which lurks a giant Tarantula. Upon seeing this big spider, Marellian is suddenly smitten with an urge to run away (he maintains that it was an urge to go check on his familiar when questioned about it later). Frank rushes in to attack, but is overcome by nausea due to its barbed hairs . Loraella and Rayne stand back and use their ranged weapons, while Elden attempts to push past them go engage in hand to hand. Arissa seems revolted by the thing, but instead of her usual scream, she goes into some sort of mystic trance. She mutters some unintelligable words, after which she faints. A glowing ball of light then bursts over the spider, stunning it for enough time for Frank to overcome his nausea and whack it. With Frank and Elden hitting it, and the two rogues firing bolts, it soon dies of multiple injuries. The party then wonder where Marellian has got to, and go back to find him. He seems to be whispering (he maintains to his familiar) “It’s not going to get me, it’s not going to get me.”

After clearing the webs away from the rear of the cave, the party descend down a small passageway into a series of natural looking caverns. Rayne and Loraella go forward once more, but are soon attacked by two Cloakers (one of which turns out to be a dancing image ). The Cloaker begins to moan, causing Rayne to become panicked, but Loraella seems unaffected and shoots at it. Frank and Elden run in, but Frank is also panicked by the moaning, and ends up causing damage to himself. Hearing the moaning, Marellian runs off down a side passage, but Arissa follows him, only to find him in a faint. He shakes him awake, and they return to help with a lucky shot from Marellian’s crossbow felling the creature.

a short while further into the caverns, Loraella hears a faint gibbering coming from up ahead. A strange amorphous shepe filled with eyes and mouths comes sliding along. It fires a stream of spittle at her, which misses and lands sizzling on the cavern floor. Luckily, the party seem unaffected by the wierd noises it makes, and soon make short work of it. Marellian remarks that these are indeed the halls of fear and dread, so the catacombs of mindless hate must be nearby (he also wonders how the servant got through all these monsters in the first place, but there is no answer that anyone can give him).

After a bit more exploring, the party are confronted by stalagtites that suddenly open out to reveal strange tentacled creatures. There are at least six of these that come flying down at them, but Frank and Elden cleave through most of them, while the rest fall to crossbow bolts. Marellian is sure these things have never been seen before (at least, he hasn’t read about them), so asks Frank if he will carry one in a sack for further study when they get back home. Frank is ok with this, providing Marellian supplies the sack.

They wind their way down numerous inter-connecting passages, until they come across a group of skeletons. Marellian takes charge, brandishing his holy symbol and his holy light dismisses them all (healing party members in the process). Further on, they meet a Wight, which attacks Elden, draining him of energy and health. Marellian assesses him, but declares there is nothing he can do to heal the damage, which requires a restoration spell. Looking decidedly paler, Elden wonders if he’ll die, but Marellian assures him that the Wight did not do enough damage (and if it did, he’d come back as a Wight himself anyway..). Frank finds a ring on the Wight’s finger, which he asks Marellian to examine. Marellian studies it for a while, declaring that it is a ring of spell storing . Frank asks if he can use it, but Marellian replies it is only worth something to a spellcaster, so Frank gives it to him.

As the inter-locking passages come to an end, the party are confronted with a Wraith. Elden is unable to hit it, as he does not have a suitable weapon, but a combination of Marellian with his holy light and Frank with his magic axe prevent it from harming Elden further. The party are then assaulted by many Zombies, which revives Elden’s mood, as he can happily cleave through them. With these foes easily destroyed, they find themselves nearing the end of the caverns.

Their journey through the caverns ends with an unhappy discovery. The cavern in which the desk was once stored has been looted! There is a strange corpse on the ground; it is covered in wiry short hair, has large eyes, an apelike face, and both hands are missing. Studying it, Marellian realises the hands were cut off after death, due to the small ammount of blood. It looks like this creature died from a broken neck; and indeed, above it there is a vertical passage which seems to have been ‘melted’ through the rock. There are marks on the floor consistant with the dragging of an object to the passage. The party decide they will climb this vertical shaft, but the questions remain; who could have done this, and how did they know the desk was in this cavern?

To be continued….

Arroyo Tales
A history lesson?

Party members:

Elden Spirefield (played by Matt)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Rayne (player missing; played as n.p.c.)
Arissa Stowe (n.p.c.)

Following the Mayor’s call, the villagers of Arroyo have gathered in the long hall to hear all about these strange visitors (the party) who he has been talking to. He begins by inviting Marellian to speak, and tell the villagers who they are and where they are from. Marellian is not the best public speaker, and waffles on for a bit without getting to the point the mayor requires, so he asks Loraella to simplify things. She merely says that what her brother said is true, confusing the villagers further. In the end, the mayor has to explain himself that these people are all from Flintharrow (cue intake of breath) and that among them are those with the names Ironcore and Spirefield….

After the indignation and shouting has died down, The mayor explains that apparently nobody realised that there were people left behind when the army pulled out, and that there should be no ill will towards these adventurers because of their family past. One young man in particular wants to talk to Elden; his family name is Halfspire, and they claim to be decended from the child of the mistress of captain Spirefield. The other party members do see some vague resemblance to Elden, but the young man is clearly all human…

Mother Henda, the eldest villager, says that now that’s all settled, she can go back to her work, but asks the party to come visit her when they have time, as she would like to talk to them without everyone fussing around them. Frank thinks gallantly about assisting her home, but she doesn’t wait for his help, vanishing before he can offer. One fairly large villager stops Frank to ask about half-orcs, preventing him from catching her exit.

An old timer approaches Marellian and Loraella, asking if they are truly decendants of general Ironcore. Marellian insists that the general was his grandfather, and the old man asks if they will talk with him in private, as he has something important to discuss. Frank tags along, suspicious of anything that takes party members off alone, but his fears are needless. The old man merely wishes to talk about a secret his family have kept down the generations. He tells Marellian and Loraella the Ironcore legacy.

By the time Marellian and Loraella return to the long hall, the excitement of their hosts has dwindled enough for them round up the other party members and leave quietly. They reassure the mayor that if Arroyo doesn’t want Flintharrow to become aware of it’s existance they will keep it a secret, and mention the alliance of free villages to him. He tells them it would be best to stay silent for now, and thanks them for their understanding. They then head over to Mother Henda’s house.

Mother Henda invites them in and they sit round her table. She spends some time quietly looking at them, and the party members begin to think she’s a little senile. Then she tells them not to believe everything that they have been told regarding Arroyo. After the was was ended, there were many who didn’t want to return to the hidebound way of life in the Townships. They managed to evade the roundup and made a life for themselves here. Over the years, in order to feel better about themselves, they concocted a tale of abandonment, and told it so much that they started to believe it themselves. However, as all these tales start with a grain of truth, there may have been some who were genuinely left behind through no fault of their own, and who joined up with the others after the village was started.

This tale of conflicting versions of the same origin story confuses the party, and while they are trying to make sense of it, Mother Henda makes them some tea. During their time sitting drinking tea, Mother Henda’s cat familiar jumps on Marellian’s lap. Mother Henda asks him where his familiar is, and he replies that he left it behind when they entered the Dwarf tunnels, as it was no place for an owl. Mother Henda wonders why he hasn’t called his familiar now that they have left the tunnels, as it’s presence would benefit Marellian greatly. Marellian admits he hadn’t thought about it.

While Marellian is petting her cat, Mother Henda goes off to an old chest, bringing back a scroll that she says might help him in his quest ahead. Reading the sigils on it, he discovers it is a scroll of Knock. He thanks her for the gift, but wonders how soon they can leave with the villagers all interested in them. Mother Henda says that it is easy to creep out of the village, as she has done so many times. It appears that she is friendly with the necromancer who they were warned to stay clear of. She tells them that he offered to marry her once, as she is as close to being dead as some of his undead. He prefers the company of the dead to that of the living, but is willing to talk to anyone who is pleasant to him. Frank tells her that they were told nobody had ever left the village, and she reveals that two young men are currently missing, having gone over the wall a couple of days ago. She asks the party if they will have a look out for the two lads, and send them home if they find them. They tell her that they will do so, and take their leave of her.

By the time they leave Mother Henda’s house, night has fallen, and they decide it would be a good time to see if it is easy to slip over the wall. As mother Henda said, it is very simple to do, and they all leave the village unseen. Elden muses that if monsters did want to attack, they could easily invade the village just by sneaking in, which is a saddening thought. Marellian calls his owl, and after being reunited, the party set off north once more.

A few hours later, having found little evidence of the traps supposed to be scattered around, they spot the ruins of a large settlement to the north west. They scout the ruins, but find that everything has been scavenged bare over the years. Frank finds tracks leading south that could belong to both zombies and skeletons, and they wonder if they should go visit the necromancer. A party discussion concludes with the idea that they should use these ruins to rest a while, as they left during the night without much rest.

In the morning, Frank finds yet more tracks, two sets of which belong to humans. Thinking of their promise to locate the missing village boys, they follow these tracks west. The tracks end with what appears to be an ambush by giant sized tracks, which lead off north west. Following the tracks leads the party to a large cavemouth, which they conclude must be the giant’s lair. Readying their weapons, they carefully enter.

A short way inside the cave, they come across two hill giants. Loraella sneak attacks one, while Frank chops at the other. Marellian casts a spell, turning the giant that his sister attacked into a friend, meaning Elden has to turn his attention to the one Frank attacked, and Rayne uses her Death mask to drain it of health.

Marellian tells the (now friendly) giant that they are here because his people took swome of their friends, and that they would rather get them back without having to kill giants. While the giant is digesting this conversation, Frank and Elden kill the other giant, while Loraella bemoans her lack of success with the crossbow. All the while, Arissa has been hiding behind a rocky wall, too afraid to help out even if she could. Elden jokes that maybe she could use her scream as some sort of sonic energy attack. Frank is about to laugh, when an angry giant appears around the corner in front of him, disturbed by the noises the party are making. Frank leaps onto the giant’s shoulders, hoping to overbalance the giant, but it grabs at him and tears him free, swinging him at Elden. It misses, and Frank lands on his feet like a tumbler.

Elden charges in and attacks the giant, wounding it. Enraged, it swings it’s club and sunders Elden’s greatsword. Dismayed, Elden falls back and Frank takes over the fight. Elden has to resort to using a club to hit with, and the two of them trade blows with the giant, while Loraella and Rayne both fail to find the target with their bows. The Giant retreat, and when the party follow, find that there are more giants down the passage. The friendly giant tells Marellian that the two humans are in the chamber behind the giants, waiting to go in the stockpot. Marellian asks him if the body of the dead giant would be an acceptable subsitute, and it pulls the body off. As the party disengage, the friendly giant takes the wounded giant off to talk. There are yells, and a smack of a club, and the friendly giant comes back out with the two boys. He tells Marellian that there are now two bodies to go in the pot. The party thank it, and leave quickly, before Marellian’s spell wears off.

With Frank quite badly wounded, and Elden mourning the loss of his greatsword, they decide it would be best to go back to Arroyo with the boys, to make sure they got home ok. Elden asks Marellian if he has a spell to repair his greatsword, but Marellian tells him it seems to be beyond repair. The boys tell Elden there is a smith in Arroyo that might be able to help him, which cheers him up a little. At mid-day they return to the wall, to the astonishment of the watchers who had no idea they had left….

To be continued…
Away Ye go!
Season Two Begins at last!

The Party:

Elden Spirefield (player missing, played as N.P.C.)
Marellian Ironcore (played by Dave)
Loraella Ironcore (played by Leanne)
Frank Wyvernstooth (played by Steve)
Rayne (played by Amanda)
Arrissa Stowe (N.P.C.)

It has been just over a week now since the party was involved in the titanic battle to defeat the Rock-Terror, and there is still no sign of Daveak returning.
The Dwarves of the Gully are much more friendly and happy now that the evil has been banished, but the Elder offers a word of caution: The RockTerror has only lost it’s body, and the evil that animated that body will slowly regenerate itself until it is strong enough to reform. Hopefully by that time there may be found a way to banish it forever. Therefore they hope that the party is successful in their quest, for it is the same kind of evil that lurks yet in FlintHarrow.

They are unable to help the party in their search for Elves. They explain that Dwarves and Elves don’t usually have much in common, and stay away from each other. Gnomes, they explain, have always been more in touch with the Elves. The only Gnomes they know of live in a monastery to the south-east that used to trade with the Gully before the RockTerror destroyed all the passages that ran that way. The only way to get there now is to cross the Sundered Valley and find a trail out on the eastern cliff face, but the Dwarves tend not to travel much now, so are unsure what dangers the valley might hold. The party decide that they will brave whatever lurks in the valley, and the Elder provides them with an escort to the nearest valley entrance.

As they walk through the tunnels of the Gully, they see many abandoned tunnels, some flooded, others are partially or fully destroyed by cave-ins and rockfalls. The leader of their escort shakes his head, and explains that such is the damage caused by the RockTerror in their lands. The Dwarves of the escort are very alert and wary as they travel, and the leader explains that although the RockTerror has been vanquished, there are still many Bodak left roaming about in the tunnels. Sadly all these were once dwarves, some of whom may even be relatives of the escort, and finding them all will be a long and sad job.

All has been quiet along their journey, and they finally meet with a pair of Dwarves who are warriors of the fort guarding the valley entrance. The leader of the patrol dismisses his men, but he continues on with the party at their request to help them with leaving the fort. He is just explaining to the pair of Dwarves that the party were instrumental in defeating the RockTerror, when there is a crash, and a pair of Bodak explode through a boarded up tunnel in front of him. Frank and Elden battle one, while the Dwarf is aided by Rayne (after she puts on her mask). Loraella fires an arrow at the other Bodak, but the melee prevents her from firing more. The fight is over almost before it had begun, with the pair of Dwarves puffing as they run up, to be scolded by the Escort leader. Looking ashamed, they begin to repair the breach, while he takes the party onward to the fort.

As they leave the darkness of the tunnels behind, the three half-elves all take a deep breath; the first fresh air they’ve smelt in over a week. Thinking it a sigh or relief, the escort leader explains that the Bodak don’t like the sunlight, so will not be seen again. He ushers then through to the fort, where several herdsmen are watching over Dwarf cows. Tools and equipment seem scattered about haphazardly, and the patrol leader tells the party that they should take whatever they need to help them on their journey (to which Frank decides a cow might be nice..) and they all stock up on provisions.

The party are just about to set forth when the patrol leader offers them a few words of advice. He explains that the valley is littered with traps from the time of the war, and that the Dwarves have never managed to find all of them, so to be alert at all times. Once they manage to find a trail out of the valley, they should head south-east until they see some white crystal cliffs; the monastery is atop these cliffs. He wishes them good luck, and gives Marellian a flask of Dwarf ale, saying he’s heard the lad has taken a liking to it. Marellian thanks him, and the party set off. As they turn to leave, the Dwarves all give them a solemn salute, hands on breast, and bow deeply.

Night is falling as they reach the marker stones that signify the edge of Dwarf territories in the valley, but they decide to press on. Only Arissa does not have any kind of night vision so Elden stays close to guide her in the dark. It is not too long before the eagle eyed Loraella and Rayne find the first trap; a pressure pad that Marellian is able to disarm easily. Some time later they find a tripwire strung between two trees, and that is also disarmed. Other traps are also found, including one that is dismantled to gain a rod of shock

They continue on north-east until they come across a dead body. Nearby is a hole or cave of some kind. A search of the body reveals two short swords, and a backpack full of rocks. Frank muses that maybe these rocks are valuable, but they are loathe to lug a load of rocks around, so leave them be. Marellian is about to peek into the hole when Loraella (who had wandered off a short way to look at a tree) is attacked by three dire bats. Seeing her outnumbered, he rushes over to save her, but gets tangled up in his own feet, and falls flat on his face. While the others draw weapons and go to her aid, two more dire bats swoop down on them. One of the three attacking Loraella sees the prostrate form of Marellian, and swoops down on him. Marellian casts burning hands, and fries the bat, which falls nearby. A swift clout with his quarterstaff kills the bat, and Marellian slowly and carefully goes to help his sister, who has taken a wound from a dire bat bite.

Frank takes a mighty leap at one of the swooping bats, and lands sprawling atop it. The extra weight causes it to drop to the ground, where he proceeds to beat it to death. Elden is strangely unable to hit the other bat, and Frank and Rayne have to help him defeat it. Loraella and Marellian defeat the others, while Arissa stands around unable to see anything in the dark except the smouldering corpse made by Marellian. Frank decides the leathery wings of the dire bat would make a good cape, and so cuts them off. Marellian tries to heal Loraella’s wound, and makes a good job of bandaging it.

After the long day, and the tough fight, the party are quite tired, and decide to rest within the cave, which turns out to be the bat’s daytime roost. Marellian gains some bat guano for his spell components, while Frank fashions a rough cape out of the batwings.

The next day, the party set off well rested, and soon come across a group of men who are mining yellowish rock out of a hole in the ground. These men are not pleased to see strangers, and accuse them of being spies for the others. The party have no idea who these others might be, but are not in the mood to fight, and so continue on, leaving the men to their digging.

Marellian is in a playful mood, and with his sister watching out for traps, decides to have a bit of fun with her. Using his mage hand spell, he lifts a rock up in front of her and chases her around with it. At first she thinks she has set off a trap, but as she races past him, she sees the look of concentration on his face, and gives him a slap. His concentration breaks, as does the spell, and the rock drops. She scolds him, but only lightly, as she is glad to see this spirits have improved after a week cooped up under stone.

Later, the party spy some sort of ruined building, with two men searching around in the rubble. They seem friendly, and explain that they too were greeted in a less than friendly manner by the miners. One of them explains that they are scavengers, salvaging anything they can to sell to others. The party let them have the two short swords they found on the body earlier, and in exchange, Marellian is given a tatty looking piece of paper that the scavengers have been unable to read. He examines it, and discovers that it is a scroll of spider climb, which they tell him he can have with their compliments. They warn the party that if they continue onwards in the north east direction they were headed in they will come to the lair of a necromancer, and that it might be better for them to turn more eastwards for a time. Thanking them for the warning, the party do indeed turn eastwards, until they come to the east sidewall of the valley.

They follow the wall of the valley northwards for some time, until their sharp eyes spot movement ahead. Part of the valley wall is in fact a man-made structure, atop which can be seen several human faces peering down. The party hail these people, who seem amazed that they aren’t monsters. They roll down a rope ladder for the party to climb the wall, and welcome them to the village of Arroyo.

The party notice that all the men standing guard atop the wall look almost alike. They also don’t seem too bright, but are certainly enthusiastic. When asked how often the village gets attacked by monsters, they shrug and say that it’s never happened yet. They just got told to man the wall and watch out for monsters. A couple of them usher the party onwards to meet the guy in charge. He just happens to run the local tavern. As they walk through the tavern door all talk inside stops, and all the patrons stare at the strangers.

The guy serving behind the bar is the mayor of the village, Elias Fleebane. He is distrusting of strangers, and becomes even more so when he hears they are from FlintHarrow, and the names Ironcore and Spirefield are mentioned. It transpires that these villagers are decendants of the camp followers and invalids that supposedly got left behind to die when the army of General Ironcore pulled out of the valley. One of the drinkers tells that his grandfather was born several days after the army left, to a woman who was the lover of Captain Spirefield. All his family are named Halfspire. Things are starting to get rowdy, so the mayor tells the party that they must attend a village moot in the long hall to hear the grievances of the villagers, and make amends for their ancestor’s betrayal….

To Be Continued….
The season finale

The Party:

Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)

final post of this season.

The party are brought refreshments while awaiting the return of the old Dwarf. The refreshments include some dark Dwarf ale, which Marellian mistakenly believes is merely water, and necks. He seems to develop a thirst for it, and takes another. Pretty soon, he is quite merry.

After what seems like ages, the old Dwarf returns, accompanied by an extremely aged Dwarf, who he explains is the keeper of the chronicles. The Keeper is knowledgeable in the histories, and tries to help the party figure out what they need to know. The first thing they wish to know is why the Flint-Harrow Ambassador was shaved and thrown out. The Dwarves all look embarassed. The old Dwarf explains that certain members of the Gully held Flint-Harrow responsible for their current woes:

The Dwarves, he explains, are usually led by a king, who is the conduit between the Dwarf god and his clerics. When the old king died, all the clerics lost their powers and could no longer cast spells. The next in line was a paladin, but he had gone on a quest to save Flint-Harrow from the machinations of the evil Frosterlings, and was lost in the avalaunche with the rest of the White Riders. The clerics resented Flint-Harrow, for in their eyes it was flint-Harrow’s fault that the Paladin was lost; after all, he was on a mission on behalf of their council wasn’t he? Therefore they conducted a trial, and found the Flint-Harrow ambassador guilty of the crimes of his council, and used the ancient rituals to strip all hair from his body, never to grow back, the most hideous punishment they could think of. The leader of the Clerics who were responsible for this act tried to set himself up as a regent, but his support slowly eroded, to the point where the council became too fractured to decide on any course of action.

Without the guidance of a king, the powers of their faith, and a fractured council, the Rockterror was able to attack the realm. An ancient, malevolent creature, it had been held at bay for centuries, but now it was able to strike deep inside the Dwarf stronghold. Year after year the Dwarves lost more ground, and men, to the creature, until they reached the point where they are now: Trapped inside the last fortress, and reduced to less than a hundred souls.

Marellian asks more about this Rockterror, telling the lorekeeper that Flint-Harrow was recently attacked by a similar type of enemy, that had corrupted an ancient temple and seemed to have changed insects into monstrous forms. The lorekeeper nods, and mentions that this is indeed similar, and both are the children of the Corruptor; an ancient evil determined to wipe out all types of civilisation and return the races to a state of anarchy. He tells the party that there is a human, called Zoastrian, who came to them years ago. He was very knowledgeable in ancient lore, and was trying to find a connection between these creatures and the fall of Winter. The party vaguely remember the name, but the lorekeeper then goes on to tell about the four gods of the seasons. He tells that there were once two gods, and two goddesses: Summer and autumn, spring and winter. The god of Summer was the Sun God, who usurped the power and portfolios of several other gods to make himself the prime god of the pantheon. His sister, Winter, was responsible for trapping him and thus causing the great winter, but of the god of Autumn and the goddess of Spring nothing was heard. The fact that this child of the corruptor was found in a temple of Spring (lady of the healing waters) could go some way to answering why she disappeared so suddenly.

Putting this information on the back burner, Frank and Daveak ask if there is anything the party can do to help the Dwarves, and restore some measure of friendship between their two peoples (By this time, Marellian seems to have been overcome by the potent Dwarf ale, and Rayne takes him aside to try and sober him up). The old Dwarf says that they would have to try and convince the one who threw out the ambassador, a Dwarf cleric called Goraldon. Although his sphere of influence has waned, he is still the most vocal in opposition to ‘the vile humans’.

After a short discussion, the Dwarves agree to lead the party down into the fortress, where no humans have been allowed for many decades. There they will be able to speak to the dwarf defenders, and see if the will of the people will allow them to help the Gully.

The party’s first impression of the ancient underground fortress is of emptyness. whole sections stand abandoned, and those building still inhabited seem half empty. The lorekeeper nods, and says that there has been so many killed. There seems to be a lack of children and older Dwarves, and those who peer out at the party seem fatigued. The party walk onwards through the fortress, and a small group of Dwarves tag along behind, curious as to why these strangers are here. This group gets larger the closer to the center of the fortress they get.

As they near the steps of the great temple to the Dwarf patron god, they are met by a group of clerics, led by Goraldon. He accuses the lorekeeper of treason, and there is a slanging match. However, due to another amazing bout of diplomacy by Frank, Goraldon finds that there are too many Dwarves clamouring for the party’s help for him to get his way. He backs down, and allows the party to stay.

The males in the party are shown to an abandoned tenement, while the females are taken to a more luxurious apartment. Daveak tells Dark fang to go with the girls, and protect them. Dark fang is not too happy about this, but obeys his master. Frank asks some of the Dwarf defenders about the creature, and they reluctantly reveal that it is made of stone, and mormal weapons seem incapable of doing much damage to it. It seems that the human, Zoastrian, discovered somewhere that obsidian was the key to damaging it, and so the Dwarves have several spears with obsidian blades which they throw at it, to limited sucess. Frank has an interesting idea, and goes to see the Dwarf mage-smith about inlaying the party’s weapons with obsidian, thereby giving them an advantage against the creature. The smiths are unsure if this will work, but oblige him.

During the fortress’ sleep cycle, the party are awoken by shouts of ‘Rockterror, Rockterror!’ They gather their weapons and venture out. Rayne and Loraella are held back by lady Arrissa, who is frightened and doesn’t want them to leave her. They get her to come with them by wondering if the building could withstand a strike from the creature, saying they wouldn’t want to be buried alive in here…

Entering the main street, they see a small group of Dwarves fighting against what looks like a giant serpent made of several rings of solid rock. Daveak fires an obsidian-tipped arrow at it, and it swings it’s unholy attention onto these new foes… crushing Dwarf defenders under it’s bulk as it surges towards them.

Elden rushes in, smashing the creature with a mighty blow, while Frank and Daveak both use their attacks to great effect. Unfortunately, the girls have a harder time; with lady Arrissa clinging at them to come away, and Darkfang trying to pull lady Arrissa away from them they are too distracted to get sucessful strikes at the creature. Marellian uses his magic, but all their attacks are not enough to stop yet more Dwarves from dying under it’s bulk, or from it’s snapping maw.

Another tremendous blow from Elden smashes the creature’s head segment apart, but to the party’s horror, the next body segment merely morphs into a head, and continues the attack. Elden takes several blows and is severely wounded, but manages to get around behind the head segment, and starts hacking at the middle body segment instead. The girls still seem ineffectual, and begin to bicker over whether they should ‘save’ lady Arrissa from Darkfang or not. Lady Arrissa is still screaming, telling them to help her before the wolf kills her, but Darkfang is merely trying to obey his master’s wish to keep her safe, trying to get her away from the danger in the street.

As Daveak keeps the head busy with arrows, Frank joins Elden, hewing at the stone body until it shatters. Marellian also wades in with some of his magic missiles. Eventually their blows tell, and the segment of body is smashed apart. With this, the Rockterror crumbles to dust, and the feeling of menace that had been eminating from it fades. Daveak turns his attention to the girls, unhappy that they had been discussing hurting his animal companion, and at their lack of help during the fight. A dwarf defender grabs his arm, saying; “Quickly, we must burn the dead bodies. Those killed by the creature have been slain by an ultimate evil, and may rise as…”
“Bodak! Bodak!” Comes a cry from a Dwarf atop one of the watchtowers.
“Damn, we’re too late. It is beginning.” Says the Dwarf defender.
As they look, the first Dwarf slain by the creature rises up and attacks the defenders trying to make a pyre. With a quick movement, it rips out one of the defender’s throat. Another corpse then rises and joins the fray.

The party try to fend of the two Bodak, as the Dwarves try to burn the bodies of their dead before they too rise as Bodak. The girls have more luck against these creatures, with Rayne managing to kill one. Marellian uses both his magic and his alchemy skills to get a good fire going, while Frank performs a great leap to take him up the side of a watchtower, where another Bodak grapples with a watchman. Frank then bull-rushes the Bodak over the side of the tower, and lands atop it, burying his axe into it’s body and killing it.

With the last Bodak killed, and the bodies burnt, The party gather round Marellian for healing; all except for Daveak and Dark fang, who slope away quietly, in disgust at the attidude of the party members towards them. Lady Arrissa sees him, and begs him not to leave her, but his heart is set, and he and Dark fang begin the long trek through abandoned tunnels to the surface, and the wilderness and solitude they crave.

The others, still unknowing of Daveaks leaving, are joined by the old lorekeeper. He tells them that they have struck a mighty blow against the Rockterror, smashing it’s body, but the spirit lives on, and will slowly rebuild itself until it is strong enough to create a new body, when it will return to strike again. Marellian asks if this is why the tentacled creature in the bath-house returned as a bloated queen wasp, and the lorekeeper agrees. It seems that both their homes are at risk. Only the Elves have the storied legends to tell how to defeat these creatures. Sadly, the Dwarves do not know where elves may be found, as they have been absent from the surface in decades, but they do know where the party can find Gnomes, and the Gnomes are certain to know where the Elves live. There are two groups of Gnomes that the lorekeeper knows of: one set live in a monestary past the eastern fringes of the furthest outpost of the Gully, the others live in the Vale of Stars, leagues away to the west. The party discuss which of these would be quicker to get to, and go to ask Daveak if he can find the way, only to find that he has gone…

End of Season

With thanks to my players: See you for season 2….

The Trip to Geldan's Gully
Heading for the season finale....

The Party

Daveak Swordhand (Played by Paul)
Elden Spirefield (Played by Matt)
Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)

With the Return of the missing party members from their individual sojourns, it is finally time for the party to set off on the long jouney to visit the Dwarves of Geldan’s Gully. After consulting Rayne’s pilfered map, they decide it would be best to follow the route of the Dragonscar Trail, which comes closest to the entrance to the Cutter pass. Daveak seems sure that from the trail they will be able to see the twin standing stones that mark the entrance to the pass.

The weather is overcast, but Daveak and Frank both agree that it will be settled, with no problems to their travel. Everyone seems happy with the ammount of provisions they are carrying, and there is no last minute rush to top up their stores. As the outer gates to Flint-Harrow close behind them, they shoulder their packs and traipse off southwards, with no last looks back at their home…

The trail Daveak leads them along winds south-west, and soon brings them to the banks of the tributary of the Greater Meltwater River, where stands the ‘Old Thenn fishing shack’. This is the dwelling place of Daveak’s mentor, Wilton Deveraux. Wilton is pleased to see his old pupil, and invites the party inside to discuss matters. Daveak explains that the party is off to speak to the Dwarves of Geldan’s Gully, and Wilton expresses concern that they are on an impossible mission, as the Dwarves have not been friendly to Townsmen for these last fifteen years. Daveak asks him if he knows the reasons why, but he is as ignorant of the reasons as everyone else. All he can recall is that one day the Dwarves just arrested the Flint-Harrow ambassador, shaved him all over, and turfed out his entire retinue to return to the Township with shouts of; “Never come back, ye shallow Townsmen.” Since then, nobody has been back to the Gully, and no Dwarves have been seen in Flint-Harrow. He remarks that if the party can get to see the Dwarves, it might reopen the trade routes, and bring back some prosperity to Flint-Harrow.

Daveak asks Wilton if he would like to accompany the party on this quest, but he refuses, saying that his days of adventuring are over. Marellian asks him if it is true that he was once a member of the White Riders, and he grins, telling Marellian that he was involved in some of their adventures, but never a full member. He is reluctant to talk of those days, but the party manage to draw some of the story out of him. Daveak then asks him if he has ever heard of a man named Delevan Wakes. It is obvious from his startled reply that he has no idea who Daveak is talking about, so Daveak tells him about the story he heard regarding the Hermit and the stones. After thinking hard, he tells Daveak that this is more likely a StoneShadow Township tale, as the location described could be the area known as ‘The Scree’. He then warns the party to stay clear of StoneShadow, as they were the enemies of Flint-Harrow in the battle of the Sundered Valley.

Taking their leave of Wilton, the party cross the river and head south along the Dragonscar Trail. They walk along the bottom of the ridge, and remember that they previously had climbed the ridge to find the crevasse mentioned by Pawdle Wherrit in The Shadow Road. They do not see any sign of the strange Snowmen they fought on the ridgetop previously, and the journey passes without incident.

As the pass leads away from the Ridge, Daveak smells smoke, drifting to him on the wind from the east. Fearing banditry or maybe an Orc attack, the party head swiftly in that direction. As they get closer to the source of the smoke, Daveak remembers the last time he smelt this particular smell was when he met the charcoal burners. Eagerly, he leads the party onwards, until at last they reach a small campsite, where the charcoal burners are lounging around drinking while waiting for the wood to burn down to charcoal. They are delighted to see Daveak, and greet the rest of the party warmly too. Seats are soon drawn up around their campfire for party members to join them as they drink and talk.

For some strange reason, Marellian is worried about the drinking that is about to start. He tries his hardest to prevent the others from settling down around the campfire, and decides to cast charm person on Daveak to prevent him partaking in the moonshine offered him by the charcoal burners. His priggish attitude, coupled with a few unwise comments from other males around the fire annoys Rayne considerably, and she decides that she will steal an item from Marellian while his attention is set on trying to prevent the party staying at the campsite. She manages to remove the bone flute from his belongings, and hides it from him. Marellian’s cajoling of the others seems to work, as they all decide that it would be best to carry on with their journey, rather than rest with the Charcoal Burners. The Charcoal Burners are upset, but are nice enough fellows to respect their decision. They also give Daveak a bag of charcoal, telling him that they often trade it with the Dwarves. Daveak asks how they are able to trade after the Dwarves threw out the Flint-Harrow representatives, and one winks at him, and tells him they are free spirits, and not considered Townsmen, thus they are able to work around the ban the Dwarves placed on Township traders.

Somewhat reluctantly, Daveak accompanies the others away from the Charcoal Burner’s camp, but he has at least a waterskin full of moonshine to take with him. Marellian wonders how to get him to empty out his waterskin, but Daveak reveals he will offer the moonshine to the Dwarves as a gift, along with the charcoal. As they are talking, Loraella tells them that she has a feeling of being watched, which Elden confirms. Marellian is all for confronting the watchers and blasting them with magic, but Daveak urges restraint, telling him that the watchers may be benevolent, and not to rush into things until they know the details. Elden wonders if Daveak drank some of that moonshine, as he seems to be far more laid back that usual, but Daveak reminds them that they are in his favoured terrain, and there are many things out here that are curious about people without being aggressive.

As the afternoon draws on towards evening, the party finally spy the twin pillars that mark the entrance to the Cutter Pass. approaching them, they realise that one of the pillars is covered in a runic script used by Dwarves, while the other is made up of scenes relating to historic monents in the history of the Gulley. Marellian has knowledge of the Dwarven script through his study of old books, and reads through the script of the pillar. He deduces that this is a historical record of the Gully, from it’s founding by Geldan Axehaft, through to the death of it’s last king, some fifteen years ago. At his mention of fifteen years ago, the others are suddenly interested, as this corresponds with the envoy being thrown out of the Gulley…

With night drawing in, the party decide to make a camp in the entrance to the Cutter Pass. Daveak and Frank busy themselves making an igloo, at Elden’s suggestion. For reasons unknown to the others, Elden decides to create a snow-Dwarf instead of helping the others with the igloo. He seems quite pleased with his creation, and stands back to admire it. The others all mutter that the trip through the snow must have shrunk his brain.

Daveak decides to take the first watch, while the others all rest. He and Darkfang make a vigilant pairing, but the only thing that happens during their watch is an appearance by a curious she-wolf, who tempts the valiant Darkfang to stray from his master’s side. Daveak senses his wolf’s unease, and talks quietly to him, reassuring him of his worth to the party, and Darkfang stays on guard. With their watch over, Daveak decides to wake Rayne. He finds it difficult to wake her, so gathers a handful of snow and makes a snowball, which he throws at her. After glowering at him. Rayne gets up and takes watch.

During Rayne’s watch, a display of falling stars light up the night sky. Delighted by the display, Rayne wakes Loraella to watch it with her. The two girls are quite entranced by the display, until Loraella thinks that maybe there is a reason for the display, and tries to wake her brother to ask his opinion. Sadly, Marellian is a sound sleeper, and not even a handful of snow down the back of his neck wakes him. After a while, the meteor shower finishes, and the two girls sit up together until the end of Rayne’s watch. Rayne wakes Frank to take over, and the girls head back to bed.

A breeze gets up, and Frank realises that the next dy will bring a storm. Unfortunately, the breeze also masks the approach of the creatures who were watching the party during the day, and the first Frank knows of their approach is when a hairy arm reaches for him. He comes face to face with a Snow Troll, whose claws rake him. Frank cries out in alarm, and manages to wake Daveak and Elden. The Troll takes advantage of Frank’s lapse of concentration, and hits him again. Bleeding freely, Frank swipes back with his axe.

Daveak exits the igloo first, and sees the Troll attacking Frank. He steps back, trying to get a shot with his bow, but fails to see a second snow Troll coming around the other side of the igloo. It rakes Daveak with both claws, severly injuring him. Elden dashes out after Daveak, but his eyes are only on the first Troll. He manages to deal it a vicious blow, but to his and Frank’s dismay, the Troll’s wounds begin to heal. Meanwhile, Rayne and Loraella stay inside the Igloo, desperately trying to wake Marellian. Rayne puts on her death mask, and prepares herself to help Daveak. He is holding out against the Troll, with Darkfang trying to trip it up, but the Troll is too large for the wolf to trip. Rayne uses the power of her mask, and it’s necromantic magic sucks all life from it. The other Troll, despite hits from Frank and Elden, refuses to stay down. It’s regeneration prevents them from killing it.

Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Marellian exits the igloo, right into the path of the Troll as it rises yet again. Mouthing the words to his spell, Marellian casts burning hands, and incinerates the Troll instantly. Frank and Elden sigh with relief, but Marellian wonders what all the fuss was about. Daveak hushes them all, and in the distance they can hear the roaring of more Trolls in the distance. They seem to be getting closer. Gathering up all their equipment, the party break camp, and hurry into the Cutter Pass, hoping to gain some distance from the Trolls, and maybe reaching a place of safety. Daveak asks Marellian if he will heal them, but Marellian has recently discovered his flute is missing, and declares that until it is returned he will not be giving them aid. He is fed up with the constant bad manners and bullying that he is on the end of from the other party members, and reminds them they have already lost one party member due to their thievery, and if not careful they will soon lose another. He points out he has been peed on by the wolf, had money stolen (Loraella protests that was only because he gave away all her clothes), had been pushed down a hole and is now wondering if he should continue to adventure with them.

Rayne takes him to one side, and gives him the bone flute, telling him her reason for taking it. She tells him he should treat women with more respect, which confuses him as he didn’t realise he had said anything about women. Grudgingly, he uses his aura to heal the others, and they continue into the pass.

Daveak realises that the steep sides of the pass are topped with overhanging snow, and that the party may find themselves caught in a heavy snowfall at any minute. He advises caution, and silence. However, the wind has now got up, and they are in danger of being caught up in a snowstorm at any minute. They decide to run, hoping that the wind will prevent any large ammounts of snow falling on them.

As they race through the defile, they listen for sounds of pursuit, but the wind is whistling through the pass, making such noises near impossible to hear. What they do hear, however, is a woman’s scream, coming from somewhere up ahead. Slowing, to avoid running into a trap or battle, they reach the source of the noise; A young woman stands in the middle of the pass. She is dressed only in a flimsy silken dress, and wearing high heeled shoes. They realise that she is shivering, and crying. Daveak reaches her first, and warily asks her who she is, and what she is doing here.

The young girl introduces herself as ‘Lady Arissa Stowe’, and claims that she was dancing with the viscount Destarle at the Midsummer ball. She tells that the musicians struck up some tune that they had been reviving from an ancient tome, and there was a blinding flash of light from the stones under her feet. The next thing she knew, she was standing in this strange white stuff. She is very cold, and the party rummage through their gear to find her a winter blanket to keep her warm. Marellian tells the others that she may have been a victim of some rogue teleport spell, but he’d have to look into his books to see if there was a precedent. Arissa is confused by his words, asking what a teleport spell is. He replies it is magic, and she snorts in disbelief. It seems that the land she has come from, which she calls Dwale, does not have such a thing as magic any more, as there was a great crusade to rid the land of such nonsense generations ago. She furthermore does not believe in such things as Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and other ‘faerie tales’. When the others reveal that they are half-elves, a half-Orc and a Tiefling, she clings to Daveak, moaning. It is even worse when Marellian casts endure elements upon her, as she believes she will be ‘Tainted’ by magic. Marellian cancels the spell, telling her if she wants to freeze to death it’s up to her.

After a few more questions, they find out that she comes from the ‘Imperium year 3732’. They have no idea who or what the Imperium is, and Daveak wonders if maybe she is a time traveller from the years before the Great Winter began, some 1,502 years earlier if the archivists are to be believed. They decide to take her with them to the Gully, hoping to find some answer there. After much moaning, she reluctantly allows Frank to carry her. she would prefer to keep closer to Daveak, as he is the only human, but Frank’s stamina allows them to keep moving faster.

Ploughing onwards, they fight their way through the wind and snow, reaching ever closer to the end of the pass. Suddenly, there is a whooshing noise, accompanied by a blast of heat. Fearing attack, they scatter, and draw weapons, as a high pitched squealing comes from the vicinity of the heat.

Daveak is the first to reach the area affected by the heat. He sees a man in red and yellow robes, casting spells at an Ice Linnorm. As he watches, the mage casts acid arrow at the beast, which finally kills it. The mage then strides to the corpse, cuts something from it, and teleports away. The party wonder who this person was, and what he was doing, and Daveak remembers that the Flameguard wear red and yellow, and have a mage cadre. Frank and Daveak work out from the tracks that the mage was walking from the direction of the Gulley when the Linnorm attacked. They have a look at the corpse, but cannot find out what it was the mage took from the corpse, and decide to continue onwards, in case there are more Linnorms about.

They manage to reach the end of the pass without incident, and come at last to an icy slide, as the floor of the pass dips away. Marellian realises there is no way to avoid sliding should he try to descend carefully, so throws himself down the slide with abandon. The others shrug, and follow him down. Again, luck seems to be on their side, as none of them are hurt during their slide

At the bottom of the slide, Marellian comes to rest against a stone wall. Loking up, he sees a high tower, with flags fluttering in the wind. He recognises the standard of the Half-Axe clan, both from heraldric symbols in a book he had read and from the talisman the party were given by the Dwarf they rescued in Orc held lands. A gruff voice calls out to him; “Whadda ye fer?”, and he tries to reply, but the wind carries his words away. Motioning to Frank to come close and hold up the talisman of the Half-Axe gets results; a sally-port opens, and a Dwarf motions for them to enter. They are escorted inside the tower, where they meet with an elderly Dwarf.

The elderly Dwarf reveals that he is the uncle of Thurri, the Dwarf they fred from the Orc gibbet. He asks them why they have travelled to the Gulley, and Marellian clears his throat. He has prepared a speech, but his knowledge of the language comes only from books, so sounds a trifle strange to Dwarf speakers…

Flintharrow smell-nice, axe-foe, Octo-fiend runny danger! Smell-nice glittering cave plenty heart spirit. Fools gold puzzling.
Beard growth mouth cover? Pebbling passage of moon? Know pointy ears?

Trying not to laugh at the Half-elf’s strange vocal style, the elderly Dwarf raises his eyebrows. He congratulates Marellian on his knowledge of the ancient stone-tongue of the Dwarves, but prefers to speak to them in trade tongue. He tells them to take their ease, while he goes to speak with others who may know the answers to their questions, and that he will return soon.

To be continued….
The trouble with tunnels...
A dungeon crawl.

The party:

Frank Wyvern’s Tooth (Played by Steve)
Loraella Ironcore (Played by Leanne)
Marellian Ironcore (Played by Dave)
Rayne (Played by Amanda)

With Daveak away on religious duties, and Elden doing a spot of soldiering, the four remaining characters postpone their trip to find the Dwarven stronghold. Instead, they are called upon by the old half-Orc priest who officiated at Frank’s wedding. He reveals that since the fateful day when Frank’s cousin and his new bride were ensorcelled by Bagrob, he has been communing with his gods to try and find a way to free them. His divinations have revealed to him the ingredients for a potion which may help. Sadly, these ingredients are very rare, and he does not know how long it will take. One thing he has discovered, however: one of the ingredients can be found in what remains of the abandoned mine; The gall-bladder of a creature known as a Grick.He asks the party if they will journey to the mine, and kill the Grick, so that they may obtain it’s gall-bladder. Frank, eager to help free his cousin, accepts immediately, and the others follow his lead.

The journey to the mine is easy and trouble free, and known to them previously when Solien Terrie took them to Harrow’s Edge. The old mine buildings are in a state of disrepair, and they decide to ignore them, and head straight into the mine. The two rogues go first, with Marellian and Frank behind, although Frank does wonder why he is not in the lead. In the end, He accompanies Loraella up front, and Rayne walks beside Marellian.

It is soon clear that much of the lower levels of the mine are underwater, but there are some rough-hewn tunnels leading off from the mine. At the entrance to these tunnels, the party stop and strain to listen. Faint noises of scurrying can be heard, and they assume there must be rats up ahead.

Confident of his abilities to slay rats, Frank strides ahead, and finds himself in a cavern filled with… Giant cockroaches! There are two entrances to this chamber, and while he and Loraella are busy at the first entrance, several cockroaches take the second, to be met by Marellian and Rayne, who were lagging behind slightly. Luckily, this prevents Frank and Loraella from being flanked by the creatures.

During the battle, Frank decides it would be fun to ride around on the back of one of these creatures. His fun is cut short by Rayne, who shoots out his steed from under him, causing him to fall off forwards and bloody his nose. Picking himself up, he and the others find mouldy food scattered around the chamber. A search reveals several coins in amongst the food.

a twisting maze of tunnels stretch forth from this first cavern, and Loraella once more takes the lead. She soon finds herself at the entrance to a second cavern, and is about to enter it, when she finds herself enveloped by sticky webbing. Two Ettercaps chitter at her as they close in to what they think is their captured prey. Luckily, Loraella is able to put her escapology skills to good use, and wriggles free, just as Frank wades into the fray. The Ettercaps are easily despatched, and Rayne finds a patch of webbing stuck to the cavern wall. In it are four rubies and a pearl. She shows the pearl to marellian, who tells her he will now be able to make a sixth ‘Party armband’ for her to wear. There is also an old scroll, which apears to be a clerical spell scroll of cure light wounds; which they decide Marellain should have, as he is nominally a cleric. Marellian isn’t sure why they think he should need it, but is too busy examining the webs the Ettercaps used on Loraella to start a discussion.

Leading south from this cavern are two twisting passages, one leading south, the other west. The party decide to head south, with The two rogues once more looking out for traps. This passage terminates at a large chamber, in which are seven Hobgoblins, who seem to be argueing. Frank jumps into the fray gleefully, his goblin-bane axe hungry for goblinoid blood. Rayne and Loraella fire missiles, and after the first round of combat the Hobgoblins realise they are overmatched, and flee. One goes down with an arrow in his back, while another falls to Franks axe, but one gets away. His bllodlust not yet sated, Frank gives chase, with the two rogues trying to keep up. Marellian sees another passage that appears to run in the same direction as the passage the fleeing Hobgoblin took, and thinks it might be a good idea to run down this passage in the hope that the two connect somehow, and thus catch the Hobgoblin unawares.

Frank dashes along the passages, chasing the fleeing Hobgoblin, but never able to catch up with it. He finally reaches a chamber in which are five Dire rats. They close on him, and he is bogged down in combat long enough for the two rogues to finally catch up. They slay the rats, and Frank realises that these rats have taken a bite out of the Hobgoblin as he fled past, as there is now a small trail of blood for him to follow. Meanwhile, Marellian finds that the passage he took is uctually a dead end. Cursing his bad luck, he retraces his steps back to the chamber where they encountered the Hobgoblins, to await the return of his fellow adventurers.

Tracking the trail of blood, Frank, Loraella and Rayne head north from the Dire rat chamber. The trail leads them down several more twisting passages, until they reach the end of the trail: In a small chamber lies the dead body of the last Hobgoblin. It appears to have been the victim of an attack by the chamber’s residents; A pair of violet fungi. They decide that it would not be a good idea to enter this chamber at the moment, and realise that Marellian has not yet caught up with them. They retrace their steps, hoping to find him, but realising there are several passages they ignored in their rush to chase the Hobgoblin.

Meanwhile, Marellian Takes some time to examine the Hobgoblins, and finds some gold coins, and a strange headband that he realises is magical. Putting it on, he gains greater insight, and is finally able to commune with his god. After some time, he decides that it would be best to return to the entrance of the mine to await his friends, in the hope that they would do the same if they became separated from the group. Once there, he seetles down and plays with the bit of webbing he took from the Ettercap lair.

Returning to the chamber where they met the Hobgoblins, Frank, Loraella and Rayne find that someone has checked the pockets of the corpses, and folded their arms over their chests. They come to the conclusion that Marellian must have backtracked to this chamber, but are unsure which way he went next, as his tracks cross too many times to easily track him. They decide that he must have gome back the way they entered these passages, and return to the entrance, calling his name as they go.

From his hiding place near the mine entrance, Marellian hears faint voices calling. To him they seem to be calling for ‘Illian’, and he seems to think that maybe there is a small boy lost in the passages (Sadly, his magical headband did not give him that much of a greater insight…). He walks back into the passages, where he meets the others coming to find him. He tells them they should be looking for this boy, and they berate him for his foolishness, as it was obviously them calling him he heard. He protests that his name is not illian, and his sister wonders if he maybe took a blow to the head during his wandering (which would explain the headband). Reunited once more, they head back to explore the rest of the passages.

Returning to the chamber with the violet fungi, they use their manoueverability to outwit the slow moving plants, and Marellian deals one a solid blow with his quarterstaff. Rayne finishes the last one off, and the party are able to search the final Hobgoblin’s corpse. It has 4GP in it’s belongings. They then go back and search the few passages they missed earlier in their rush to catch the Hobgoblin. These passages seem to keep meeting each other up, and Marellian gets very bored with the constant retracing of their steps. He wanders into a small chamber, and unluckily stops underneath a waiting Darkmantle, which drops on his head and begins to constrict. Frank, Loraella and Rayne are unsure how hard they can hit the creature without hurting Marellian, but in the end Marellian himself defeats the creature, with the finest blow he has ever struck. Sadly, in the fight, the Darkmantle ripped off his magic headband and devoured it, and his newfound wisdom has evaporated. Marellian uses his channel energy to heal himself, and Frank is also healed of the minor damage he picked up in various fights.

After much wandering through twisting passages, the party finally reach the thing they were sent on the quest for: In the last chamber they find the Grick. After all their trials so far, the fight with the Grick seems remarkably easy, and they are able to kill it without any further injuries to themselves. Frank asks Marellian if he has any idea where the gall bladder would be found, and Marellian replies he may have read it in a book of anatomy, but is unsure. In the end, Frank manages to retrieve the gall bladder without damaging it, and they wrap it up and take it back to the old Half-Orc priest. He is estatic, but reminds them that this is merely one ingredient in the potion that may help cure the afflicted pair.

Marellian goes back to the Compassionate church, to tell them of his short lived communion with the God. There is great rejoicing among the priests, who were beginning to think he would never get there. He is elevated to the next tier of Priesthood, and is no longer considered a novice.


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