Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 33

This adventure was Friday January 15, 2016. C.H., B.P., E.G., K.D., and A.T. were present.  M.H. sat in.

Before the coalition are stairs down to darkness. Amber Renn, Cleric of Valiant Light, predicts they lead to catacombs, typically situated below temples of Pelor.  None of the group are eager to confirm this.

Xorn takes the opportunity to berate the Corinthians for charging into the Plague Blight ambush, after they had been warned about it on the way here. Remarkably, Flexor and his men endure the diatribe in silence.  The rest of the coalition glares on in agreement.

The Corinthians are assigned the unpleasant task of dragging the Plague Blight remains out into the morning sun. Cleric leader Reedna asks strength of her deity Kord, and leads a detail lugging the piled church pews to the walls and clearing an open space in the middle of the room.  The Suicide Blondes and Cleric Seamus MacTavish rest the two dead Corinthians and half-Orc fighter Vola near the temple’s broken stone altar.

Hidden behind the altar were valuables: a magic sword, a magic mace, a Tome of Leadership +1, gold, an ivory figurine, a gold idol, and a silver chalice. Renn does not object when these items are added to coalition sacks, nor when Thri-Kreen Fighter H’ai-ch Q’a takes the unknown-magic mace on loan.

Time to address the passage down into shadows. Hesitation holds sway until Wizard Aziz al-Azhar volunteers his group to go down first.  Half-Orc Barbarian-Ranger Xorn will lead; Clerics Joseph McMickelson and Jacob Light-Bringer next, then al-Azhar, then the clerics of Valiant Light and the rest.  The Thri-Kreen and Cleric Jere Collado will stay here and guard the bodies.

The stone stairwell spirals twice on the way down. Dirt on the stairs suggests there has been considerable foot traffic coming from below, but Listen checks don’t indicate anything on its way up.  The air grows dry and cold as they descend.

At the bottom, the coalition edges into the dark space outside the stairwell. A permanent Unhallow spell, bound with a Bane spell, becomes apparent.  Several clerics cast Light.  This exposes their position as an intersection of two low, wide tunnels; one straight ahead, the other leading right.  Both fade into oppressive, silent darkness.  The rough stone walls are cut with indents – slab shelves where generations of locals have been interred.  All these are now empty.

Aziz wants more light. He casts that spell on some stones from his pocket, and flings them down both tunnels.  The additional illumination suggests the catacombs are a rectangular figure-8 layout, and the staircase has brought them down to one corner of it.

Eager for spoils and apparently unmoved by Xorn’s browbeating, Flexor Retinaculum commands his Corinthians boldly to the right. Either this advance, or the alluring draw of al-Azhar’s brilliant pebbles, has attracted attention.  Two separate gangs of Wights rush out of the shadows !

The coalition faces a fight on two fronts. The Corinthians engage the five Undead on the right, backed by half of Valiant Light and the three Loners.  The Suicide Blondes and the rest of Valiant Light charge straight ahead to stop the other five wights in their tracks.

Most of Xorn’s party hangs back, uncertain to where they should help. Xorn’s apparition, Solace, is gleeful at the prospect of wights to kill.  She urges her Barbarian-Ranger to hurry up into the fight.

Then, H’ai-ch Q’a arrives downstairs, totally not having snacked on the livers of dead Corinthians upstairs while Jere Collado was elsewhere. The decisive, four-armed Thri-Kreen warrior pulls several weapons and sprints straight ahead into the fray.

Xorn follows, taking to the walls to gain a height advantage over the combat line between living and unliving. Joseph McMickelson and Jacob Light-Bringer move up to a rearguard post and start casting offensive spells.  Wizard Aziz al-Azhar occupies a pivot point at tunnels’ intersection, where he can monitor both fights simultaneously.

With superior hand-to-hand, and spells, the coalition gains advantage by dropping most of the level-draining wights. But then each pack of wights is reinforced by a very tough Slaughter Wight.  These hideous overlords tear into the coalition’s ranks, laying low several fighters and clerics alike.

Valiant Light, Light-Bringer and McMickelson, and al-Azhar expend even more spells, and kill off these two interlopers just in time for an even worse threat to arrive – a Blaspheme. This loathsome creature deals Strength damage with its bite, tearing into Joseph McMickelson’s party and killing Barbarian-Ranger Xorn before the tattered remains of the coalition manage to destroy it.

The fight is ended, and at terrible cost. Besides half-Orc and good friend Xorn, the coalition recovers the dead bodies of Molly, of the Suicide Blondes; Valiant Light’s Cleric of St Cuthbert, Alain; and all of the Corinthians.  To the last man, Flexor and his men fought to hold the line.

Very cautiously, the survivors sweep the rest of the catacombs. There are no more Undead lurking.  In the far corner is a wide hole, dug up from below.  It is a tunnel that slopes deeper underground.  Amber Renn is puzzled – a church like this should have nothing below the catacomb level.  Tracks in the dirt suggest many zombies and other minions have come up this way.

The coalition is in no shape to descend further. At least, not today.  In the annex between main corridors, the group finds a treasure trove.  Magic weapons, magic armor, magic items, piles of gold and silver and platinum and gems.  There is no time to count it and no spells by which to Identify any of it – the exhausted adventurers just shovel it all into sacks and Bags of Holding, checking over their shoulders as they plunder.

Reedna says what everyone wants to hear – they will return to the enclave, immediately, and come back here tomorrow once everyone has recovered. They do not disarm their dead companions, instead easing their casualties into Bags of Holding for easy transport back to Riddley’s Crown.

The sunlight is bright and but not entirely comforting as they abandon the church and make best speed for their adopted home. The first day saw twenty-eight adventurers come here; their coalition leaves behind the souls of ten good people.

It is now early afternoon on the 5th day of April, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 33)


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Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 32

This adventure was Friday January 8, 2016. All players except T.R. and G.R. were present.  M.H. and A.B. observed the game.

The coming of night closes the gates of Riddley’s Crown. Unease settles upon the residents; tomorrow is the New Moon.

It is bright and warm in the communal bunk room of the barracks when the party shows up. They are the last to arrive.  Cleric Jere Collado, both Rudic Ungart and Jacob Light-Bringer, Aziz al-Azhar, Xorn, H’ai-ch Q’a, and Joseph McMickelson fill the space left open for them.

Reedna, Cleric of Kord and leader of Valiant Light, presides over the gathering. Her six clerics stand behind her.  Flexor Retinaculum and his five Corinthians are present.  And the Suicide Blondes – leader Winona, plus Alyssa, Drew, Phoebe, and Molly.  Half-Orc siblings Krusch and Bombast nod to Xorn on his arrival.  Elf Fighter Sy Green, and half-Orc Fighter Vola, stand alone in the audience.  Jere Collado notices Wizard-Monk Lanna Riis, Dwarf trader Dredburn, and potionist JG Dumont at the back of the room.  The Monk, two Druids, and all of the Lanil Tribe, are not here.

Reedna calls the room’s attention, first thanking everyone for coming. Assembled here is an impressive collection of adventurers – fighters, rangers, clerics and barbarians.  The Undead are their common enemy, an enemy fought by choice and not by necessity.  Wealth and experience are the motivations; but tonight Reedna proposes a greater purpose.

Everyone is aware of a church many miles east of here, once a house of Pelor but long ago fallen to evil. Rumour has circulated about an artifact hidden there, and many present here tonight have been convinced to quest for it.

Xorn and Jere Collado notice that the Cleric of Kord makes no direct mention of Sister Janus. But there is recognition of truth flashing across many faces in the silent crowd.

Reedna continues : The New Moon is almost nigh; the Undead will rise in force outside this enclave’s walls.  For the two days after tomorrow, there is a lull in the Undead plague.  This will be the opportunity.  Not for small, casual knots of adventurers against a daunting temple of evil, but for a unified coalition – everyone present here tonight, working together.  Shared strength to mitigate the risks, shared reward to validate the effort.

Valiant Light’s diverse ecumenical build and deep knowledge of Undead and occult, the fighting strength of the Corinthians and the Suicide Blondes, the skills and experience of Xorn’s party, the support of individual adventurers…this will be a force to be reckoned with. This is a coalition of parties with a real chance to make a lasting difference in the fight against the Undead.

It is a persuasive speech. Each of the groups agree to join. Assured that they, as other units, will retain autonomy within the alliance that Valiant Light leads, Collado’s party is on board.  With this many allies, certainly Xorn’s party will fare better than on their last foray to the church.

Before questions about what foes they may face, the inevitable demands about treasure stir up debate. How much loot is expected, who gets what, and how and when the spoils will be divided.  Illusions of noble purpose fade before the warm glow of greed.

Evidently this was anticipated; Cleric Reedna states a fair plan that precludes squabbling. As they are recovered, valuable items will be temporarily loaned to anyone who needs their weapons or gear improved.  Lots will be tossed to resolve any contested items.

When the mission is ended, items will be returned to the pool and the haul’s total gold-value determined. The Corinthians, Suicide Blondes, and Collado’s group will each get 20%. Valiant Light will take 30%.  The remaining 10% will divide between the four so-called “Loner” adventurers.  This can pay out in gold from items sold, or as items themselves with their value deducted from that groups’ share.

Agreeable terms. This question resolved, onlookers Riis, Dredburn, and Dumont interrupt for the first time tonight.  Each has a package of useful items to offer up in exchange for a share in the overall take.

JG Dumont, in exchange for 20% off the top, offers :

It is a valuable collection of potions and oils. The Corinthians and Suicide Blondes vote to accept the deal.  Valiant Light and the Loners object.  Xorn’s group is the tie-breaker.  The Barbarian-Ranger and his associates have a quick debate; they vote to decline.

Next is Lanna Riis. For 25% of the total treasure value, she will lend the coalition these items to further their odds of success :

Wizard al-Azhar takes immediate notice of the Rod of Metamagic Empowerment, but on the whole his party votes against the deal, joining Valiant Light and the Corinthians.

Last to offer a deal is Dredburn. The gruff Dwarf has a unique set of items, available for a 10% share :

The Corinthians and Loners favour this one. The Suicide Blondes and Valiant Light do not.  For the third time, H’ai-ch Q’a group is the deciding vote.

Cleric Collado is interested in the Bag of Holding – not recognizing that it and the Portable Hole suggest a “suicide self-destruct” in the event of a worst-case scenario against overwhelming odds. Regardless, his party says no to this deal as well.

Dumont, Dredburn, and Riis find themselves shut out of a potentially lucrative operation. Quickly, they pool their individual offers into one bundle, for 20% of the take.  The coalition counters with 10%.  The enclave residents counter with an absolutely firm 15%.  The adventurers will not budge.  The smith, chemist, and merchant leave empty-handed.

No need for further discussion; the coalition is formed. Reedna recommends everyone take it easy tomorrow, and save their strength for the day after when they will set out early.  Xorn’s party does not stick around after the meeting ends.

In the main hall, they find the strange woman encountered earlier. She is alone at a table, demolishing several plates of food.  Joseph McMickelson discreetly asks Jenny what she knows of her, but the cook has nothing.  The woman hasn’t said more than a few words, but she did pay up-front in gold coin.  The party orders dinner and drinks, and trades stories with Aziz al-Azhar.

The storefront cabin is a full house that night. Aziz and Rudic Ungart have been invited to stay.  Dwarf Ungart ponders joining the party in Valiant Light’s coalition.  Ultimately he decides against it.  Jacob Light-Bringer will come out of his brief retirement for this quest.

*          *          *

Riddley’s Crown feels pent-up and anxious all the next day, the day of the New Moon. Elf archers of the Lanil Tribe launch missiles from the walls, practicing their marksmanship on the zombie crowds shambling aimlessly under a light rain.  The clerics of Valiant Light keep watch, interested in the spectacle.  Aziz al-Azhar is delighted – he expends his entire day’s complement of fire spells, scorching as many zombies as he can shape his magic to hit.  After each spell is cast, he huddles under his cloak and writes notes on his observations.

The residents of the enclave follow their usual customs for lunar days. Dredburn garrisons his armored and barricaded shop.  Jenny is locked inside the main hall, admitting patrons once they are safely vetted.  JG Dumont is thankful he has his bodyguard, even if all she does is scowl and read.  Lanna Riis and Sister Janus attend to their own tasks, with no interest in the outside world.

The Undead do not seriously threaten the enclave this time. The outer wood wall and stakes prove a capable deterrent, and no challenger like zombie Wall-Breaker appears.  When night comes, the guards and adventurers withdraw from the walls and shelter safely indoors until morning.

*          *          *

Valiant Light is exceptionally well-organized the next morning. Cleric of Kord, Reedna, supervises as her clerical associates confirm that each party is prepared for the trip.

Flexor Retinaculum and his fellow Corinthians positively drip in shimmering olive-oil, lavished on their hair, ruddy tanned skin, and rich Corinthian-leather armor. Winona and her Suicide Blondes make final checks on each others’ armor, securing straps and checking bindings and fit.  Krusch and Bombast, the half-Orc Fighter Vola, and elf Sy Green wait in the wings.

Jere Collado, Joseph McMickelson, and Jacob Light-Bringer compare and trade their reserves of spell components, receiving additional material from Cleric of Yondalla, Tim Threefoot, who offers some of his abundant supply. Xorn watches his apparition, Solace, was she inspects the allied fighters and clerics with excitement.  Only he can see her.  The imaginary female half-Orc is wearing a bright purple Traveler’s Outfit.  H’ai-ch Q’a and Aziz al-Azhar’s rat Balthazar puzzle at each other’s shape and purpose.  Aziz himself quietly sizes up this coalition’s chances.

When all adventurers are accounted for, Cleric of Fharlanghan CJ Newcastle gives a brief invocation, asking her god for swift passage. Then, they are under way.  The weather is damp but clear, and there are no Undead anywhere in sight.

To the party’s surprise, Newcastle and the other clerics of Valiant Light keep the ragtag company moving at a steady and efficient pace. In just over two hours, they reach the weedy village surrounding the corrupted church.

Cleric of Wee Jas Seamus MacTavish calls the coalition to a halt, at the edge of the field of bleached grey bones that form a ring around the temple. MacTavish confers with Reedna, gesturing at spots in the tangle.

The Cleric of Kord motions Cleric of Pelor, Amber Renn, and Cleric of St Cuthbert, Alain, up front with her. Together the three priests channel Turns, destroying the Undead skeletons the Cleric of Wee Jas sensed hiding within.

The way is clear. The coalition steps carefully through the grim clutter of humanoid bones.  At the broad wood doors to the church, Reedna calls on Amber Renn’s expertise.  Renn is familiar with this build and era of Pelor church; a standard main-floor area of worship, columns and skylights, with a stairwell in a far corner that will lead down into catacombs.

Xorn and Jere Collado offer their experience from the visit on March 23rd, when here with Wee Jack and their late friends Raygar Brightblade and Noomfoodle Gobbliegook Pann.  From their description, Seamus MacTavish agrees that Plague Blights are what they will find inside.

MacTavish and Reedna swing open the doors. The interior is exactly as Collado remembers it: church pews piled up, dust and the smell of rot, an Unhallow spell sickening the space beyond the threshold.  Not a thing has changed since his party retreated from here with a comatose Gnome Pann, almost two weeks ago.

Good-aligned Amber Renn pokes her head in to get a better look. What sounds like a woman’s voice weakly calls out for help, from the shadowy far end of the temple.  As Xorn warned the group, this is a Plague Blight ruse.

Unfortunately, despite the half-Orc’s warning, the Corinthians are just the wrong mix of noble, overzealous, and a bit stupid. They believe there is a fair maiden in distress.  Flexor shouts for action and his Corinthians to charge into the shadows to effect a rescue.

Valiant Light is caught off-guard. Reedna fails to reel in the coalition – the Suicide Blondes dash in after the Corinthians.  The Loners follow after the ‘Blondes.

Xorn is dismayed and angry at the idiocy of Flexor and his greaseball minions. The Barbarian-Ranger and his party make a cautious advance, hearing their allies already engaged in combat somewhere past the mounds of wood benches.  The clerics of Valiant Light line the rear wall and provide support- and ranged-attack spells.

Six Plague Blights waited in ambush. Their Gangrenous Touch, hideous smell, and surprising damage resistance balance out the coalition’s advantage in numbers.  Working together and ganging up on the Undead in a halfway-organized fashion, the living are able to bring down the Plague Blights in a swift, gruesome fight.

Unfortunately, haste and uncoordinated tactics cost the coalition three of its members. Corinthians Peroneus Brevis and Lateral Malleus, and half-Orc Fighter Vola, were lost.  The Corinthians and the Loners pull aside their dead as the rest secures the main floor and examine the stairs down to the catacombs.

It is now mid-morning on the 5th day of April, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 32)


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Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 31

This adventure was Friday December 11, 2015. E.G., T.F., B.P., and K.D. were present.  M.H. made an appearance as a railbird.

Lizardman Timander, the party’s guide, has little experience in the ways of outsiders. Despite this ignorance of non-Lizardfolk cultures, he can safely infer that the violence between the Gnome and the half-Orc was both unexpected and unwelcome.

Thri-Kreen Fighter H’ai-ch Q’a and Dwarf Fighter Rudic Ungart are as far from the exhausted Wee Jack and Xorn as the narrow islet will permit. H’ai-ch Q’a shares Timander’s confusion.  Ungart has serious reservations about this new party of his.

Wounded Xorn glares at Wee Jack. His weapon is ready should the Gnome frenzy again.  A dozen feet of mushy ground lay between them – too few for Xorn’s liking.

Wee Jack slowly rises to his feet, leaving his axe untouched. The Gnome dares not take a step in anyone’s direction.  He expresses his regret in the most genuine, apologetic terms he can muster.  There is no doubting his sincerity.

The Gnome Barbarian’s chosen path of Frenzied Berserker is a path from which there is no turning back. What just happened was not an intended outcome.  Wee Jack sees now that he cannot guarantee control over himself or assure his friends of their safety.  So, he must leave the party.  The Gnome will return to Riddley’s Crown, collect his belongings from their storefront cabin, then venture off alone into the wild.  There, he may find mastery of mind over fury.

Half-Orc Xorn is moved by Wee Jack’s words. His pain and anger fade, leaving only pity.  Xorn and H’ai-ch Q’a will accompany Wee Jack back to the enclave.  Rudic Ungart will rest here with Timander before continuing Lysander’s scouting mission.

The trek back through the bog to the causeway is a quiet but not awkward. Each man dwells on his own thoughts.  Barbarian-Ranger Xorn memorized the route by which Timander led them in.  They reach the trail between the enclave and the trade-route without event.

Headed south from Riddley’s Crown is Jere Collado. The cleric intended to catch up with his friends but intercepts some of them instead.  With Collado is a newcomer to the area, AZIZ AL-AZHAR (new character played by E.G.)

An extravagantly dressed Wizard from the distant southeast, Aziz was on a solo trek to Riddley’s Crown when he encountered Cleric Collado. They struck up a good-natured conversation and now Jere entertains al-Azhar’s request to seek out some of the local Undead.

Whether by way of social refinement or experience with the unexpected, Aziz is not startled to encounter a Thri-Kreen, a half-Orc, and a Gnome, in the middle of nowhere. Collado makes introductions.  Barbarian-Ranger Xorn gives a brief and blameless description of what happened in and after the fight with ghouls, and why the three of them are headed back.

Collado wishes Wee Jack well in future pursuits. He always got on well with the Gnome.  Xorn recites the way-points that will guide Jere and Aziz to Timander and Ungart.  Then the two groups part company.

Aziz marvels at Collado’s attention to details. The Cleric remembers each rock, each cleft branch, each noteworthy natural signpost of Xorn’s oratory, and gets them to the island of solid earth where Timander and Rudic Ungart loiter.

After more introductions, lizardman Timander asks the group’s intention. Do they wish to continue to the evil creatures’ territory, or turn back to return another day ?  If they go back, along the way Timander can lead them to where the ghouls and ghasts likely hoard their treasure.

A cache of wealth is appealing, but the group is not yet ready to go back. They will press on ahead.  Timander estimates another hour of travel, not much more.

For the next half an hour, Dwarf Ungart, Wizard al-Azhar and his rat familiar Balthazar, and Cleric Collado pick their way along a slippery, soggy path behind their guide. The party eyes every tree, shrub, and deep pit of water for ambush or lurking evil.  The wetlands have an eerie feel to them.

The groups reaches another firm island. They pause for a rest; slogging through muck is tiresome travel.  A Spot check – none of the party notices a humanoid blending in with the reeds at the water’s edge.  Timander does.  The guide is not alarmed; instead, he advises calm as a lizardman emerges from hiding.

In stark contrast to Timander, this lizardman is an old, scarred warrior. Part of his tail is missing, one eye is damaged, and his scales are a deeper green-yellow than those of the party’s young scout.  Lurching slowly out of the water, this veteran fighter glances over the party.  He growls at Timander to speak Common, after the scout addresses his elder in their native language.

Timander introduces HISSKIN (NPC), the greatest of his village’s defenders. Timander explains who the party is, and why they are here.  Hisskin says nothing.  The elder lizardman limps in a slow circle around the party, listening with little interest to the junior scout, eye and ears intent on the bog around them.  Rudic Ungart gets a sense there is grave danger among the trees.  Jere Collado prioritizes spells should something burst from the water.

So convinced is the party and Timander of an external threat that no-one notices when Hisskin slips a shiny black stone dagger from his belt. A moment later he lunges and kills Timander with a single stab to the neck.

Dwarf Ungart leaps back and pulls his weapon. Collado is too surprised to act.  Rat familiar Balthazar disappears into Aziz al-Azhar’s cloak as the Wizard scrambles away from the murder scene.

Hisskin need not twist the blade to be sure; the party’s guide was killed instantly. The dirk pulls clear as the body drops to the wet ground.  The warrior crouches and cleans the knife on the dead lizardman’s tunic.  As he does, Hisskin speaks to the party for the first time.

He asks the Humans and Dwarf to forget exactly where his knife struck their guide. That spot is a little-known weakness in lizardman physiology and not something shared with outsiders.  Unfortunate that Timander had to die, but he was an agent of evil, so Hisskin regrets only how quick a death it was.

In case the party hadn’t figured it out, Hisskin is here to save their drylander asses. A covey of Hags, and an Ogre Mage and Ogres, wait ahead on their path.  Another mile and the Dwarf and his party would find themselves surrounded by their minions.  Or, if their scout had led them to some treasure-trove left by Undead that do not horde, they would have met a similar fate.

The evil of the western bog has a long reach; their false promises have coaxed more young lizardfolk than just the late Timander here, into acts of treachery.   Lysander is no traitor, though.  Hisskin knows him well.  Impulsive and idealistic, Lysander is committed to destroying the Hag menace.  This obsession blinds him to corruption among their people.

Hisskin takes what he finds useful off Timander’s corpse, then dumps the body into the water. The lizardfolk village will think Timander vanished while on patrol; lately, this is a common occurrence.  The Hags and their cohorts have grown aggressive, pushing east.  They attack lizardfolk patrols, abduct travelers from the path to the Humans’ enclave, and raid outside the bog to the north and south.  Danger is everywhere.

The Dwarf and his friends must go no further. Timander’s route was a trap, and stealthy patrols of the Hags’ underlings are sure to find them.  Hisskin leads them east, back to the causeway, taking a different and more direct way out.

The dark moon is coming; the bog is no safer than the plains when the Undead are at their peak strength. Hisskin will watch for Ungart’s group, south of the second bridge.  When they return, he will show them a covert approach to the Hags’ territory.

*          *          *

It is mid-afternoon when the three adventurers leave the wetlands and hike the slope to the plains of Riddley’s Crown. They are within sight of the enclave when something catches their attention off to the right.

There is an unfamiliar Human woman fighting zombies about two hundred yards east. She is not a graceful or elegant fighter.  She swings a falchion, in a two-handed style, seeming to throw every last ounce of effort into each strike.  Her action is slow and clumsy, like the zombies she hacks down.  It is not poor form by way of inexperience; it has the telling plod of exhaustion.

None of the party recognize her. Collado suspects she has come overland from the east; she is covered in a mismatch collection of furs, armor pieces, lanyards, and pouches.  He would think her a barbarian except for hints of civilization about her.

Aziz and his new party watch as the last zombie is cut down. Their slayer drives her blade into the grass and crouches over the corpses, evidently scavenging for valuables.  The group would carry on their way but for a Spot check that notices two clusters of Undead closing on the loner.  Collado’s expert eyes make then as Wights; four from one direction, three from another.

The woman is not caught off guard. Her head jerks up.  With feral intensity she assesses the situation, hauls her sword from the dirt, and sets to receive attackers.

The odds don’t look good for the Human. The party should lend a hand.  Ungart, al-Azhar, and Collado break in that direction.  Their associate, cleric Joseph McMickelson, is just then coming out of Riddley’s Crown.  He sees the situation unfolding and hustles to join his friends.

Wizard Aziz al-Azhar has come to this region not so much to study the Undead, but to study the effects of his fire spells on Undead. al-Azhar is pleased that on his first day in the region he has a grand opportunity to practise his pyromancy.  His sharp mind calculates the positions and vectors of the hostile groups.  Then he unleashes a torrent of fire.  A Blistering Radiance first, a blinding sphere that stymies the approach of the Undead from the south.  Then a shaped Fireball blast against those creatures from the north, followed up by a barrage of Scorching Rays.

Jere Collado buffs Rudic Ungart with Magic Vestment, then Divine Protection, as the two approach the scene of battle. The female fighter staggers to the wights just scorched by the fireball, and lays into them with slow, plodding blows.  Cleric McMickelson’s spirited sprint brings him within spell range; he casts Prayer and then misses with two Searing Light rays.  The party succeeds in drawing four Wights off the woman; spells eliminate two of the three that came from the north.

As they finish off the remaining threats, McMickelson and his friends notice something that annoys them : the barbarish woman immediately started to loot the corpses once her share of the fighting was done. She did not even consider coming to assist them.

Aziz surveys the field of battle after the last wight is slain. He is pleased with his efforts, and delighted to have so much data to collect.  The Wizard opens a notebook and quickly scribbles down shorthand notations.  Dwarf Ungart follows after Aziz, beheading the wights where they lay, making sure none pose any further threat.

Collado and Joseph McMickelson approach the strange woman, expecting thanks and perhaps her back-story. She ignores them, busy with a quick and expert assessment of the gear the wights were carrying.  She finds magical Leather Scale armor on one, undamaged in the fight.  It is superior to what she wears, so heedless of her surroundings, the stranger tosses off her grimy, mismatched coverings and pulls on the new find.

One wight had a better, masterwork-quality falchion. The woman compares its blade to hers, sees improvement, tosses her old one aside.  Jere Collado makes a pointed remark about the proper division of treasure following an encounter.  Again, no response or acknowledgment.

Having searched the last of the corpses and taking what she found useful, the woman rises unsteadily to her feet, retrieves her bulging, weathered backpack, and stumbles off towards the enclave. Seeing her up close, the party gets the sense that she is starved, exhausted, worn down by rough travel – at this point, driven by animal instinct more than conscious, rational thought.  The half-Orc enclave guards, watching the fight and al-Azhar’s display of pyrotechnics from the walls, now turn curious attention to her.

The party collects what valuables the woman left behind on the wights. Rudic Ungart examines falchion the woman abandoned.  It is a poor quality Orckish make, dulled and stained, well past its service-life.  Ungart wonders for how long she has been making her way out here.

McMickelson and his group return to the enclave. The strange woman is nowhere to be seen.  Aziz al-Azhar marvels at the rustic delight that is Riddley’s Crown, halfway paying attention to Administrator Lumberg.  Collado discovers a note tacked to the door of their storefront cabin.  The clerics of Valiant Light are hosting a meeting in the barracks tonight, regarding a business proposal.

It is now early evening on the 3rd day of April, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 31)


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We’re into 2016, and coming up on a year that I have been running CROWN OF THE DEAD.  While I have enjoyed the project and how my friends have fared in the campaign, there are other creative projects I wish to engage this year.

Session 30 has just been posted, and Session 31’s events are being written now.  My intention is to bring the campaign to a close in the next 3-5 gaming sessions, finishing on what had originally been imagined as an Act Climax for the overall story.

It may be that E.G. resumes his D&D 3.5 game, or possibly A.T. brings his back.  Or C.H. might continue his L5R campaign, or we may go with a RIFTS game until a DM avails himself for more D&D.

The blogging will continue, at any rate !


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Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 30

This adventure was Friday November 27, 2015. E.G., A.T., B.P., and C.H. were present.

Returning to Riddley’s Crown, the party delivers Cleric Jere Collado to the care of Sister Janus. A Restoration spell will bring back the Wisdom he lost to the Allip.  Collado should rest afterward, but he can make it back to the storefront cabin on his own.

Barbarian-Ranger Xorn, Thri-Kreen warrior H’ai-ch Q’a, Frenzied Berserker Barbarian Wee Jack, and Cleric Jacob Light-Bringer notice something new in the enclave – a battle standard outside the barracks. Someone new has apparently taken up residence.  Light-Bringer and Wee Jack make successful Knowledge : Religion checks, and recognize the standard as that of VALIANT LIGHT (NPCs).

Valiant Light is a multi-denominational association of clerics. Each group is an independent cell, comprised of up to eight divine spellcasters of any religious following.  Such parties adventure across the land, seeking worthy challenges.  Sometimes they take on new members, occasionally a team splits into smaller parties that go their own way and draw new associates.

Their presence here is not surprising. Wee Jack is curious to know the makeup and disposition of this particular franchise.  Xorn is indifferent.  He wants to sell off the treasure looted from the well.  They’ll meet these clerics soon enough.

To the surprise of everyone, Jacob Light-Bringer announces that he is stepping back from adventuring, for a while at least. At odds with himself about his purpose and his goals, Cleric Jacob has decided to intern with Sister Janus for the immediate future.  He will still be around to offer healing spells but won’t take an active role in adventuring.

The party is disappointed to see their friend part ways with the group. But Fortune smiles upon Xorn’s team – a Dwarf Fighter arrived in Riddley’s Crown this morning, and is looking to join them.  RUDIC UNGART (new character played by BP) seems a friendly sort, beneath his bulky full-plate armor and tower shield.  Rudic traveled here with the Valiant Light team, having encountered them on the trade route.

Accompanying them to the blacksmith’s shop, Rudic is pleased to point out and identify the various members of Valiant Light : the leader, REEDNA (NPC), a female Dwarf Cleric of Kord; CORALYNE (NPC), female Elf Cleric of Obad-Hai; human SEAMUS MACTAVISH (NPC), Cleric of Wee Jas; AMBER RENN (NPC), half-Elf Cleric of Pelor; and CJ NEWCASTLE (NPC), female human Cleric of Fharlanghan. Ungart does not see Halfling TIM THREEFOOT (NPC), Cleric of Yondalla; or ALAIN (NPC), Cleric of St Cuthbert, anywhere around.

Xorn, H’ai-ch Q’a, and Wee Jack do business with smith Lanna Riis and then with Dwarf trader Dredburn. Dredburn offers a substantial amount of gold for the masterwork leather boots found in the well caverns; they are his size and durable enough to outlast him.  With the proceeds of their commerce, the party invites Rudic Ungart to a night of drinking at the main hall.

*          *          *

The next morning, Ungart meets his new companions for breakfast. The Dwarf is armed, armored, of clear mind and hale body.  Xorn and his friends drank just slightly less than Rudic last night, yet are in varying states of ‘terrible’.  Wee Jack suspects that some fey-folk snuck into their cabin last night while they slept, stole their “drinkin’-gold”, and drummed their skulls with Diminutive maces.  Ungart will have to move at the reduced pace of his hung-over allies.

Today is a scouting run to the western bog. Lysander’s mission is worth looking into.  Barbarian-Ranger Xorn now has the +1 warhammer that Riis enchanted for him.  He’d like to deal some critical hits to living foes like Ogres and Orcs.

Wee Jack and Xorn lead the group to the bog. Agile, lanky H’ai-ch Q’a and mobile metal statue Rudic bring up the rear.  Past the new, extremely stable bridge they encounter a Lizardman.  This is TIMANDER (NPC), the guide set by Lysander to wait for them.  None of the group make a Knowledge : Nature check to estimate how old Timander is.  But he looks capable enough.

The scout is not the talkative sort. The Lizardman stalks south for a half-mile before turning west off the trail.  No-one follows when Timander wades into a dark, seemingly bottomless waterway.  Realizing that his charges don’t swim, the guide seems dismayed.  Nonetheless, he comes up with an alternate route that winds the party deeper into the bog along firm, if squishy, ground.  In some places the party must make risky Jump checks, an easy task for the Thri-Kreen but a harrowing experience for armored Dwarf Ungart.  Where they are going, only Timander knows.

The stretch ahead is solid – a narrow, winding island amid deep channels of brown-black murk. Mounting solid earth, the party makes a Spot check.  From behind twisted trees and low tangled bushes, ghouls and ghasts rush to attack !

Barbarian-Ranger Xorn dashes forward, adamantine shortsword Solace in his off-hand, his new warhammer in his main. Seen only to him, Solace the female half-Orc projection is strolling along the surface of the bog.  She berates Xorn for making her his secondary weapon.

Wee Jack is a step behind Xorn. In the back of his mind, the Gnome is aware that his Frenzied Berserker nature may erupt at any time.  Losing control could have dangerous consequences for the party.

H’ai-ch Q’a springs into action on the right flank, laying down a flurry of attacks on a ghast. A ghoul rakes him with accursed claws; the Thri-Kreen warrior fails the Fortitude save and is paralyzed.

Rudic Ungart has not fought Undead before, but he is no stranger to combat. Sound tactics are first on his mind and recklessness not an option.  He needs to impress his new associates.  The Dwarf draws his weapon and, tower-shield before him, attacks a ghoul.

Moments into the fight, a new enemy approaches. It is a Gravetouched Ghoul, in life a Human Barbarian but now a greater evil than these ghoul and ghast minions.  The creature wears magical leather armor, and carries a magic greatsword that shimmers with frost.

This sword hacks Xorn and narrowly misses Wee Jack on the backswing. It is a vicious hit.  If left alone, this ghoul barbarian will easily kill them all in short order.  Best they take it out first.  Xorn sets to work on this.

Gnome Wee Jack explodes into a full, furious, horrifying Frenzy as a consequence of two quick hits from ghouls. A mindless cloud of rage, the Gnome kills everything he hits, each victim cut down with a single blow.  Barbarian-Ranger Xorn makes good on dealing with the Gravetouched leader.  The last creature standing, a Ghast, attempts and fails to bypass Xorn to get at Ungart.

Unfortunately, the party has slain all the Undead before Wee Jack’s condition exhausts itself. Mad with blood-lust, the frenzied Gnome seeks the nearest target – which happens to be Xorn.

Wisely staying prone after his paralysis wore off, H’ai-ch Q’a is shocked to see Wee Jack turn on the half-Orc barbarian-ranger with blind, murderous intent. Rudic Ungart hustles out of harm’s way.  He has never seen this kind of intra-party violence before; it is unsettling, to say the least.

Xorn has nowhere to retreat. His armor and dexterity will only protect him for so long.  After taking a couple painful hits, the Barbarian-Ranger is done sanctioning his so-called friend’s uncontrollable frenzy.  He goes into a barbarian rage, turning his defensive posture into an explosive offense.

For several rounds the furious Gnome and enraged half-Orc pound at each other, seemingly oblivious to naive sentiments like friendship and camaraderie. There is no holding back on either man’s part.

At last it is Xorn that prevails, and not fatally. The half-Orc deals what was likely a killing Critical Hit on the Gnome but was declared a normal blow.  Wee Jack’s frenzy reaches its natural end and the Gnome collapses, unconscious, as his bolstered Constitution ebbs.  Xorn is still in control of himself; he withdraws to let his rage subside, and to drink a healing potion.

Rudic Ungart watches from a minimum safe distance, far enough away to react if the Gnome gets up and attacks again. Timander slowly emerges from the water, where he hid when the Undead ambushed.  H’ai-ch Q’a chances approaching Wee Jack, and administers a healing potion.

When the Gnome regains consciousness, he is immediately aware of what happened, and what he did. Xorn regards Wee Jack with a simmering mixture of suspicion and anger, wary of his treacherous associate.  Wee Jack tries to find the words.

It is now early afternoon on the 3rd day of April, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 30)


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Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 29

This adventure was Friday November 13, 2015. K.D., E.G., A.T., T.F., and C.H. were present.  Diesel-burner A.B. graced us with his presence as a railbird.

Offloading gear at their storefront cabin in Riddley’s Crown, the party remembers that they have been invited to send a proxy to the monthly residents’ meeting tonight. The remote possibility exists that some useful information may come of it.  Barbarian-Ranger Xorn and Cleric Joseph McMickelson immediately declare themselves ineligible to attend, for a variety of weakly supported reasons.  Thri-Kreen warrior H’ai-ch Q’a doesn’t mince words – he has zero interest in going.

That leaves Gnome Frenzied-Berserker Barbarian Wee Jack or Cleric Jere Collado. Neither can come up with an excuse, so the winner of Rock-Parchment-Blade will avoid the chore.  They pump fists and show.  The Barbarian chooses Rock, and the Cleric, knowing how barbarians think, presents Parchment.  A fair contest; Wee Jack sighs, stows his weapons, and trudges out the door.  He absolutely will not take notes.

Inside the main hall, one long table is formed in the center of the room. All but two of the seats are taken.  Administrator Lumberg, enclave guard captain Norrick, wizard-smith Lanna Riis, Dwarf trader Dredburn, Cleric Sister Janus, and newcomer JG Dumont have their places.  One empty chair is reserved, but never occupied.  As Wee Jack climbs onto his chair, Lumberg decides to get the formalities under way.

After a scripted preamble, the Administrator drones on about logistics : food, firewood, and water-well reserves; a progress report on the bridges under construction by lizardfolk; estimates of increased trade potential with a safer route through the bog.

At mention of ‘food’, Wee Jack sees and smells a spread of appetizers on a side-table, which half-Elf cook Jenny has provided for the attendees. The Gnome wanders over to take a look.  The most interesting selection is a reconstituted meat-jerky imitation of sea-prawns.  The card beside this platter reads “shrump”.  Wee Jack cautiously nibbles at one.  It is not terrible.

Lumberg moves on to other details – farm-labourers arriving next week; forecasts on the number of adventurers expected this summer, given economic conditions in the eastern cities. Norrick’s four-man guard team will rotate out at the start of May, after training a new guard platoon that will be here in two weeks.

The Administrator turns the room’s attention to Wee Jack by calling on him to summarize his encounters with goblins. The Barbarian is caught off-guard, busy madly stuffing “shrump” into his maw.  Washing the beef-crustaceans down with the pitcher of ale he assumes is for all of them, Wee Jack recalls most of the important stuff.  Dwarf Dredburn presses for specifics.  Everyone else is distracted by the Gnome’s capacity for hors d’oeurves.  Stunned Jenny will not re-stock the food table a fourth time.

Including casual table-talk after Lumberg’s main points are presented, the meeting runs almost exactly one hour. It breaks up by mutual assent.  Some residents collect their evening meals from Jenny before they leave.  Adventurers begin to trickle in after a busy day on the plains.

Wee Jack, carrying his bloated stomach, passes his friends on their way in. The Gnome is positively stuffed, and a bit queasy.  Time will tell if these “shrump” are Magical Beasts or Aberrations.

Xorn, Jere Collado, H’ai-ch Q’a, and Joseph McMickelson snag a table as the main hall fills up. They are approached by the newcomer Gnome, the lurker that Jacob Light-Bringer shadowed early this morning.

The Gnome introduces himself as MYLES BROADBOW (NPC). Catching Jenny’s attention with the telltale ease of supreme self-confidence, he buys Collado’s group a round of drinks.  Once pleasantries are made and nothing of substance is said about himself, Broadbow gathers as much information on the Goblins as he can wheedle out of the party.  Despite the skillful interrogation, the party does not let slip the secret of the letter found on the goblin commander.

As he leaves, Broadbow drops an odd turn-of-phrase. None of the party makes the Sense Motive check to read a deeper meaning.  In the back of his mind Joseph McMickelson thinks it may have been “thieves’ cant”.  He doesn’t share that with his friends.

No sooner has the Gnome bid good’eve than Flexor Retinaculum, leader of the Corinthians, drops himself into the vacated seat. His leather armor creaks and cracks.  The brawny, oiled, curly-haired warrior hails each man of Xorn’s party loudly, laying on praise and greetings in tiresome blank verse.  Eventually Retinaculum lays plain his purpose – a very familiar task set him by Sister Janus.  The Corinthians want Collado and his party to join them in raiding the Undead-infested church after the New Moon.

What Retinaculum lacks in planning, details, and tactics, he makes up with skill at spoken-word. The party will answer him tomorrow.  Thankfully this ends the conversation – the Corinthian captain returns to his crew and downs a flagon of red wine to catch up.

*          *          *

Mid-morning the next day. The weather is clear and the ground damp.  Wee Jack is fine; the “shrump” brought on strange dreams but the Gnome is otherwise unharmed.  He arranges for smith Riis to enchant his battleaxe to +1 and add the Flaming ability.  This, of course, after she has finished her work for Xorn and Jere Collado.

H’ai-ch Q’a asks Dredburn to use contacts in the capital city to find him a Gythka – an exotic two-handed polearm with a blade at either end, a weapon favoured by Thri-Kreen.

This morning’s gate guard, Cofey, calls the party over. Waiting outside the main gate is a lizardman, LYSANDER (NPC).  This Lizardfolk warrior has come specifically to speak with Xorn’s group, whom he has seen at the bridge construction site.

Lysander won’t enter the enclave, nor is he comfortable to stay long outside his familiar wetlands. He has come to recruit the party.  Lizardfolk working on the bridges have been attacked by evil creatures that inhabit the western half of the bog.  Not Undead; from Lysander’s simple descriptions, the party thinks Ogres and maybe hobgoblins.

The lizardfolk have always kept their distance and minded their own territory – these raids are unexpected and unprovoked. Lysander’s chieftain does not want the situation to escalate and draw his lizardmen warriors into a full-out war.  So Lysander has come to hire Xorn’s group to go in and destroy the evil for them.

The group hesitates to commit on the spot; they negotiate time to consider the undertaking. Lysander is neither excited nor disappointed.  A scout will wait for them along the bog trail, to guide them if they come.  The lizardman slinks back to his marsh.

An intriguing proposition, but the party has the dry well to finish exploring. McMickelson and others return to the cabin to gear up for adventuring.  Barbarian-Ranger Xorn goes to see Administrator Lumberg, find out what he knows to back up Lysander’s story.

The political machinations of marshland creatures are not something the Administrator cares about. Same goes for the lizardfolk builders’ safety.  But Lumberg is a shrewd bureaucrat and an opportunist.  He invents a need to hire security-men, at an inflated wage, to ensure the contracted bridges get built – knowing this ‘cost-plus’ expense will easily pass the scrutiny of Lord Oakesworth’s distant treasury.  Lumberg vaguely hires Xorn, his friends, and two or three of Xorn’s friends that don’t exist – each at a rate of ten gold per day, to say they will defend the construction sites until the project is finished.  Of course, the Administrator will expense four times those wages, and keep the difference.

As the party travels to the farmstead with the well, Xorn and his associates try to guess which Knowledge skill provides insight into ‘fraud’. Perhaps the less they understand, the better.

The well-head and their knotted rope are undisturbed. Possessed of superlative climbing skills and low-light vision, Wee Jack and H’ai-ch Q’a descend first.  The main chamber is as they left it.  These vanguards strike up torches and call up to their friends.  They stand guard as the party makes their way down.

Ready to proceed, the party follows the same path as last time. They stop at the first junction.  The route to the left was the corridor that led to centipede swarms.  That way is silent; all the insects were incinerated with lamp-oil.

The narrow tunnel to the right is unexplored. Down this way is the same whining, grating noise they heard last time.  Something is home.  Weapons at the ready, Xorn leads.

Around a bend is a pitch-black chamber. The sound is coming from in there.  Torchlight suggests the cave before them is empty – until a blot of shadowy form darts out from a corner and the whining suddenly becomes a babbling, nonsensical shriek.  Everyone needs a Will save; only Wee Jack fails.  The Gnome is hypnotized and is unable to act.  Cleric Jere Collado and, surprisingly, Barbarian-Ranger Xorn, make Knowledge : Religion check and identify the creature as an Allip – a tortured, hateful incorporeal Undead.

Xorn slams a potion of Protection From Evil. Joseph McMickelson casts Prayer.  Jere Collado follows with Consecrate.  The party moves to attack, and are rushed by more incorporeal evil – four Shadows, which lunge at them out of the walls.

The Shadows are not as powerful as the Allip, but are hurtful in a different way. They rake the party with ghostly claws, ignoring armor and draining Strength with each hit.  McMickelson’s Greater Turn and Jere Collado’s force-effect Spiritual Weapon beat them back and destroy them relatively quickly.

The Allip is not so easily bested. The creature focuses its attacks on Cleric Jere Collado, draining Wisdom but dealing no physical damage.  Before long, so much of Collado’s vaunted Wisdom is drained that he is unable to cast any spells.  He is a pale imitation of a Fighter until he can obtain a Restoration.

Outnumbered, the Allip reverts to a hit-and-run strategy. It strikes H’ai-ch Q’a or Xorn, then melts into a wall.  Then it re-appears further down the tunnel, where it attacks glassy-eyed Wee Jack or Joseph McMickelson.

This pattern repeats for several maddening rounds. Wee Jack’s hypnotic state ends.  The Gnome is surprised to find a fight raging around him.  Jere Collado is of little use; with barely any Wisdom left, he is especially prone to making foolish tactical blunders.  H’ai-ch Q’a flurries attacks at the ghostly Allip.

Finally the incorporeal creature’s luck runs out. Barbarian-Ranger Xorn cuts it down with Solace, his adamantine blade.  Searching the chamber turns up only a single valuable gem, near the back wall of this dead-end space.

Ignoring the litany of truly unwise suggestions from their erstwhile Cleric, the party members retrace their steps back to the main chamber. One passageway is left to explore.  Collado hangs back as Xorn, H’ai-ch Q’a, McMickelson, and Wee Jack grit their teeth and prepare to encounter probably the worst creature yet.

But the last tunnel is a short path to a dead-end. They find a really nice pair of masterwork leather boots, some coins, and a few weapons in good condition, but no Undead – corporeal, or in ghost-form.

The party is sure this dry well has now been completely cleared. As they climb back out into daylight, Jere Collado shares his terrible ideas about converting the tunnels into an underground team fortress, and how he’d finance the work with fanciful things called “payday loans” and “reverse mortgages”.  The group needs to get their friend to Sister Janus so she can cast Restoration and get his head put back on straight.

It is now midday on the 2nd day of April, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 29)



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Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 28

This adventure was Friday October 30, 2015.  B.P., E.G., and C.H. were present.

The party jostles, swats, and smooths every article of clothing and armor.  They are desperate to make sure that none of those nasty centipedes escaped their fiery doom and hitched a ride.  Apart from the charbroiled ones H’ai-ch Q’a is snacking on from a saddlebag, the group is clean.

Thri-Kreen H’ai-ch Q’a and Human Cleric Jere Collado decide to Climb out of the well caverns and return to Riddley’s Crown.  The encounter with centipede swarms left Collado unsettled and H’ai-ch Q’a over-fed.  Gnome Barbarian Wee Jack, half-Orc Ranger Xorn, and Human Cleric of Pelor Jacob Light-Bringer want to keep exploring.  This tunnel they are in continues on past the bug-infested chamber.

The trio keeps precious lamp-oil close at hand as they crunch through the brittle carpet of dead centipedes and into uncharted territory.  The passageway is low and close, its walls smoothed by water that no longer flows here, winding erratically before opening into a large, irregularly-shaped cavern.  The cavern’s ceiling is twenty feet above them; their torchlight does not reach its far walls.

There is gear scattered on the firm sand – weapons, armor, a tempting drift of gold and silver coins.  There are no bodies visible.  That worries Wee Jack a bit.  The Barbarian brings up a cautious rear as the party spreads out into the new-found chamber.

Xorn, and only Xorn, sees his odd female half-Orc friend flittering among the treasures left lying about.  She looks giddy with excitement.  Xorn asks why she is in such a good mood – from what he can see, none of the items really stand out.

Jacob and Wee Jack beg their half-Orc friend’s pardon.  Xorn ignores them, focused on something they cannot see.

Solace, the female half-Orc projected into Xorn’s consciousness by the intelligent adamantine short-sword he possesses, wordlessly turns and points at the blackness further down the cavern.

Almost on cue, a swirling mass of dark rushes the party from that quadrant.  Cleric Jacob identifies the threat immediately –  a Wraith.  He tries to Turn it; the creature easily resists.  Wee Jack attacks, but without a magic weapon he is swinging hopelessly.  Xorn’s blade Solace is the only weapon that can damage this foe, and even then perhaps only half of the time because this evil is incorporeal.

The wraith rages among the three party members, unharmed by the Gnome or Cleric and occasionally stung by the Ranger’s blade.  The malevolent shroud of darkness drains Constitution when it hits, and it hits Jacob Light-Bringer a lot.  It evidently carries a special hate for Clerics of Pelor.

Xorn shouts to his coy half-Orc hallucination for some helpful advice on how best to defeat this evil.  Despite the urgency, Solace won’t give any more than a passing appraisal of the items that lay about waiting to be claimed.  Barbarian Wee Jack and Cleric Light-Bringer have no idea with whom Xorn is carrying on a heated, apparently one-sided, exchange.

With the Cleric as the wraith’s primary target and the Barbarian a secondary distraction, Xorn is able to focus on offense rather than defense.  His successful attacks begin to outnumber his near-misses.  When the shadowy figure finally breaks off and flees toward a wall to seek refuge, lucky Xorn lands a quick thrust of his blade.  The magic shortsword permanently unravels the shadowy tendrils of the wraith.

Now safe to do so, Jacob Light-Bringer satisfies the urgent need to lie down.  He was hit several times by the ghostly claws of the wraith, and finds himself with a single point of Constitution left un-drained.  Another hit and Jacob would have become a Wraith.  The Cleric is exhausted beyond anything he has ever felt.  Wee Jack thinks Jacob looks like he took a few levels of Pale Master.

The treasure in the room is theirs.  Wee Jack and Xorn collect the gold, silver, gems, and valuable items – including a Darkwood shield, full- and half-plate armor, and a masterwork bastard sword.

The able-bodied party members explore the wraith’s domain while Cleric Jacob sprawls on the ground, conserving his energy.  At the far end of the cavern, a slope of rubble suggests a caved-in passageway.  This chamber is a dead-end.

Two more unexplored passages remain in this dry cistern network.  Cleric Jacob reminds his friends that he is in no condition to keep exploring.  This is fine by Xorn – the Ranger plans instead to return to the goblin-keep.  By now, the Quaal’s Feather Token boat should have expired.  Jacob protests, but since the party is in the area, logic dictates they make this side-trip.

*  *  *

What should have been an easy climb out of the well, and a brisk half-hour hike to Eastmarch Tower, instead takes an hour and a half.  Jacob Light-Bringer has his usual strength and agility, but his endurance suffers terribly.  Frequently he must stop and rest.  Wee Jack and Xorn move at his pace, engaging zombies to entertain themselves during the Cleric’s down-times.

As Xorn hoped, the gallant sailing-ship he summoned literally out of thin air, has vanished.  Left behind is a distinct concavity in the clearing.  The flattened corpses of zombies and wights stand out in gruesome color against the dull brown earth.  The Ranger and Wee Jack excavate these remains while Light-Bringer catches his breath against the tower’s outer wall.  They recover coins, two potions, two masterwork weapons, and set of +1 Bracers of Armor.

The group suddenly needs a Listen check.  The Ranger hears something in the forest, quietly advancing on their position – likely Undead.  Not something they want to fight with a frail Cleric to protect.  After a quick final Search of the boat crater, the adventurers leave the forest for Riddley’s Crown.

It is now early evening on the 1st day of April, by the local calendar.


(end of Part 28)



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