The Compass Rose

Flaurmont 20 (continued)
Tamoachan (Part 2)

After recovering from the battle against the gibbering mouther, the double doors to the west seemed to be the only method of progress. As had been noted earlier, the corridor branched off to the left, though the entire corridor hadn’t seen passage in many, many years.

Moving ahead, the corridor terminated in a small room, in the far corner of which rested a pile of coins and other valuables. A trap was suspected, and the group decided to move back towards the branching corridor and follow that instead.

The corridor turned twice and opened up onto a downward staircase. More stairs leading even further into the earth. The group descended quickly, not bothering to look for the trap that was waiting for them near the bottom.

As they approached the bottom of the stairs, a panel slid open straight ahead at the base of the stairs, revealing a stone dragon with steam pouring from its nose. Almost immediately a flash of steam burst forth, sending a wave of scalding water wafting up the stairwell. The panel slid back into place a short while later.

The group moved ahead, following the corridor until it ended in a huge coppery-bronze door. Atop the door was a copper plaque showing a two-headed snake. The door was pushed open, revealing a huge ruined chamber, with large piles of stone and a number of statues littering the area. Screeching monkeys could be heard overhead, and late evening light could be seen streaming in from around the howling beasts as they started to pelt the party with small rocks.

As Mal moved into the room, he noticed a body pinned beneath some of the rubble, and he moved to investigate it. To his horror, a ghostly Olmecan apparition arose from the corpse and moved to attack. As it struck Sahrthin, its form merged with Sahrthin as Sahrthin fell under its corrupt control. Restraining Sahrthin proved to be a challenge, but even in doing so, the spirit seemed to not wish to release its prisoner. Only by knocking Sahrthin out could it be evicted, and once it was, it was easily destroyed by the combined efforts of the remaining party members.

While deciding whether it would be best to rest here or to return back upstairs to rest, Bargathungar and Sahrthin decided to go back upstairs to check out the left-behind loot and look around… triggering the trap again along the way. But at least now they had figured out exactly what had triggered it, and by pointing out the exact step, it would be easy to avoid it in the future.

Coming back to the dead-end chamber with the pile of coins and loot, Sahrthin noted that there was a hidden door on the opposite side of the room from the pile, and both he and Barga spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to open it up, which they eventually did. The small room on the other side had a corridor leading off to a mirror at the end of it, and when looking in the mirror, both Barga and Sahrthin noted that their appearance was similar, except for the fact that all of their equipment had been replaced with Olmecan equivalents.

There was another double door next to the mirror, but they opted to go back to get the rest of the party, only to realize that the secret door had closed behind them, leaving no way of escaping from this area.

A while later the rest of the party became concerned that Barga and Sahrthin had disappeared. They moved back towards the last place where they said they were going to go. As they arrived, though, they noticed that both Barga and Sahrthin ’s bodies were dead, sitting in the corner where the pile of loot had once been. Before they could investigate though, they heard the pounding and shouting of Barga and Sahrthin on the other side of the door, which they were able to open up.

After forcing the door to remain open, the group moved past the mirror and into the room beyond the double door. That room contained a single mask affixed to a hook on the wall and a step pyramid straight ahead.

Moving into the room, the door closed behind them, sealing Sahrthin, Barga, Carric, and Mal in the chamber. A voice, perhaps in their heads, announced that they had been poisoned and that the sole cure to the poison rest in the container sealed at the top of the pyramid. All they needed to do was get it. A wave of weakness and lethargy swept across the party, and would continue to do so for the next few minutes.

The challenge was confusing, but it required each of the four people present to come up one of the four staircases, but there was only one staircase that could be used by each person. And the north one was particularly difficult.

The second stage required one of the four to do something specific, as did the third. Both of which frustrated everyone, thus underscoring the anti-puzzle focus of the campaign…

As they got the potion, it was discovered to be a single dose of a special Olmecan healing potion. The weakness and illness they had been feeling was gone, and, in fact, it was difficult remembering exactly what had happened since they entered the room.

That didn’t stop Barga from pissing all over the floor as he left the room, which prompted an attack from an invisible flying snake-like creature. Barga slammed the door and the group went on its way.

Moving back towards the stairs down, Sahrthin noticed a secret door that had previously gone unnoticed. After a moment of deliberation, the group decided to venture through the doorway and see what was beyond.

A corridor that had seen even less travel than the others opened up into a large chamber with a large pool and four mirrors, each of which had a particular color. Investigating the black mirror, an Olmecan “spirit” (or something) appeared in the mirror and said “Command me”, which only Mal could understand. Various attempts were made to communicate with the spirit, all of which were met with failure.

Next Week: Tamoachan (Part 3)

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Flaurmont 20
Tamoachan (Part 1)

Trapped beneath a ruined temple of Camazotz in Tamoachan, a long-abandoned city once the second-largest Olmecan city on the Isle of Dread, the adventuring group is winding its way downward, searching for an escape.

Approaching a jade block, the group realized that it was a doorway, as the block of jade was on a rounded edge, allowing it to rock back and forth in its frame. As Sahrthin moved to listen at and push the door, he found himself flattened as a mummified centaur in full Olmecan battle gear pushed its way over the door, pinning him underneath it.

The battle was fierce, but quickly done, as the centaur was defeated, but not before it struck Sahrthin with its jade-tipped pike, leaving a diseased wound behind.

A door in the chamber was opened, revealing a set of stairs leading down into another chamber.

Before continuing, the group decided to return to the previous area to investigate the tiled room and the plug in the ceiling. The tiled room held no new secrets, although some refused to believe that there was no hidden door present. The wheel in the ceiling, however, turned out to not be the escape route that they had thought it might be. In fact, opening the portal unleashed a tornado, which slowly built in strength and whipped those who were in the octagonal chamber.

After several rounds, the cap was pulled back into place from the vortex of winds, resetting the trap.

Unhappy with this, the group moved back towards the stairs and descended even further under the earth.

At the bottom of the stairs, two stone statues (of Olmecan design, though their features were rough and unfinished) flanked the entrance. At the far end of the room, a low pool rested against the far wall. The statues did not animate, despite a fear that they might. The pool seemed to be a fountain that had long-ago ceased to flow. In the bottom of the pool rested a stone statue of a lobster.

Aldrick moved into the pool to grab the lobster, only to find himself grabbed by the water of the pool and attacked by the very water itself. As he struggled free of the water, the water in the pool immediately smoothed over and calmed.

The creature, a water weird, seemed bound to the pool. As Bargathungar grasped the stone lobster, the water in the pool turned back to normal water; apparently the water weird had been dispelled.

With no other obvious method to progress, searching was conducted, revealing that the elevated pool was, in fact, elevated about 6 inches above the floor. Examining the perimeter of the pool, a series of Olmecan words were written. As they were said aloud, the stone floor of the pool receded, revealing more water filling a downward-leading tube/tunnel.

Bargathungar jumped in and descended into the depths, and after about thirty seconds, found himself entering a large open room, all while descending in a column of water.

As the entire group arrived at the base of the watery column, they found themselves in the middle of a huge, for lack of a better word, diorama. Standing atop a hill, situated all around them were thousands of ankle-high statues, many of which were Olmecan but a number of which were not. Different portions of the room were set up to appear like they were different terrain types, and a noticeable artificial sun glowed in the southern half of the room. A number of “devils” as well as other creatures (all clay statues) were scattered throughout the different areas.

As Malificious tried to figure out whether the room was a miniature version of the Isle of Dread, Bargathungar and Sahrthin decided that it would be best to destroy all the clay statues by stepping on them. Aldrick the Blacksail seemed okay with this plan and Carric the Wild was more intrigued with the depiction of the terrain types than anything else.

Exploring the room revealed two doors, one to the east and a double-door to the west. As Aldrick moved to the west door, Carric and Bargathungar moved to the east door. The west door opened up to a corridor that extended into the darkness, though a visible side passage was noted. As Bargathungar opened the door, he noted that there was a pile of refuse on the floor inside, but also that there were some Olmecan artifacts inside.

As Carric moved in to detect magic, the refuse pile opened up one eye and then another in rapid succession, and then it began babbling and gibbering incoherent Olmecan curses, which only Mal could understand (and even then, they were mostly nonsensical).

The battle that followed was difficult, as the gibbering mouther seemed to be somewhat resistant to damage, but it also had the ability to confuse those who listened to its insane babbling. Eventually, though, the creature was destroyed, and the need to take a break was felt by one and all.

Next Week: Tamoachan (Part 2)

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Flaurmont 19 through Flaurmont 20
It's All So Simple!

Arriving off the coast of the big island late in the morning, it was decided that Bob, Urol, Ro’ak, and the rest of the sailors would remain behind on the Dawn’s Fury while everyone else, including Logan and Tavey ventured inland to the village of Tanaroa.

Upon arriving in Tanaroa, Mal spent some time checking in with various individuals, making sure that the Vanderborens had not passed southward through the gate, which they hadn’t.

Additionally, attempts were made by Bargathungar to trade parrot feathers for expensive items, but the people of the village did not understand him, and his waving around and bizarre, potentially-threatening manner made them reluctant to approach him.

Moving northward through the gate, the party moved westward along the coastline, searching for signs of tracks or anything else that might lead them towards their quarry. Since the last they’d heard from Drevoraz was that they were in the mountains off to the west, finding tracks wasn’t the highest priority… yet.

So, on the first night out, during the first watch, an unusually large number of bats were observed circling over the camp. Nothing was done, though this was pointed out to the second watch. Over the next few hours, the number of bats seemed to increase, and there seemed to be a pattern of sorts emerging from their flying. Certain bats seemed to be flying in regular, rhythmic patterns.

And then a large flying fox was noted “standing” at attention outside the camp. While considering what to do, another was noted… and then another. While waking the rest of the group up, after looking around, they realized that they had been surrounded by approximately 12 of the creatures.

Aldrick moved to investigate one of the nearer ones as the other members of the party moved to stay close.

As he did so, the bats above tightened their flying pattern into a vortex of swirling bats, which tornado-like, touched down where the group had slept not a minute before. Standing, hunched over, where a hundreds of smaller bats had just been flying, was a single humanoid creature with a bat-like head and black, leathery wings. It sniffed the air for a moment and called the group “Defilers” in Olmecan, which only Mal understood.

The group tried to address it, but it didn’t seem to understand. It said something, which Mal immediately understood to be a command in Olmecan, demanding that the creature be given back something that had been stolen from him. Mal translated. Then he tried to explain that they hadn’t stolen anything from him. The creature approached.

Aldrick and the others suggested possible things that they had acquired during their time on the island as things that might have been “stolen” by this creature. Item after item was rejected as not being the sought after item.

The creature, hunched over, with its breathy voice rasping out kept insisting it knew it was among the group.

Then Aldrick allowed the creature to see Tavey’s dagger, which elicited a “Yes!” from the creature as it moved towards them. Tavey, panicking, turned and attempted to run, but not before Barga could trip him up and Aldrick could take the dagger from his hands. As he did so, Tavey began crying hysterically “You don’t know what you’re doing!” and “I need it!” and “Don’t give it to him!”.

Aldrick gave the dagger to the creature. As he did so, the creature caressed it like a long-lost heirloom and moved back a few steps. Soon afterwards, the bat-man had turned back into a cloud of bats and disappeared into the night sky. The flying foxes snapped out of their stupor and flew away. The only change was now a hysterical Tavey who, over the span of a few minutes, curled himself into a ball of catatonic misery.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully, leaving them well rested for the following day’s journey into the mountains on the southwestern edge of the island.

During the late morning hours, still following the coast, the group found one of the long-abandoned cities of the Olmecan people who had once spread across this island. Many of the stone buildings remained, but most had been damaged by the unforgiving climate and unpredictable weather.

Following tracks, the group carefully approached a large partially-ruined building that, from the outside, had the appearance of a temple or other cultural building. Moving around the perimeter, one could see through the holes in the walls and the gaps in the columns and eventually a single death-ravaged zombie was seen sitting on an elevated stage.

Bargathungar, not wishing to allow such a creature to live, launched an attack. A woman’s cry of “Defilers” in Olmecan came from within.

As the battle began, two other zombies were noticed, but as they moved closer, it became obvious that they were not zombies, but rather animated statues. And then they noticed the “woman”, a medusa with bat wings, as she leaped across the temple and into battle.

The battle raged, and the statues were little more than annoyances, though there were several close calls as the group did their best to avoid meeting the medusa’s deadly gaze, even as she grappled with Sahrthin and eventually flew up into the air with him… only to be slain shortly afterwards, dropping both of them to the ground.

Upon examining the temple proper, a lightning bolt from Carric had blasted away some vines from a back wall, revealing a mosaic tile image of Camazotz, the bat-god of the Olmecan people. This was behind an interesting altar with metallic bat-wings attached to the side.

Examining the altar, it was noted that it seemed to be able to be tipped backwards towards the wall. As they did so, a trap was revealed as the two wings snapped forward, slicing into those who had pushed the altar back. However, what was under the altar was a collection of old Olmecan coins, portable art objects, and a number of gemstones. All of these were thrown into the bag of holding.

As they did so, however, an ominous reddish-black darkness spread across the gaps in the temple walls and between the columns that had just a moment ago been clear. Touching one, it was discovered to have a somewhat resilient quality about it, though it did push into the space between the walls.

Aldrick decided to experiment and push into the darkness, which he was able to do for several feet. After he was not able to make any more progress, he decided to attack the darkness. Upon doing so, though, he howled in pain and fell backwards and was pushed out of the darkness, with a gaping wound in his side. Apparently the darkness had turned his blade against him. The darkness seemed impassible.

Meanwhile, others had noticed that there seemed to be a hidden door in the mosaic wall, and through some judicious breaking of tile, they were able to uncover a narrow staircase leading downward into darkness that was illuminated by their light from above.

Moving down the stairs, they arrived at a landing where there was a single portcullis/gate to the right and a brass wheel set into the wall straight ahead. Sahrthin decided to start bending the bars, which wasn’t terribly difficult to do, as Aldrick decided to turn the wheel, which also wasn’t terribly difficult to do. As he did so, the portcullis raised to the point where it couldn’t go up any higher due to the damage metal. The wheel was jammed in place and the group moved on.

The next space was an open room with another brass wheel set into the wall on the opposite side of the room. Checking around, a hidden door was found near the wheel. Aldrick began to turn the wheel, which immediately dropped the floor out of the room, causing Sahrthin to fall into a pit. Getting back out wasn’t difficult, and maneuvering everyone through the now-opened hidden door was easy.

Continuing down the corridor, the group was met by a brass trap-door set into the ceiling and several brass handholds along the walls leading up to it. Suspecting a trap, Aldrick examined the surrounding area for trap doors, which revealed a hidden door that led into a dark room parallel to the room with the trap-door in the ceiling.

Some of the group decided to examine ahead to make sure there were no traps, while others remained in the trap-door room, and still others moved into the recently discovered room. Another door was found in the latter, which prompted everyone to convene in the discovered room.

Opening the door revealed a dark room with a tiled floor. The tiled depicted many creatures and people, though on closer examination it was learned that many of the creatures were in fact Olmecan gods. The group tried to damage the tiles, with no effect.

Deciding the room to be safe, they moved in, and discovered a curtain wall made of blue and white seashells along the far wall. It was not flammable.

Sahrthin noted that there was a statue (perhaps an ossified corpse?) seated in a throne with a metal rod held in its lap. Aldrick moved into the room as Sahrthin held the curtains open with his javelins. Aldrick flicked the rod off the statue, but when he picked it up off the floor, his mind became flooded with images of Olmecan glory and culture and a near-overwhelming desire to be Olmecan, which he realized was a rather stupid thing for him to want to be, so he dropped the rod.

Mal, standing nearby, picked up the rod over the objections of Aldrick, and he, too, came to understand the majesty of the Olmecan way of life and a soul-crushing realization that his not being Olmecan was a devastating loss that he might never recover from. The rod was knocked out of his hands, but it took quite a few minutes for this feeling and the beliefs to pass.

Deciding that the rod was best left untouched for now, it was thrown into the bag of holding and the group moved back into the trap-door room.

Thinking that the trap-door was indeed a trapped door, they opted to investigate the other corridor leading away from the room. They followed it until they entered a small chamber with a single slab of green jade forming a section of wall. As Sahrthin examined it, he realized that it was on a rounded base and had a rounded top, so it could rock back and forth inside its frame.

They decided to begin rocking it back and forth and then when it was far enough, to grab it from the sides and pull it into the room.

It would have been a good plan had it not been for the mummified centaur that kicked the door to the ground from the other side as they had their plan underway.

Next week: Tamoachan

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Flaurmont 9 through Flaurmont 19
Pillage the Village?

Developing a plan of pillaging proved to be little challenge to Aldrick and his crew. Leaving Ro’ak, Bob, and Tavey on board the seized cog, they had it go out into the bay where they believed that nobody would dare steal their newly-stolen ship from them.

The locals seemed intimidated and fearful of everyone. The village of Farshore, it seems, had overnight turned from a peaceful outpost into a terrorized town where everyone knew who to be afraid of, but knew they couldn’t hope to defeat. While Meravanchi had been a bit of a blowhard and insufferable at times, he was unquestionably loyal to Farshore and always had its best interests at heart… so far as those who lived there were concerned.

So when Aldrick and his crew moved to the Meravanchi manorhouse, intent on looting it, nobody dared to confront them. Moving through a second-story window, Aldrick opened up the main, barricaded door, and the group went to work looking for anything of value that wasn’t nailed down.

But in every room, it seems, someone had beaten them to it. While there was unquestionably valuable furniture and artwork, most small, valuables had already been taken during the night.

Coming up to the second story, two little girls’ rooms were discovered, and then a third, locked door was unlocked, but apparently being held from the other side. With one powerful shove, Sahrthin forced his way through the door, revealing Ayala and an unknown brown-haired woman, both now sprawled across the floor in front of them.

When Aldrick demanded that they be civil to him, the brunette cursed him, whereupon with a single thrust, his rapier ended her life. Ayala immediately closed her eyes and prayed to Pelor for deliverance.

Leaving her be, the group continued examining the manor, with the only item of real interest being a bag holding approximately 40 pounds of unrefined gold ore sitting next to what was presumed to be Meravanchi’s desk.

With no way to get the heavier items back to the boat, the group left the manorhouse, intent on seeking out the carpenter’s shop and picking up wood and supplies for repairing their other boat, the Dawn’s Fury.

Arriving at the carpentry shop, they discovered that it had been abandoned, with many of the tools taken, but most of the lumber left behind. Seizing whatever wood, glue, rope, and tools they could, they made their way back towards the pier. Malificious left 25 gold behind to pay for what they had taken.

Before getting back to the pier, Aldrick decided it would be wise to spread some fear throughout the town. Announcing that he and his crew had murdered Meravanchi because of a misunderstanding, he offered anyone who might be interested a way out of Farshore before it was overrun by the Crimson Fleet.

This did not go over well. (Even without a low persuasion roll, this would not have gone over well.)

There was apparently at least one who was willing to speak out against him from a distance, where he could not easily be found. Nobody took him up on his offer.

As things were being loaded onto the cog, the other cog, under the command of the female captain, was very busy loading goods and doing their best to give the group a wide berth. A handful of crossbowmen lurked just out of sight, should anything go awry. By the time Aldrick and the others called for their seized cog to return to the pier, the other cog had taken off, perhaps never to be seen again. Perhaps to spread the word of the horrible halfling pirate Aldrick the Blacksail.

After everything had been loaded onto their cog, Bargathungar declared that he wished to remain behind in Farshore while the rest of the group went to repair their caravel and bring it back to Farshore, which had the only decent repair facility within hundred of miles. The caravel rested about three days northeast of Farshore, so getting there, conducting some simple repairs, and getting back would take a week or so.

Logan opted to stay with Bargathungar because, well, he wasn’t going to let this story get away from him. If Bargathungar was going to go out in a blaze of violent mayhem, that would be amazing! He could always rely on his magic to escape some rabble.

As the cog sailed off, Bargathungar made a line back towards the temple of Pelor. Logan followed closely, not knowing exactly how Bargathungar was going to explode and launch the attack on these people, but getting rid of their cleric(s) seemed like the best start to him.

So, when Bargathungar went in and spoke with Lomaran Wainwright, the half elven priest, Logan couldn’t figure it out. Bargathungar was apparently seeking some sort of forgiveness or atonement from the priest for what the group had done… an interesting angle, but hardly necessary to lull this marginally competent priest out of his suspicion. As the conversation continued, Barga’s words seemed to be sincere, which came as quite a shock to Logan. Interesting, but shocking. Lomaran told them that there was nothing he could do to cleanse their spirits or the like; all he could manage was a few simple healing spells. For something that powerful, perhaps Noltus could help, but he only rarely came to Farshore and had just been there a few months ago, so he would likely not be back for perhaps a year.

Another dead end. Until Logan reminded Barga that he could cast sending, which he might be able to do to contact Noltus, if he really wanted to. Barga did. So, Logan cast the spell, reaching out through the connection between Lomaran, the temple, and Pelor to find this Noltus and send him a request to return back to Farshore, for things had recently gone terribly wrong there.

Shortly afterward, appearing within a glowing magical circle of light near the altar of Pelor, a man appeared, along with an impossibly-huge mastiff. Over the next few minutes, Lomaran and Bargathungar explained what had happened, and perhaps it was all due to the horrible influence of the nefarious Aldrick the Blacksail.

Noltus walked around Farshore with Bargathungar, and as he did so, Barga couldn’t help but notice that everyone in Farshore knew him and everyone respected him. As they approached the spot where Meravanchi’s charred corpse rested, Noltus seemed saddened for a moment, but he continued to walk along with Bargathungar around the town, where he noted that everyone in the village was either afraid of or outright hated the blood hunter.

Returning back to the temple, Noltus asked for Lomaran to bring the bodies back to the temple and prepare them for resurrection; he would do so once he returned with the diamonds he had stored on the big island. He would return the next day and then proceed to undo some of the damage that had been done. As best he could.

The following evening, Noltus returned through the same means he had used to arrive the day before. He laid out the prepared garments over the burned body of Mandalay and began the casting. Over the next hour, bones and flesh reknit as blood and life once again began to flow throughout the body of the man who had only been destroyed a few days earlier.

As Lord Meravanchi began to grow excited and angry with what had happened, Noltus was able to push him to sleep. Noltus, now exhausted, prepared his components for the resurrection of Lady Meravanchi, which would have to wait until the following day. Even Pelor’s blessings of life could only be brought into being under specific circumstances.

Throughout this time, Bargathungar continually expressed his interest in Pelor and an interest becoming a worshiper of the Lord of the Sun Above and Earth Below. While Lomaran seemed mildly skeptical, Noltus was sincerely intrigued. He’d only been to Sasserine once in his life, and his interaction with the Witchwardens had been less-than-pleasant, and now here was one of their cast-off experiments, out of control and seeking atonement. His openmindedness and forgiving nature had gotten him into trouble in civilized lands, which is why he’d sought out a land where he’d thought everything would be black and white… only to discover that while it was less “civilized” it was no less troublesome.

Besides, he’d cast a few protective and divinatory spells prior to arriving at Farshore and he knew he could easily subdue one and then the other of these two visitors… He’d long since learned to not be too-trusting in this uncivilized place.

The following day, he resurrected the Lady Meravanchi, who had a similar reaction as her husband, and she, too, was subdued. Mandalay was tasked with bringing his wife back to their home, which he only did because Noltus continued to remind him of his bond. Later Noltus would explain that Meravanchi and Noltus had voluntarily entered into a sacred Pelorian bond regarding defending Farshore. Meravanchi defends the village proper while Noltus “defends” its faith and does his best to maintain a positive relationship with the natives, ensuring that they don’t unite against the outpost. Noltus also explores the inner parts of the island, searching for items and potential converts to Pelor (he doesn’t try to convert the Olmecans of the seven villages, but those in smaller, isolated villages in the interior are “fair game” to him).

With the resurrections complete, Barga once again asked Noltus about forgiveness and atonement, which Noltus suggested they discuss over prayers the following dawn. Barga agreed; Logan volunteered to stay behind in the temple.

Meanwhile, the others arrived at the caravel and began repair operations.

The following morning, Noltus walked with Barga towards a secret ladder along the eastern escarpment, leading up to the eastern cliff face. As they walked and climbed, Noltus talked about many things, including the importance of friends and family and understanding and striving to be good. Barga reminded Noltus that he had been the victim of an experiment of the Witchwardens, to which Noltus seemed to blow it off. So? We have all suffered. We have all had unpleasantness in our lives. We must do our best to move on and do good in the world while we are able. Suffering is everywhere, is it not?

Together they spoke about many things, with Noltus doing far more of the talking. All the while the sun rose above the horizon in all its blinding majesty.

For several days, until the group returned to Farshore, the only news was that Logan had sent a sending to Aldrick informing him that Meravanchi had been resurrected and everything was okay. Great news?

The stolen ship arrived back in Farshore, and things had slowly gotten back to normal, though it seemed that Lord and Lady Meravanchi were not making many public appearances, so Noltus had, in effect, become the person to whom people would come with their problems. Noltus had enjoyed speaking with them.

A sending spell was cast to Drevoraz, informing him that all the group wanted was Darlon’s head (or somesuch), and asking him to work with the group to tell them where he was. The response was annoyed, but different: “I don’t know where we are wandering around in these mountains, but if I could tell you I would. I can’t stand this any longer.”

Now that Aldrick the Blackest of Blacksails had returned, however, things could not help but go wrong. Upon meeting him, Noltus made it very clear that he had to leave Farshore; his presence here was a stain upon this place. Aldrick and his crew of pirates moved to leave, though not before inquiring about what could be found on the interior of the big island.

The group of rogues had apparently brought with them a bunch of feet (including that of the nephew of Lord Mandalay), and they had wished for one of their companions to be resurrected. Noltus eyed the group carefully, and while they were in the temple listened to their small talk and tried to make sense of who these people were. They were, apparently, desperate and frustrated by their own incompetence making continually bad decisions, including forgetting their original intent for coming to Farshore, seeking healing for their stonecursed warrior, Sahrthin.

Noltus, sensing an opportunity to get them away quickly, painted a picture of danger, including a frighteningly dangerous place that they must not go to in the center of the island, a forbidden city known as Thanaclan. There were other small villages here and there, including some that were inhabited by creatures unlike those seen anywhere else in the world. Since they were looking for the Vanderborens (as Barga had told him earlier), and they were somewhere on the big island, then it would be in their best interest to go there and hunt them down and do it now. In other words, get lost.

Noltus, no fool, might be able to take on three or four of these dangerous people, but without Meravanchi’s support, it would likely go badly for him. Besides, perhaps Bargathungar was sincere; he certainly seemed to be. Let him go and perhaps he could do some good in the world… maybe even rid it of a vicious halfling menace whose name he was sure he had heard before, but couldn’t quite place from where.

As the group was ushered back towards, what they learned was Meravanchi’s personal cog, an effort had been put underway to transfer goods from the cog to the caravel. Leaving Meravanchi’s boat seemed to be a wise decision.

Leaving the port of Farshore, with their ship still in somewhat subpar condition (though better than it had been), it was eventually decided upon to being the caravel just east of where the wall meets the sea, leave it off the coast, and head to Tanaroa and then move westward and hunt Darlon and the Vanderborens until they are all dead.

Next: It’s All So Simple!

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Flaurmont 5 through Flaurmont 9
Trekking to Farshore?

Opting to take an extended rest in Tanaroa, the group rested in Malificious’ hut, away from the curious eyes of the locals. During this time,

The various villages have three “leaders”: one male chieftain, one female chieftain, and one medicine. The male chieftain is generally responsible for things beyond the walls of the village. The female chieftain holds sway over everything that happens within the walls. The medicine trumps both, but only in matters pertinent to their unenlightened gods. The three co-exist amicably, and only in the rarest of situations are two forced to put down the ambitions of the third.

Further complicating the village structure is the fact that each of the seven villages is comprised of four sub-clans that exist in all seven villages. These clans are matriarchal, with each one focusing on one area of village life. The Ape Clan are farmers and entertainers (primarily under the female chieftain). The Tiger Clan are hunters and gatherers (primarily under the male chieftain). The Sea Turtle Clan are fishermen and sailors (primarily under the medicine). The Boar Clan are builders and crafters (under no particular leader). As the three leaders are all generally in agreement, these divisions rarely matter.

The next morning, after resting, the group opted to tend to several critical quests. First, Sahrthin, accompanied by Malificious, paid a visit to Mvembi, the medicine of Tanaroa. He was peculiar, as most medicines are, and after noting Sahrthin’s stonetouched wound, calmly, several times, informed him that he would die. Second, Bargathungar brought his bag of holding into the local playground where he let some children play with it, only to get Urol’s blood on their hands, causing a minor ruckus. J’Kal, the male chieftain, met with the group and agreed to to watch the gateway and prevent anyone from moving southward through it.

The group decided to return north of the wall, where they would hopefully find signs of Darlon and the other Vanderborens. Traveling a day’s ride north, the group went to where they had last definitely seen tracks and after careful examination, determined that the Vanderborens had headed west and not south towards Tanaroa and Farshore.

This left the group with an unpleasant choice. They could follow the tracks west, but they were now at least one full day behind or they could return south and beat a fast trail to Farshore, where they could lay an ambush for the Vanderborens and seek a cure for Sahrthin’s illness.

They decided to head back south.

An overnight camp was, fortunately, undisturbed, and the group was able to get to the wall by midday on the 7th. Continuing southward, the group eventually arrived at the village of Mora late that evening.

Meeting with the female leader, Mialla, she agreed to get the group to Farshore the following morning. While resting that evening, Logan used his sending magic to contact the ship, which was apparently still grounded on the reef. They had closed up the lowest level of the boat and it didn’t seem to be taking on any additional water.

The next morning, a small launch was provided to the group, which they could use to get to Farshore. After 3 hours of rowing, the town came into view, nestled between two cliff faces and with several buildings that were very clearly lived in. The group rowed up to one of the piers, secured their launch, and then began to ask some questions.

Ro’ak and Bob, both of whom were feeling a bit overwhelmed by recent events and needing a drink or three, opted to visit the town’s only tavern. Meanwhile, the rest of the group headed over to the temple, which it turned out to be where Lomaran and Ayala were in charge. Neither of whom were capable of healing Sahrthin’s wounds, however. After thinking for a moment, they brought them next door to the curious greenhouse.

Where Kaskus Kiel greeted them.

He seemed surprised to see the party and as he examined Sahrthin’s wound, he inquired as to why they were in Farshore. He made it rather clear that he did not care for their presence here, but he would be able to cure the wound on the condition that they left afterwards. The group didn’t believe him.

They then wandered around town for a bit, being the only new people in town for months drew some curious gazes, but for the most part, people left them be. As evening was setting in, the group decided to go investigate the Vanderboren manor. As they approached it, they realized that it had never been completed and was, in fact, mostly just a shell of a building.

They went in to investigate. As they moved through the place, they noticed that someone had been living in one of the rooms on the second floor, but there was no sign of who this might be. As they were deciding what to do next, they heard someone coming in through the front door below.

There were four individuals: two archers, a swordsman, and Kaskus Kiel. They made a move to come up the stairs, calling for the group to come out. Apparently they had been seen or heard.

As they started moving up the stairs, Bargathungar jumped from the balcony and ran across the foyer and barricaded the door from the inside. As he was doing so, the swordsman demanded Bargthungar stop, which he did not, so he ordered the archers to open fire, which they did. And thus the Battle of Vanderboren Manor was begun.

The swordsman proved to be a highly competent fighter, and he continued moving up the stairs in an attempt to engage anyone who got in his way. The archers fired some arrows, but were generally ineffective. Kaskus Kiel began unleashing druidic magic with an ice storm on the second level, which weakened the already-damaged floor.

As the battle continued, attacks went back and forth, the swordsman demonstrated that he was capable of some highly unorthodox martial maneuvers. Kaskus created a wall of fire that would eventually engulf the entire manor house in flames. Through sheer numbers, however, the group drove the swordsman and Kaskus back towards the barricaded door, which had now caught fire.

After eventually breaking through the door, the swordsman and Kaskus attempted to flee, but not before Tavey has stabbed both of them with his Olmecan dagger, sealing their fates. The swordsman fell, and as Kaskus attempted to turn into an eagle and flee, he was grappled and stabbed to death.

By this point, a few people had come from the nearby houses, responding to the sounds of combat and the roaring fire that had washed over the old, abandoned manor. The group decided to drag the bodies back to the door and throw them into the fire, and then they fled the scene, hoping to hide.

They moved back in the direction of the tavern, only to learn that many of the townsfolk had gone to try to put out the fire. After debating the issue, it was decided that going to help would be suspicious, so they stayed behind in the tavern while who knew who else died from the conflagration.

An attempt was made to seduce the barmaid. This was at Bargathungar’s insistence, as Malificious struck out. There’s nothing like a little arson and murder to get one in the mood, right?

Aldrick eventually bribed the barkeep to lie about them having a room all night. This was after trying to determine whether he belonged to a thieves’ guild, which he did not. Apparently, there are few to no thieves in Farshore.

The next morning, things were disturbingly quiet. As the group went downstairs, the tavern was apparently abandoned. The streets outside were empty. People were noted hiding in their homes and afraid to leave.

As the group became suspicious, they decided it would be best to leave town, so they went to the pier, where they planned to commandeer one of the two cogs that had been there the day before.

The female captain of one of them, who had been somewhat civil the day before, launched into screaming at the group. “Get off my fucking ship!” she demanded. When asked why, she informed them that she knew they had murdered Lord Meravanchi the night before and that everyone knew it. The town was now doomed as he was the only one who could defend it against the Crimson Fleet; he was their protector, and he had been laid low by a bunch of thugs.

They decided to go back into town to loot. After all, they are pirates…

Next Week: Pillage the Village.

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Flaurmont 3 through Flaurmont 5
Escape, Part 2 (The Path to Tanaroa)

With the monkey demon defeated and Urol hanging in a cage above a roaring fire, the only opponent standing in the way of the group was the animated statue of the two-headed, four-armed creature.

Using a variety of attacks, ranging from acid magic to the enchanted weapons that had been found during their time on this island, the party slowly chipped away at the stone golem that prevented them from rescuing Urol from his dangling perch.

After fighting the creature for a minute or so, the form of the golem began to shift, its unnatural features becoming even more unearthly. It let out a (minimally) terrifying howl. As its wounds opened and closed over time, otherworldly demonic faces could be seen howling from within the stone-like creature.

Continuing to pummel the creature with spells and weapons, the golem's form seemed to stretch out, becoming taller and thinner and even looking at its arms and torso caused headaches in those who stared for too long.

The golem was eventually defeated, though not before inflicting a grievous petrifying wound on Sahrthin. Examination would later reveal that this wound would only be healed through a combination of magics.

After gaining entrance to the cage, Urol's recently-deceased corpse was found. His body was left behind in the cage as the group moved on towards the hidden door that was at the rear of the demonic temple.

Moving into the octagonal chamber beyond the door, rickety wooden stairs led upwards into the darkness. Noting the precarious condition of the staircase, the group moved cautiously up into the darkness, arriving at a platform with a single door.

Opening the door revealed a dusty octagonal room containing a trio of stone chests bound with copper bindings and plates. An examination of the chests revealed that they were all trapped with a magical warding.

Despite being tempted to open them immediately, Logan was asked to examine them with his arcane knowledge, and he determined that the wards were both a) particularly deadly and b) tied to a single copper plate affixed to the front of each chest. He felt confident, however, that he could remove the trap with some assistance, which is exactly what he did. Three times.

The chests contained a combination of old Olmecan gold coinage and several unusual Olmecan magical items, including a particularly nasty-looking macahuitl. These items were divided among the group.

Continuing upwards, the staircase ended in a single white-stone octagonal room whose sole unique feature was a series of Olmecan sentences written on the wall just below the ceiling. Examining the sentences, Ro'ak, using his ability to read Olmecan, determined that there were eight prayers or invocations to this Demogorgon. Before discussing whether it would be wise to do so, Ro'ak read one of the sentences aloud, and a single door appeared in the wall. The door opened normally, leading to the wilderness outside; an exit had been found.

Not leaving well enough alone, Ro'ak read another sentence from the room and was immediately struck down and lay dying on the ground. Initial attempts at healing him, both magical and otherwise, proved to be ineffective. However, a potion of healing brought him back from death's door.

Quickly deciding that it would be best to leave this accursed place and continue their search for Darlon and the Vanderborens.

The fog that had hung heavy in places had started disappearing in places, revealing a jungle that was not nearly as foreboding as it had been a day before.

Considering their options, finding Darlon's path seemed unlikely, as he and his party had made quite a few tracks throughout the region over the past week. With the magic of this accursed place faded, however, finding the most recent tracks would be a challenge.

One that Carric would easily overcome.

Following the tracks to the south, after several hours of travel, the group noted that they were entering an abandoned village, one where many of the buildings had had stone walls, but nearly all were cast into ruin.

And as they followed the tracks through the abandoned town, they turned a corner to witness a combat in progress some several-hundred feet away. A single tyrannosaurus rex was engaged in a battle against a cohort of Olmecan skirmishers and a handful of non-Olmecan archers.

Without waiting to see what would happen, the group rushed in to assist in the battle against the beast. Several of the Olmecans fell to the brutal attacks of the dinosaur before it was eventually slain by the combined attacks of the archers and the group.

The leader of the archers, Malificious Dracoslarin, introduced himself. As other introductions were being made, and questions asked, the archers indicated that they had not seen Darlon or his companions. As the Olmecans (and certain party members) concluded removing flesh and other items from the defeated dinosaur, Malificious offered to send his falcon with a note southward towards the gate of Tanaroa, where anyone traveling to Farshore would likely have to pass through.

The group began to move southward, but somewhere along the way, they had managed to lose track of the Vanderborens. Moving at top speed, they decided that it would be best to ensure they reached the gate first; after all, they were, at worst, only a few hours behind them. And they had no idea they were being followed, so surely they would be stopping to rest.

That is until Bargathungar persuaded Logan to use sending magic to contact Lavinia to offer to join her "evil" campaign and that they were close to them. Lavinia opted to not respond.

The group, leaving some members behind as they could not keep up with the forced march, arrived at the wall of Tanaroa. Malificious and Ro'ak inquired whether anyone matching the description of the Vanderborens had passed through, but nobody had. Not even any Pelorites, missionaries that had come from distant places to preach the ways of their enlightened god to whom they see as these unenlightened people.

And of Malificious's falcon, no sign had been seen either.

Something has definitely gone awry.

Next Week: Trekking to Farshore?

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Flaurmont 3
Escape, Part I

The group decided that it would be best to recuperate after detonating the trap in the secret treasure vault. The best place, however, seemed to be the place where they had just slaughtered almost a hundred feral demon monkeys. Clearing some space among the bodies, they set watches and prepared to rest.

Shortly after falling asleep, however, Little Tavey began muttering in his sleep, perhaps disturbed by something in his dreams. Sahrthin watched him for several hours, and then woke Tavey and Aldrick up for their watch. Nothing exciting happened, though during the following watch, Bargathungar also noted Tavey’s chanting in some unknown language (perhaps Olmecan? certainly not Infernal); he opted to do nothing about it. When Carric noted the same behavior during his watch and did nothing about it either, the group woke up prepared to continue their journey.

Except for Tavey.

Tavey, bleary-eyed and somewhat incoherent, stumbled and mumbled his way through packing up and preparing to leave. After nearly falling over and falling asleep on his feet, several attempts were made to heal him, but none were successful. Logan hypothesized that it was, perhaps, a curse of some sort.

Tavey was packed up onto Bargathungar’s back and tied there to prevent him from falling off. He would, apparently, be useless in any upcoming battles.

The group continued on their way towards the south, back through cave they had appeared in via the magical mirror. A double door blocked their passage, however.

After detecting no traps, the group moved through the doorway into a dark room piled high with thousands of bones. The faint sound of bubbling water could be heard from an alcove to the south.

Surprising nobody, bones began to shift in two piles on the far corner of the room. Sliding out came two skeletal forms, giant snakes! The snakes quickly proved to be more than mere skeletons, however, unleashing several magical effects that surprised the party with their efficacy.

The battle, however, went quickly, and both of these creatures, bone nagas, were brought down by the capable teamwork of the group.

Taking a moment to size up the situation, the group scouted the two exits to the west and south. The south ended in a pool of reddish water with a small fountain in it. The west led into an area with four cells, three of which held prisoners. All three, a male half orc, a male half elf, and a female mongrelman, were apparently unconscious.

Opening up the cell of the half orc, the prisoner was woken up. He identified himself as Ro’ak and after other introductions explained how he had come to be in this place. Explaining that he had met the Vanderborens and acted as their guide (despite not truly knowing exactly how to get to Farshore, he did have some knowledge of the local flora, fauna, and geography), he had been abandoned by them once he had been captured by the monkey demons. After all, none of them had come to rescue him, had they? With a shared foe in mind, the group accepted his aid.

Unlocking the other two cells, the occupants were eventually revealed to be two priests of Pelor… despite Bargathungar’s insistence that they were evil and would betray they party at their first opportunity. Lomaran Wainwright, the half elf, and Ayala, the mongrelman, explained that they were missionaries from Farshore and had… but before they could continue telling their story, they were cut off and asked about Farshore and whether they could guide the party back there. Without knowing exactly where they were, they still explained the magical “trap” that covered the swampy jungle that surrounded this entire region; there was no escaping it! But if they could get out, they would be able to get back to Farshore.

They, too, then agreed to come along and to assist the group with the small amount of healing they could provide. Fortunately, the daggers loaned by Aldrick also served as holy symbols, allowing them to heal Ro’ak of his most grievous wounds.

Investigating the pool of water to the south, Aldrick noted something in the water. After doffing his hat, he jumped in and retrieved a sword made of obsidian that proved to be magical. It was passed over to Sahrthin, who passed the spear he had been using over to Ro’ak.

Moving through the double doors to the east, a simple chamber contained a creature unlike any the group had seen so far. Sewn together from a number of creatures, yet larger than those creatures had been in life, this abomination moved to prevent further passage into the temple complex.

The battle was far from simple. First, it seemed to be impervious to the attacks from most weapons. Second, the discovery that lightning damage healed this monstrosity rather than damaged it came as an early, rude surprise. Eventually, however, the beast was worn down and through the brutal strikes of Sahrthin’s obsidian blade, the golem fell.

Moving on, a hallway containing six rusted-iron statues of monkeys and eight green-glowing magical torches awaited. Something was obviously going to happen. A crossbow bolt was fired at one of the statues to no effect. Ro’ak, impatient, moved into the hallway, and immediately, the two nearest monkey heads turned in his direction and began shrieking. A moment later, the next two also turned in his direction and began howling. The remaining two did the same a few seconds later. This ear-splitting din prompted the group to move quickly through the hallway and into the chamber beyond.

Once the hallway was unoccupied the howling ended.

The room beyond was a simple chamber with two features. On the south wall rested a fountain filled with stagnant green water built into the wall. In the wall above it, metallic tiles depicted a two-tentacled unnaturally thin monkey demon. In the south wall, an archway contained a pair of solid copper doors. Carved in the archway were words written in Infernal that read “Glory to those who praise Demogorgon. Swift death to those who oppose him.”

Ignoring the fountain, the group opened the copper doors, revealing a huge chamber beyond, lit by a tremendous fire in the center of the room. Four large statues of monkey demons were set into the walls while a fifth statue, similar to the mosaic (yet different) stood at the far end of the room. A cage, containing what seemed to be an unconscious Urol, sat near the ceiling anchored to a chain secured to the eastern wall.

Aldrick moved into the room, noted Urol… and also the hiding form of a monkey demon on the other side of the flames leaping out of the huge pit in the center of the room. Stating that the room was clear for all to hear, he began to move to the chain that was holding Urol aloft.

Suddenly, however, Aldrick found himself being picked up about an inch off the ground and being hurled into the fire pit! He attempted to stop himself and attack the monkey demon to no avail. The group, seeing this, moved into action.

The battle in the main temple began, with the monkey demon using a darkness spell to block vision into the room while the group moved into the room to attack it. The monkey loosened the chain, and Urol’s cage began a slow descent towards the flames below.

Sahrthin and Ro’ak moved into the room as Aldrick retreated out of the fire, seeking healing from the two Pelorian priests. Carric moved towards the chain to stop Urol from falling further. Logan dispelled the darkness.

Later, Sahrthin and Carric fell prey to the mind-altering magic of the temple, with visible illusory green effects that marked them as having fallen prey to it. Meanwhile the monkey demon continued its onslaught and the group gave just as good as they got. During this time, the statue in the rear of the room began to move.

After summoning a large number of constrictor snakes, the monkey demon found itself being hampered and wounded badly by the group. A shot from Bargathungar brought it to its knees, where it began a crawl towards the fire pit some 10 feet behind it, dragging two of the snakes haplessly behind it.

As it lay on the edge of the fire pit, Aldrick leaped into action and with an amazing barrage of blade strikes skewered the demon multiple times, killing it, then throwing himself in the air up to the cage where Urol was still unconscious and swung back to the safe side of the fire. The monkey demon, however, with one final act of defiance, threw itself into the fire, snakes and all.

Not liking the look of this, the group jumped into action to grab the monkey demon and throw him back out of the fire. With some of them jumping into the fire themselves, the demon was thrown back out as the statue moved closer to the fire pit…

Next: Escape, Part II

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Flaurmont 2 through Flaurmont 3
The End of the Road

With the Olmecan gargoyles defeated, a quick search of the bodies revealed an unusual crown made of granite and iron that rested atop the leader’s head. After taking a few moments to examine it, the group decided it was best to take the opportunity to divide up several of the magic items that had been encountered since their arrival on the accursed island, with the gargoyle’s crown being among them.

The group continued following the cliff road south only to be interrupted by the sounds of gulls and sea birds making a ruckus on the sandy beach below them. Peering over the edge revealed the body of Thunderstrike, dead, being picked apart. After lamenting over the potential lost profit, the group continued their journey southward along the pavement.

After several miles a poorly-paved roadway branched off towards the interior of the island, rising into the mountains. With no obvious trail to follow, the group asked Urol to consult with the local plants to determine which direction people had recently traveled in. The local vine explained, as only a plant can, that the answer was “both”. When pestered, the vine further explained that people had continued south down the cliff road, then returned later and taken the mountain pass into the interior of the island. After a few minutes of discussion, including the realization that this might mean that the group could be catching up to the wretched Vanderborens, they headed west into the island’s interior.

For a few miles, the road twisted and turned, always gently rising. Then, after briefly plateauing, the roadway began a gentle descent, while always maintaining its mildly confusing twists and turns through the canyons and valleys between the peaks. Around the late afternoon, the group rounded a corner to see that beneath them, perhaps an hour or two ahead of them, lay a tremendous jungle/forest that stretched for as far as the eye could see… and the road seemed to lead straight into it.

From their vantage point, the group took a moment to survey the jungle, hoping to see some sign of civilization, and the only sign was the smoke from a fire (perhaps?) that was burning somewhere a few hours within the perimeter of the jungle.

Not wishing to enter the unknown jungle at night, the group set camp outside and rested, planning to venture inside the following morning.

The following morning, the group packed up their camp and followed the paved pathway into the jungle. The paved road, however, quickly disappeared as the paving stones became fewer and less frequent and those that existed seemed to blend in more with the jungle than they otherwise should have.

This did not particularly disturb them, however, as Urol’s flawless sense of direction allowed him to guide the party towards where he had seen the smoke from the fire the evening before.

When they arrived, they found an abandoned village. Stonework buildings and other curious architectural features were in various stages of ruin, and on the edge they approached from there were signs that a fire had been extinguished earlier that morning. And there was certainly signs that indicated that the Vanderborens had made this camp. They were only a few hours away!

As this realization dawned, a “Helloooo…” called from somewhere inside the village. The group went in to investigate, only to see a clearly dead Olmecan upside down and crucified calling out to them. “Helloooo… oh. I see you. Welcome to my home. There you are. You can stay here.” and other short phrases were said to the party, but before an interrogation could happen, Bargathungar realized that this creature was undead, and felt compelled to vanquish it, and did so with crossbow bolts to the throat.

So much for that source of information.

The group decided to then look around the village, to split up, but not to split up too much. While searching the village in these smaller groups, the invisible teleporting monkey demons appeared and attacked three people: Bargathungar, Bob, and Urol. The first managed to take a few hits before the monkey demon teleported away. The second was clobbered and knocked to the ground, which is perhaps what saved him from being seized and teleported away by the teleporting monkey demon. The third, however, was not so fortunate, and with surprising speed, the monkey demon appeared out of thin air, grappled Urol and disappeared with him just as quickly as he had appeared, leaving Bargathungar behind shocked and stunned.

After coming back together, Carric cast locate plants to find the vezerian greenleaf sample that Urol had picked up before entering the dark mountain tunnel. It revealed that the plant was fairly close, only several hundred feet north of their current position. With haste, the group moved north, searching for signs of Urol.

They encountered two caves, the entrances to each carved to resemble feral baboon mouths. Deciding that the left one was the better one, a quick search for traps revealed none, so the group moved in, continuing to search for traps. All while attempting to remain stealthy (so Sahrthin the Unstealthy remained outside).

It came as a total surprise when a trap went off, a magical avalanche of rocks dropping from the ceiling at the first intersection they encountered. Bob was, once again, knocked unconscious.

Continuing to the west, a pair of double doors blocked passage. A quick examination revealed demonic imagery and questionable safety practices. It also revealed an illegible writing that proved to be legible to Barga… who can somehow read Abyssal. I don’t even want to know.

Placing one hand on each of the handles, Barga found himself bleeding from his palms as the handles cut ever so slightly into them. The doors opened with a pull.

A single altar with two candles rested on the far wall. Two mirrors and two thrones rested along each of the sides of the room.

Before entering, the group decided it might be best to investigate the remaining part of the caves. A cursory search revealed nothing new except for an Olmecan skeleton that had been chained to the wall that had carved some writing, which nobody could read, into the wall next to it.

Returning to the chapel, it was time to solve the puzzle of how to rescue Urol. Logan, after examining the room, indicated that there was some kind of portal magic here, but because it was ritual-driven, he couldn’t really figure it out. There was undoubtedly some sort of ritual that needed to be done with the candles, mirrors, altar, and thrones. Or something… piecing out the parts of the ritual is simple enough, but actually replicating a ritual (and a demonic one at that!) sight unseen is something else entirely.

After some experimentation, Bargathungar triggered the release of Darkathungar, a feral twisted version of himself from one of the mirrors. After being destroyed by they party, Darkathungar shattered into slivers of glass and mirror, some of which were picked up by Aldrick.

After some more experimentation, the mirror portal was opened up and the entire group moved through into a large natural cavern that reeked of wet fur and blood. Almost immediately, three of the monkey demons dropped from the ceiling above and began an assault on the party.

The battle was brief, partially due to some excellent tactics, but also due to the monkey demons’ recklessness in their attacks, leaving them open to being struck multiple times.

The locate plants spell had indicated that Urol was perhaps seventy feet to the east, so the group climbed onto the eastern ledge to investigate the space beyond. What awaited them, however, was not Urol, but instead was an unnatural number of 60-pound demon baboons that, once they realized the party was not friendly, swooped en masse to attack.

Swarming over the party, the baboons clawed and bit anyone they could reach. Their attacks even managed to infect Barga and Carric with the baboonic plague. Hopefully, this will be addressed during the next session…

The throne in this chamber was easily moved, and a search of the wall behind it turned up a secret chamber that held two locked chests. Opening up the one on the right revealed a significant treasure of gold and silver coins as well as a metal monkey claw, two healing potions, and a magical shield. Opening up the one on the left set off a fireball trap and revealed an empty chest.

At the end of this session, all characters gain a level, including the various NPCs that are accompanying the party.

Next: Escape, Part I

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Thaumont 27 through Flaurmont 2
The Cliff Path

After resting inside the dark mountain tunnel, the group decided to move out down the steps towards the waiting ocean below. Two things were noted, however. First, a rising stonework path off to the right, climbed south. Second, something was moving in the water some thirty feet offshore.

Bargathungar, never one for patience, took this opportunity to kick Urol headfirst into the water, whereupon the hapless gnome was immediately set upon by a gigantic crab. The battle that erupted was brief and, perhaps most important, yielded more food.

Following the ancient road, the group began contemplating whether it would be efficient to return to the Dawn’s Fury or not. After a while, it was decided that it would be best to simply have Urol use druidcraft to scope out the weather and Logan use his sending magic to contact the ship and have them bring the ship southward to meet them somewhere near the village/outpost they were headed to.

On their first day, the understaffed ship managed to move but a handful of miles. At least they hadn’t sunk the ship. Yet.

Later that day, the group was engulfed in magical darkness. When it was eventually dispelled, it was revealed that Avner had disappeared. There was not much concern expressed at his departure… later, however, when sending would be used to try to contact him, he babbled about being abducted and that they were going to be coming for Urol next.

The second day on the cliff road was mostly uneventful, this was due to a late morning storm that was predicted via druidcraft. Fortunately, an abandoned village was found on the beach below and a switchback led down to it. Otherwise, no protection would exist from the weather. The group decided to camp in the abandoned village until the storm passed.

Late in the evening, when the storm passed, the group came out to find a set of seagulls that had been crucified in a semi-circle around the hut they were hiding in. Nearby was another gull that had been charred and left in a blackened heap in the wet sand. Aldrick immediately activated his paladin ability to detect fiends, undead, and other assorted badness and began scouring the village for the source of the birds.

He saw the aura of something, invisible, atop one of the other huts. He stealthily moved into position and began attacking the place where he sensed the evil aura just as others in the group came into line of sight.

The invisible creature turned visible; it was a monkey-like creature, demonic in appearance lunged at Aldrick, and just as quickly it disappeared in a haze of foul-smelling misty air.

The party was left with no answers and more questions.

They continued back up to the cliff road and walked on through the night. Early the next morning, they were greeted by an Olmecan atop the cliff wall some 150’ ahead of them… who promptly slit his own throat and landed on the roadway in front of them.

Again, no answers and more questions.

Later that day, a pack of Olmecan gargoyles attacked. They were defeated with ease.

Even later, another sphere of darkness appeared around the group. This time they waited a while before dispelling it, as it seemed to be following them.

The following night, Bargathungar was shocked to find the head from the Olmecan who had cut his own throat a while earlier sitting in the middle of the campfire. It was disposed of by throwing it off of the cliff edge.

At dawn, as the group was setting out, another group of Olmecan gargoyles attacked. This time, however, they had a leader with them, and it was determined to snatch one of the party members and fling him off the cliff face. Through clever and defensive fighting, this was averted, though during the battle, Thunderstrike panicked and ran off forward out of sight.

Next Week: The End of the Road

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Thaumont 26 through Thaumont 27
Dark Mountain Tunnel

The terror birds and dinosaurs left behind, the group followed the path left behind by the Vanderboren party approximately a week earlier. Judging from the simple time of it, they had not expected to be followed, so had made no attempt to hide their passage through the jungle.

The group followed their adversaries’ tracks into a large tunnel that had apparently once been used by the Olmecan people of this island. Judging from their crude map, this tunnel would extend for several miles beneath the mountain range that ran down the peninsula to the east.

Quick NPC Update:
Over the past few days, Tavey and Captain Aldrick have become somewhat closer, with Tavey admiring Aldrick’s commanding presence and Aldrick being impressed with Tavey’s uncanny ability with a sling… and his stated intent of becoming an assassin some day.

Avner Meravanchi has continued with his obnoxious sulkiness and haughtiness, though his eldritch blast has proven itself useful in combat before. He has also said he’d kill Aldrick for humiliating him before they set off the island, but that remains to be seen. His horse, Thunderstrike, continues to be useful in carrying the slower members of the group as well as additional foodstuffs.

Urol Forol, gnome druid extraordinaire, continues to be overwhelmed with much of what he’s seeing and hearing, though he is, by far, the best resource among the NPCs. His lack of offensive magic has not yet proven to be a problem.

Bill and Bob, the two “pirates” from the Dawn’s Fury, are prepared to help out as best they can with this expedition, though they hadn’t really signed up for any of this.

Finally, Logan, the dwarven bard and raconteur of the Lotus Dragons, continues to chronicle the adventure as best he can. When the group returns to Sasserine, he’s going to make sure everyone is famous!

With the NPCs in tow, the group followed the trail of the Vanderborens through the tunnel, eventually finding a bridge over a pack of countless bloodthirsty grimlocks, some of which clambered up over the edge of their lair and onto the bridge to attack the group. The battle was generally avoided through speed.

Continuing through the tunnel, the group eventually came upon a skeleton impaled upon a throne with a magical spear. A quick investigation of a murky fountain also turned up the body of one of the sailors that had been accompanying the Vanderborens.

The next area presented a choice of directions, but before a decision could be made, three humongous centipedes descended from the ceiling on the party. One appeared next to Bill and with ruthless efficiency, sliced him in half and retreated halfway up the wall before anyone could react.

After defeating the centipedes and conducting a brief funeral rite for Bill, the group opted to go left, into a catacomb-like area, where they were attacked by two mummy-like creatures, which may or may not have been responding to Aldrick’s tampering with the bodies.

Inside the catacombs, a search turned up a secret chamber/crypt, inside which was a trapped stone sarcophagus. The group opted to loot the sarcophagus, turning up a curious item, a pearl of power.

Moving back and then choosing the other door, the group almost immediately ran into a fight against a black pudding. Its acidic touch threatened to destroy the weapons and armor of the group, but they managed to defeat it quickly enough so that the damage it did was minimized and easily repaired with magic.

The final area investigated was a chamber that had two pedestals with two gems set into it. There was also a double door to one side that opened outwards. When pushed, it revealed water and the smell of the ocean beyond. They had made it through the mountain pass successfully!

Next Week: The Cliff Path

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