The North Journey - A Greyhawk Campaign

Book Three, Chapter Three - The Tomb of Kings, Part Three
Boning up on golems...

Most Tenacious Enemy – the traps

The Bigger They Are… – Bone Golem, but didn’t fall too hard

The party, bruised, battered, yet victorious, returned to their camp, bringing the unconscious Allynfred with them, and spent the next day memorizing and casting healing spells, recovering and resting in preparation for what they hoped would be the final part of their quest to destroy the evil book. As the dwarf would need a week of rest to bring him back to fighting strength, he stayed behind to guard the camp and Trathonax the Ranger accompanied the party on the return trip to the Tomb of Kings.

Our intrepid adventurers entered through the Main Gallery and straight to the revolving passageway, newly-won second key in hand, and spent about thirty minutes figuring out the sequence to rotate the walls to reach the back passages that they figured were there. Once this puzzle was worked out and Exex helped determine no traps or monsters waited on the other side, Darmok and Garath checked further beyond, discovering a narrow winding side passage. Garath deciding to spike open the doors as they went served them well, for at the end was a room which began spewing gas when they entered and they ran like hell for safety. They finally found twin ramps, north and south, leading down into the heart of the hill. Everyone stepped into the rotating passageway and then proceeded down the north ramp.

At the end of the north ramp a large room, with double bronze doors awaited; the thieves failed their checks for traps, so the party decided to exercise caution and open the doors from a distance by tying a rope to the door’s pull ring. As everyone backed onto the ramp, Paddy, standing just at the entrance to the room, pulled the door open – revealing a blank stone wall, and at the same moment an iron grate fell to block the ramp, right where the halfling stood. He managed to dodge and was just slightly injured.

They fared better with the south ramp, which opened into a great processional corridor depicting scenes of the region’s past and it’s rulers. Stretching 300 feet northward, it finally narrowed and turned east, then south, bringing them to a four-way intersection. Just south of here was a pressure plate, undetected by the thieves, which released a huge stone block that nearly crushed Darmok, Garath, and Paddy (who was grazed enough to take damage).

They went east and fought skeletons. They went west and fought skeletons. They went south and fought skeletons – in a big room, a pair of double-doors at the end, and a huge bronze-and-bone statue that animated into a 9’ tall, four-armed hawk-skulled bone golem. Bobill’s Cloak of Arachnidia entrapped the skeletons on the east side, the clerics attempted to Turn Undead to the west side but only succeeded in turning four, and the fighters engaged the golem as Exex hit it with a Magic Missile. At one point Chees rolled a natural 20 with her Rod of Smiting and totally disintegrated a skeleton – another charge bites the dust. When the golem was destroyed and the free skeletons defeated, Bobill used one of the webbed skeletons for sling practice and rolled a natural 20, which knocked it’s skull off. They carefully opened the doors with a rope and were greeted with a wide passage continuing south.

Bone golem

The Bone Golem, armed with axes and sharpened, scapula-like blades

Down this south passage, at another intersection, our group was confronted with a compass rose painted and gold-leafed on the floor, filling the intersection. Paddy inspected it for traps and detected Glyphs of Warding hidden in the cardinal direction symbols, which seemed to indicate Day, Night, Death, and Life, according to the players. When Chees’ Dispel Magic failed to remove the Glyphs, Darmok invoked the power of his sword to effect their riddance, and the group continued east.

This short hall led to a chamber of pink and tan granite tile, featuring six braziers (one with unused incense) on short pillars, and a great ironwood throne covered in gold leaf with gold ornamental statuettes; a gold solar disk rose over the throne. More black, jackal-headed bronze-armored Minions and their hawk-headed hounds guarded this throne room; Paddy and Rebamac charged to the attack despite their compatriot’s pleas. Thus forced to join the fight, barbarian, paladin, ranger and cleric pick opponents. Though Bobill and Exex remain outside the room, two hounds rush them and attack; Bobill’s Ring of the Ram manages to ram his into a Minion and two other hounds, punching them into a corner. A Sleep spell then takes the three hounds out of the fight. As Garath and Darmok wear their minions down, a frightening new power is revealed – the Minions transform into giant black cobras and snap at the two warriors. When the battle is over, the snakes killed and sleeping dogs slain, the party is able to catch their breath and examine a huge fissure in the east hall near the throne. Black graffiti scrawled on the wall nearby depicts a black, jackal-headed man.

Play ended for the night here.

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Book Three, Chapter Three - The Tomb of Kings, Part Two
battleus megalacticus

Toughest Foe – Neselandra, aka the b!tch

Most Tactically-useful Magic Item – Bobill’s Cloak of Arachnidia

Temporary Death – Allynfred the Dwarf

Best Invisible Opponent – Ildriss

The party explored a couple rooms down narrow side passages in the Tomb, one where Exex identified a false bronze door trapped to flatten people, another with a giant scorpion and secret, one-way door to a diamond-shaped chamber that was probably part of the rotating wall in the main passage. Unable to proceed further, the characters started to move into the south crypts when the sound of battle outside the complex caught their attention. Hiding in shadows, Exex and Paddy snuck separately to different exits and saw, in the desert sands near the south entrance, Dervishes beset by enemies. Everyone ran to the south entrance porch and proceeded to help the outnumbered nomads.

Rebamac and Exex turn Invisible as the rest of the party assess and prepare for battle. Invisible magic-users sneak up, Exex casts Sleep at the human contingent of fighters and black-robed-and-cowled figures; Bobill uses his Cloak of Arachnidia to Web the majority of the ghouls and ghasts. The rest of the party move across the 150’ distance as this occurs, taking fire from archers and javelineers before these enemies succumb to the Sleep spell.

Enemy spellcasters then hit back with Magic Missiles and a Sleep spell of their own as the rest of the adventurers engage, with Paddy falling asleep and Allynfred still on his way in his dwarven plate mail. At this point Rebamac lets blast with the Wand of Fireballs on the human contingent, which includes a 9’ high batlike/gargoyle-like creature between the arrayed forces. Chees, Rebamac and Garath take on the black-robed figures, Chees creating a Dust Devil that prevents spell casting from some of the enemy – though it also obscures Rebamac’s and Garath’s vision. Darmok uses his sword’s Dispel Magic power to reawaken Paddy, who commands his boar figurine to life. Exex fires her Wand of Paralyzation across the field at a blackrobe in the rear, but the ray fizzles away as it reaches its target.

This black-robed figure disappears, and a new enemy becomes apparent, a misty beast with three red-glowing “eyes” and wispy tentacles, which can disappear and reappear in different places with amazing speed (the party actually thought it was an illusion). At the same time, those ghasts and ghouls not trapped in the web turn on Bobill, Exex, Allynfred, Darmok and Paddy, and Bobill’s Ring of the Ram marks it’s first use battering away an undead pair about to snack on him. One of three surviving dervishes, all of which are caught in the Web, falls victim to a ghast.

Chees has to refocus her attention from her Dust Devil to the undead, Turning them and causing them all to flee. The great bat-beast is now attacking the northern group – Darmok, Allynfred, Paddy, and Bobill – as Garath and Rebamac attempt to finish off the blackrobes while at the same time fending off the invisble, misty attacker. Exex employs her Wand of Paralyzation against one and moves across the battlefield to dispatch two Sleep-affected humans. Another dervish is pulled free and rushes to fight the batbeast, and falls by its claws.

Some vocalizations are heard from the air nearby and suddenly Bobill, Allynfred, Darmok, Paddy and his boar find themselves surrounded by black tentacles writhing from the sand; Allynfred is entangled and cannot fight, taking damage from the constricting member, while the others break free but take damage in the process. Ghouls and ghasts are still trapped in the Web or have fled, effectively removing all the undead from the battle; opposing humans have all been killed or incapacitated save an invisible one, leaving the bat-beast and the aerial monster still fighting, when the disembodied voice is heard again and the black-robed figure appears floating about twenty feet above ground as a forked Lightning Bolt streaks from its hands into Allynfred, Darmok, Paddy and the boar. Allynfred and the boar die.

Garath hurls a spear at the floating figure, but it stops a foot or two away from its target and falls to the ground; Exex then nocks one of her magic arrows, and her elven aim is true and it finds its mark. The figure’s concentration broken, its Levitation spell ends and it descends rapidly to the sand, where Bobill’s Ring of the Ram batters it backward, Rebamac wails on it, and Darmok Springs over to finish it off. As Garath’s mighty two-handed sword seems to have no effect on the aerial monster, he trades places with Darmok to confront the batbeast alongside Paddy, who is one hit away from death; Garath gets between the two, yelling at the halfling to throw him his blade. Paddy tosses the Short Sword of Quickness to the barbarian, who strikes the creature deep enough to fell it. Darmok, Exex and Chees vanquish the aerial creature, though Exex’s +1 Longsword seems not to hurt the horror.

The combat, after closing, took six rounds. Allynfred is dead at -3 hp, and three other characters, including Paddy, are one hit away from death themselves. Two dervishes, still alive (including the Iaseda they’ve encountered before) are pulled from the web before setting fire to it and its undead prisoners. Some healing is done, uncharred bodies are searched, and little reward is recovered for their efforts. They discover the previously-floating blackrobe to be a female human, presumably “the Mistress”, and find hidden in her belt’s secret pouches a Sheet of Smallness containing a spellbook and a miniature, ankh-shaped key. She wears the same symbol that the drow who carried The Book of Eibon and some of the humanoid leaders had.

Drow Symbol a recurring symbol

The two surviving dervishes head back to their hideout while the party returns to the wagon to lick their wounds.

This was one hellacious battle, taking two-and-a-half hours of real time even though all the action, from porch to finish, lasted seven rounds. Triangulation and area-effect spells at the beginning went a long way towards levelling the battlefield to give the party a chance at success. It would have turned out a lot worse had the low-level troops not been dispatched right away.

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Book Three, Chapter Three - The Tomb of Kings, Part One
From Palace to Tomb

Friend in Peril – Jafo the Dervish

Still in the Palace cellar…

Bobill was able to haltingly converse with the Dervish in the Flan tongue, learned his name was Hadj and he had been imprisoned two weeks; he encountered the humanoids only, but knew there were humans involved and had heard them coming and going through a door in the next room. He described the location of the tomb complex and agreed to let the adventurers escort him to the Dervish hideout, where they were surrounded; Hadj vouched for the party and went inside. A short while later the Iaseda, the same cleric that the party had encountered earlier in the desert, emerged from the ruin and conversed with Rebamac. He revealed that they were trying to prevent a group of spellcasters from entering the Tomb of Kings, and the adventurers responded that their aim was to remove the curse from the Spring of Athis, and that involved destroying the evil in the Tomb. The Iaseda considered and decided to not interfere with the party’s ambition, but insisted on having a dervish accompany the party. This dervish, Jafo, travelled the half-mile or so with them to the Tomb of Kings, on the west side of the hill. At one point the party opted to go back to the wagon to rest – they like doing that a lot, but I’m sure it won’t draw any attention.

The Tomb of Kings

Tomb of Kings side approaching the Tomb from the south

The party found itself standing outside a huge edifice carved into the side of the sandstone hill, over 60’ high and 500’ wide, with a long, 250’ double-collonaded processional entryway featuring larger-than-life-size statues of mighty and fabulous animals drawing chariots of kings.

Tomb of Kings front a front view of the entrance to the Tomb complex

Passing through this imposing passage, they entered an echoing vast chamber, evidently a viewing area for the nobility laid in state, complete with 30’ high pharoah statues and giant smiling sun bas-reliefs. 70’ directly ahead, between columns, was a wide hallway, and at either end of the 150’ wide chamber a wide passage led north or south. Exex and Paddy carefully searched for traps in the area, and finding none, Exex cautiously explored the forward passage. As she stepped past the columns a cracking sound echoed and four halberd-weilding statues emerged from the stone columns and attacked! They were defeated, though Garath, without a magical weapon, took noticeably longer to vanquish his; when the statues fell they left behind a pile of greenish-blue dust and fragments, and when brushed away each revealed a valuable topaz.

Rooms off the left side appeared to be preparation rooms, with stone tables, pots and urns, and heiroglyphics. Paddy and the fighters moved into the right-side room, wherein four black, jackal-headed figures in ancient bronze plate and bearing bronze khopeshes animated and attacked while making hooting sounds. Rebamac moved in to help, leaving Chees, Exex, Bobill and Jafo in the hallway. The next round, Jafo’s scream alerted the spellcasters to danger – four huge, hawk-headed hounds bounding into the hall! One of the beasts tore apart poor Jafo, who tried defending himself, as the others each ferociously assailed a spellcaster. With a great leap Darmok was in the hall to help fend off the hounds, and eventually all opponents lay dead, the jackal-men withering into dessicated husks.

Minions and Hounds

Finding the room empty, the characters proceeded further east down the hall, coming to a diamond-shaped room flanked by two levers and slots. Exex discovered a semi-circular trackway across the threshold floor, and pulling the levers up or down caused the room to rotate a quarter-turn. The triangular key recovered from the Palace fit snugly into the left slot; they left the room alone without entering, figuring that a second key is needed for the room to operate properly.

Everyone then headed back into the reception hall to the north passageway, and discovered side rooms were used by humanoids, most likely, so caution was observed as another large chamber was approached. Failing to surprise, gnolls intending to ambush the party found themselves on the recieving end of some pointy things, though a second line of the critters did get to hurl their javelins – as they turned and ran, five gnolls fell to a Sleep spell. Further gnolls and a Flind leader fought the party with hit-and-run tactics in this huge crypt room, but were dispatched through the stealth of thieves and blades of swordsmen. A single gnoll survived, captured when grappled by Allynfred the dwarf. This fellow revealed what he knew about his employers, which wasn’t much as he’s low man on the totem pole, and was then given the boot out a side door to slink away south into the desert heat.

Play broke for the night here.

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Book Three, Chapter Three - The Palace, Part 2
Breaking and Entering

Clearing the Palace

Most Deadly Trap – a poison needle trapped lock that sent Paddy into seizures

Most Useful Magic – Darmok’s Boots of Striding and Springing or Paddy’s Ring of Feather Falling

Noisefest – bashing open chests, devaluing some of the contents

Now that the three huge bats lay dead, our adventurers moved ahead into the south hallway and came upon some locked doors after it turned west. In the process of picking the lock they were peppered with arrows from the west and saw three figures disappear behind a far corner, and pursued. This brought them into a wide hallway featuring a balcony and stairway down, upon which where three chainmaille-clad archers loosing another round. The party engaged, and a still-invisible Paddy jumped the railing and Feather-Falled to the bottom of the stairs as more fighters attacked from the hallway and behind the party using arrows and javelins, targeting the spellcasters. Darmok’s Boots of Striding and Springing allowed him to jump up from the stairs to confront what appeared to be the leader, who later jumped over the railing in an attempt to escape; he was killed recovering his feet, but another fighter jumped out the collapsed rear of a back room and escaped. One fighter remained, bound with rope, the victim of Chees’ Hold Person spell, and he revealed little information as Paddy and Exex interrogated him in the collapsed room – Paddy slew him, tsk tsk.

With all resistance seemingly eliminated, everyone resumed their exploration of the second story, finding several barracks rooms, including a singularly better-appointed room with a single bed and well-bound chest. Both Exex and Paddy failed to find traps on the locked chest, and when Paddy picked the lock a needle sprung and stuck him with poison. Garath used his barbarian familiarity with natural poisons to try to help the convulsing halfling, and amazingly rolled success, saving Paddy’s life. At the very end of the hallway a great pair of ornate roanwood doors stood locked with a bronze lockplate, a silver symbol inscribed on it. Dispel Magic, from Darmok’s sword and Chees’ spells, failed to remove the glyph (already identified as a Glyph of Warding through my error), but Paddy realized they could go up on the roof and enter from a window. Doing so, they found the room was a huge, lavish bedroom, an armoire full of elegant woman’s clothes and an open scroll on a desk – the scroll written in heiroglyphics, someone had scribbled notes in Common in the margins indicating “two keys needed to access inner tomb” and some such. A chest hidden under furs resisted attempts to Find Traps and Pick, so the greedy dwarf Allynfred bashed it open with his +1 Battleaxe, damaging a set of electrum goblets within.

The party climbed back out with ropes and decided to try the cellar later, opting to return to the wagon to rest – the wandering monster rolls were negative, luckily.

To The Cellar!

Toughest Foe – a ballista

Not-so-tough Foe – the orc soldiers

Not-so-used Magic ItemRing of the Ram

Returning to the Palace after several hours spent relearning Cure spells, the party entered the second floor from the roof and made their way to the cellar steps, entering a large storeroom where they were ambushed by orcs. With the melee in full progress the spellcasters found themselves targets of throwing axes, followed by spetum-weilding gnolls that jumped into the fray. When all these humanoids were dead, the next room, an ancient winery, was ransacked for little loot.

Only one way was left, a 20’ wide passage north terminating in a pair of wide bronze doors decorated in arabesque and geometric patterns – this was found to resist opening after the lock was picked, so one by one the brawny heroes began battering it, hearing the sound of cracking wood behind as five or six characters began to bash it – Ring of the Ram be damned! After three very noisy attempts the bar splintered and the doors flew open. As the party recovered and set to move, a loud twaang was heard and a great javelin hit Paddy’s well-illuminated frame (glowing magic swords for light sources). Fearing a second round, the party charged down the hallway into a large ancient armory, where a team of orcs manned a ballista, supported by more orcs behind mantlets. The orcs had cocked and loaded the ballista by the time the characters reached the mantlets, so one more javelin was loosed on Garath, grazing him as the ancient ballista snapped to pieces with a loud crash. Exex ran to a corner and hid in the shadows, sneaking along the wall in an attempt to backstab one of the nasties, but she rolled a dreaded “1”. Three orc captains emerged to assist and were killed along with the rest.

The captain’s room contained three cells, one of which held a Dervish prisoner, abused and frightened but not physically hurt. Upon release, the frightened fellow tried to make a run for the door but was overborne by Garath, and the party attempted to calm him and give him water. Unfortunately, the dervish, like so many of his brethren, are rather isolated in the desert and have no need to learn the Common Tongue (only a few know it), and they had no language spells memorized, so could not communicate with him. What was left but to search the bodies, gathering some booty, and then see what else was about?

Oddly, they saw no other doors, and in searching one, two, three walls, each party member, not a single d6 out of 24 rolls resulted in a “1” (or “2” for the demi-humans). Hmmmm…

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Book Three, Chapter Three - The Palace
More fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Toughest Battle – fight in the courtyard featuring Gnolls, Flinds and baboons

Most Helpful SpellHold Person cast on a Flind

Most Intriguing Find – strangely-shaped iron bar, possibly a key

Taking a breather after vanquishing a squad of gnolls in their barracks, our meddlesome adventurers debated what to do next; they feared another drawn-out battle, and were worried that they were running out of healing spells. Thus, Paddy talked Exex into using an Invisibility spell on him, while Chees and Rebamac each cast a Cure Light Wounds on the two most injured. They found a little water and cheap wine in the marble closet of the bath and Paddy explored the open-air bath next door, noting a couple gnolls lurking in the courtyard by a huge fountain. With Paddy staying to the west side and Bobill invisible behind a southeast corner, Garath and Darmok strode into the courtyard to challenge the gnolls.

Well, gnolls are rather stupid but they can be crafty, and this group had Flind leaders. As the paladin and barbarian engaged the three gnolls by the fountain, the guards barked and two Flind leaders sprung the trap; suddenly the brave fighters found themselves surrounded and outnumbered by a dozen gnolls and their two leaders. Rebamac and Allynfred the dwarf rushed into the fray to help, leaving Chees to watch over Exex, while a spellcaster and thief stayed out of the fight, unseen by all. Inexplicably, only Chees elected to cast any spell, and that was Hold Person on the paladin’s Flind, which found itself paralyzed.

Well, no matter – the next round the gnolls’ pets scampered into the courtyard to play with the adventurers. Rebamac, Darmok, Garath, Chees, Exex, and Allynfred each ended up with a monkey on their backs – a vicious, red-faced, huge-fanged mandrill, to be precise, and these monkeys gave no quarter. A seventh baboon jumped around amid the melee, picking targets at random, until he smelled something halflingish nearby and attacked it. Not wanting to risk breaking his Invisibility, Paddy ran among the pillars to escape his primate plaything. In the meantime, things were getting dicey for the rest – Exex, Rebamac and Chees couldn’t cast any spells with the baboons attacking them, and had to physically fend off the filthy monkeys. Eventually, the party prevailed, Exex stole behind the still Held Flind leader and backstabbed him – rolled a 1 for damage, though, so he had to be beaten down – and Rebamac nearly died with just 1 hit point remaining. But hey, Paddy and Bobill were still invisible!

Should We Stay Or Should We Go?

Now what to do? Again there was much deliberation, the last Cure Light Wounds was used on Rebamac, and it seemed obvious that they needed to get back to the wagon and rest; but do they try to sneak out, or make a mad dash for the ballroom entry where they first came in? Mad dash it was, and as they ran across arrows zinged at them from the north above, but the missiles all…missed. With this last lucky break the party made a beeline north for the wagon, and my wandering monster rolls came up negative. Maybe the desert’s not so dangerous, after all.

Due to the severity of their wounds – everyone was at about half-hit points or less – the party camped at the wagon for around 24 hours, until all Cure Light Wounds were cast, re-memorized, cast again, and re-memorized. Again the dice were in the party’s favor and wandering monster rolls came up negative. Darmok and Paddy both agreed that they weren’t done in the Palace, and so the group traveled back to the Palace, stopping short of the front entrance with it’s now-closed bronze doors. As the doors were locked, a still invisible Paddy climbed the front, onto a ledge, and peered through the brass-barred windows, walked past a tapestry-covered archway, peered through another window, and noticed light coming from a room on the second floor.

Eventually, an Invisibility was cast on Garath, he and Paddy climbed up to the roof, then Garath hung on to Paddy as Paddy’s Ring of Feather Falling lowered them gently to the floor of the courtyard – the pair then unbarred the front doors to the ballroom and let the party in. Paddy snuck around the south courtyard, discovered stairs down, and noticed a couple humanoids using his infravision and snuck back up. Everyone decided to go up the ballroom stair instead, and found the two doors out of the upper floor locked. After several failed attempts at picking the locks, the fighters made a couple efforts to force the west doors open; when Darmok succeeded, he discovered they led into a hallway overlooking the courtyard, and the noise and smell of bats urged him to close the doors again immediately. The south doors were then forced open, which led to a ransacked library and another locked door.

This door was picked and opened, revealing an elegant wood-paneled room with flagstone floor, roanwood gaming table and a chest in the southwest corner. Paddy, Darmok and Garath all marched straight to the chest, and as they reached it the floor curled up around and enfolded them. The party had to beat down this monster, which was crushing the fighters within. When it was killed, they found nothing but bones and scraps of metal underneath, but no treasure. Exex examined the table closely and discovered a loose piece on the game table surface – it turned out to be some sort of triangular iron bar or key, slotted at one end, and painted to match the pattern of the table. Searching next for secret doors, none were found, so everyone went back to the upper ballroom and convinced Darmok to chance the batway, as he had the best armor class. Risking his shiny-but-dented-field plate’s finish, Darmok rushed through the hallway to be chased by several great bats among the cloud of normal bats, but made it to the end of the narrow hallway – to be targeted by arrows and javelins.

Darmok shouted for assistance as he took on the javelin-throwers in the first room, bringing an invisible Garath and Paddy to his aid. Garath was hit by an arrow meant for the paladin, and forsook his camouflaged state to throw down with the archers. After dispatching these foes the rest of the party ran the gauntlet and quickly examined the rooms, but found nothing of any real value and no exits. Returning down the hallway, they passed a tarp with guano spots on one side yet clean on the other; they left it and lit torches to scare off the bats, which worked – for the normal bats. As Rebamac held the torches, three huge, whiptailed shrieking bats attacked her, forcing the fighters to help her slay the leathery-winged bugsuckers. Now the party faced a narrow hallway running south, and play ended for the night.

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Book Three, Chapter Three - From the Dome to the Palace
Destroying the Book won't be as easy as we thought...

The Dome is reached

Toughest Foe – another Leucrotta

Best Treasure – Finding the Lamia’s treasure horde in a secret room

Worst Setback – Darmok’s field plate received a couple dents from Leucrotta kicks and a bite

Play resumed in the Shadow cells, where the two clerics and Darmok entered each cell and slew the Shadow within; the last two Shadows regained their composure before the undead-turners reached them and they reattacked the party in the hall, but were soon vanquished.

Exex adopted a new “check everything out” policy that resulted in the discovery of a flask hidden in a false back in a desk drawer. Freshly motivated, the characters elected to back-track, revisiting the apartments (to find a bronze coffer hidden under a bed) and the lamia lair, where a secret door was found with a keyhole. After trying a sword point and dagger point, Exex suggested the key around the lamia’s neck, which worked! A nice haul was gained, including a keg of brandy.

They also fought a second Leucrotta that got a nice kick and bite in on Darmok, and a giant lizard that Garath and Allynfred slew. After Exex examined a fly-infested, dung-ridden fireplace and nearly got bitten by the flies, everyone decided there was nothing more to explore and headed up the stairs for what they hoped would be the conclusion.

The stairway up was elaborately carved with bas-reliefs like the circular room, and led into a wide, windowed hallway similarly carved, the whole floor littered with stone chips and dust. Even in the moonless night the stars shone brightly and, along with their magic swords, illuminated a breathtaking scene. The walls and ceiling were completely covered in sculptures, as were the pillars that held up the dome they could see rising from the wide opening into the next room. This room was not only carved from the sandstone hill, but was also finished in white-and-green alabaster, the whole of it carved with scenes of otherwordly, heavenly and angelic beings rising upward to a sea of serene and joyous faces smiling down, as starlight beamed in through gabled windows in the 60’-high dome. A wide circular alabaster pool carved with aquatic creatures jutted out from an outcropping of sandstone in the back wall of the room, the only feature in the room save for the floor not sculpted. A trickle of water dripped from a crack in the outcropping into a puddle within the pool. Surely, this was the Spring of Athis!

As they took this in, the party heard the tapping of metal on stone, and approached the noise, to discover a grizzled old human stonecarver. He invited them to sit and rest, and asked a few questions. His name was Memphis and he had been working here a long time. He affirmed that this was indeed the Spring of Athis, but,

it’s not really working right now. It’s sick, and the only way to fix it is to get to the heart of the problem. The heart of the problem is in the heart of the hill, through the way of the dead.

Memphis explained that this had been a house of healing in the City of Pazar, until the last ruler called a curse on the place. Until his curse is lifted, the Spring cannot flow again. Darmok asked to taste the water and found it extremely clear, clean, cool and refreshing, but no magical effect. After questioning Memphis further about the nature of his being, and receiving coy responses, the characters left the Dome for the wagon, finding gnoll tracks on the way.

To The Palace

Toughest Foe – Three Hyenadons

After resting, healing and memorizing spells, Allynfred tracked the gnolls almost a mile south, to a large, mostly intact two-story structure with decorated bronze double doors and brass-barred windows. After peering through the gap in the open doors, Darmok and Garath bravely stepped through into a once-elegant ballroom where several gnolls demanded to see their pass. The two fighters rushed the gnolls, followed closely by the halfling and dwarf, and encountered arrow fire from a balcony ahead. The gnolls kicked over a basket, allowing two spitting cobras to slither out and spit at Darmok and Garath; Rebamac joined the fray at this point, leaving Exex, Chees and Bobill at the doors. The two snakes were easily chopped up, Paddy ran the stairs and Rebamac got axed from behind by a gnoll hiding in the corner. As the fight intensified the gnolls barked, whistled and retreated, to soon fall to the adventurer’s blades; Garath pursued a remaining, wounded gnoll to the back of the balcony, tackling it only to have it turn and bite him. An angry Garath snapped it’s neck. The spellcasters had entered the ballroom only to see three huge hyena-like creatures bounding for them, though one turned up the stairway. A lion-headed gnoll-like creature followed them into the room. Chees was badly wounded in this attack, and Rebamac ran to her aid to heal her. Darmok’s Boots of Striding and Springing brought him face-to-face with the leonine humanoid as the rest of the party took on the hyenadons. Bobill cast Invisibility on himself during the melee, and stayed out of the fight.

All foes were eventually dispatched and the characters continued on through the ballroom into a throne room, a dining room and kitchen apparently still in use, and down a hallway. Through a half-open door here they entered a barracks room of gnolls and proceeded to engage them in a martial way. As this group was finished off, two polearms thrust into Allynfred from the open doorway behind him, and three more gnolls were now in the fight. The last of these had his knees sliced open with a roll of 20 by Paddy, and was overborne and questioned.

The party learned that a tomb structure was nearby behind the hill, and that the “bosses” were in the palace upstairs, and they had “scary magic”. The party now debated a course of action, Paddy decided to finish off the gnoll, and play ended for the night.

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Book Three, Chapter Three - The Dome, Part Three
Things are definitely not always what they seem...

The South Cellar and the Upper Level

Toughest Loss – the half-elf Rebamac losing a point of Wisdom

Most Dangerous Foe – the beast-woman (c’mon, it’s a lamia)

Most Cunning Foe – Gargoyles and their attacks of opportunity

Most Helpful Item – flaming oil

On their next outing the troupe went to the rear, west section of the main floor, finding a great room with eight long, shallow pools, empty but crusted with greenish-white minerals. Two side rooms had valves and huge, spider-like insects that were easily killed and caused minimal damage to the barbarian. Turning the bronze valves didn’t seem to do anything, so the party chose to go back downstairs to the north cellar. They followed the south passage to a west-running hallway, which turned south; a fissure had broken into the wall here and the party crept through into a high-ceilinged cavern. Reflections from the rear indicated a pool of water, and they proceeded cautiously, carefully monitoring the ceiling’s stalactites for nasty cave beasties. Sure enough, a stalactite was seen creeping over the party’s heads; they shot a couple arrows at it and it loosed itself over Rebamac’s head. It missed and hit the cavern floor, tipping over to expose a soft, hermit-crab-like underside which was easily killed; it had a hard, stony shell nearly identical to a stalactite.

Nearly a dozen of these monsters dropped on the party, a couple scoring hits on party members, including Garath. The pool turned out to be water, fed by a slow trickle from the west wall, and flowing in a shallow narrow stream south, disappearing through a crack. The water was unexceptional and had a mineral taste, but probably potable still. Another fissure led to an opening in a medium-sized, oddly-shaped room which had two more of the large ovens, with great iron grills – but they had grills on the other side, and so might lead to another room. Testing one, Paddy found it rusted shut, and the barbarian and paladin then attempted to Bend Bars and remove one.

As the party was distracted by this, Bobill screamed and the characters turned to see a man-sized, batlike, horned horror had it’s claws in him and was flapping madly to lift the mage off the floor. It was tackled and hacked, and the cleric’s attended to Bobill’s wounds. Allynfred was put in the rear to guard against further surprises, and the grill were removed, allowing Paddy to determine that the ovens passed between this kitchen and the hexagonal room. From there it was on to another large room that was overgrown with mold and fungi, at least two dozen reddish to purplish mushrooms waist-high or larger. Not getting too close, Paddy and Garath threw flaming oil at the closest sprouts until a sizeable passage was made, and then they could investigate one last passageway on the west side of this chamber. It was a long tunnel running west then south, terminating in a 20’ square room with a square pool in the southwest corner. Exex had a rope tied to her and swam to the bottom, about 12’ deep, checking for cracks, loose stones, and a 2” diameter hole in the bottom. Like the cavern, nothing unusual about the water, potable but not tasty, and no secret doors.

They finished their explorations of a couple other rooms, apparently pantries or storage rooms which were infested with human-sized iridescent scarab beetles. These bothers were dispatched and the rooms found to hold nothing valuable, but during the fights three more gargoyles attacked the party while distracted. At this point, looking at their mapping, they determined there was nothing left to explore down here and elected to chance the stairs across from the building’s main entrance, heading up to the second floor.

Bas-relief chamber

The stairs brought them into a 70-foot diameter chamber, a 20’ diameter pool in its center, the ceiling slightly domed. The entire wall surface of this chamber, and the two passages out, were carved in bas-relief sculptures. Every square inch had been chiseled in realistic, elaborate detail with scenes of angelic and otherworldly creatures in combat with demonic beings, as well as scenes of worship and conquest. Fragments and flakes of chiseled stone littered the rooms’s edges, and the pool was shallow and covered with dust. Finding nothing else of value, the group exited through the north passage and entered a chamber where they were attacked by a strange beast resembling a cross between a coyote and a zebra. As they fought it, a dervish woman ran from an archway behind the party and begged them to follow her to safety. Immediately suspicious, the party refused and Rebamac stepped forward to cast Know Alignment on the woman, who backed away and muttered a spell of her own. Suddenly there were four of her, each bounding across the room to attack a different person. As the zebra-beast fell Darmok called upon his sword’s power to Dispel Magic and three of the dervishes disappeared, leaving a large, centaur-like creature with a wickedly curved knife standing in front of Rebamac. The poor half-elf had just taken a strike from the dagger and felt a mental loss; her enemy, with the upper torso, arms and head of a woman and a lower body similar to a lion, now attempted to Charm one of the fighters. Everyone joined in the attack on this creature and dispatched it, and wounds were healed; Rebamac discovered she had lost a point of Wisdom. Along with the knife, the beast-woman had a copper ring and wore a key on a loop about her neck.

The back rooms, which may have been offices and now served as the beast’s lair, were entered, but since they saw nothing but an old, broken bedframe piled with skins and furs, they left without thoroughly searching. Desparation, disappointment, exasperation, call it what you will, the desire to either find treasure or the Spring was burning in our intrepid adventurers, so they crossed a hallway and began entering doorways. One by one, each room was found to be an apartment painted in a different color, appointed with once-elegant furniture, now ravaged by time and worthless. One apartment was missing a bed, but drag marks on the floor led to the woman-beast’s lair. At the end of the hall the archway entered a long dining room whose decayed tables and sandstone floor were covered with guano, and four huge long-tailed bats shrieked their displeasure. Though the bats snapped at the fighters and struck with their tails, they didn’t connect much and were slaughtered.

Returning to the circular entryroom, the characters travelled through the south passage and into an empty vestry, then a curving hall with many small spartan rooms, but nothing of obvious value. As they reached the end of the hall, a slightly larger room, Shadows emptied into the hall to attack. Chees and Rebamac turned undead successfully and the Shadows retreated back into their rooms. Play ended for the night here.

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Book Three, Chapter Three - The Dome, Part Two
A mino-Tour of the place...

The North Cellar and the South Wing

Trickiest Foe – the Minotaurs

Toughest Foe – the Minotaurs

Most Beset-Upon Party Member – Paddy the Tallfellow, Halfling Fighter/Thief

With Paddy in the lead the party descended the steps about twenty feet or so to find themselves in a large room with three passageways leading out in the north end and one in the south end. The once-whitewashed, smooth-walled chamber featured much broken furniture and furniture frames of ancient, dry, cracked wood, toppled braziers and brass sconces in the walls. Huge, humanoid footprints were easily seen in the dust and sand on the floor, heading for the south passage. After some discussion, everyone decided to investigate the north passages first, which led to a supply room and two laboratories, the larger of which was infested with a mold that had grown out of one of the pots and across the room; the area behind the mold seemed covered by a slight haze, but a workbench and alchemical apparatus were visible there. There was some debate about how to deal with the mold, and finally Darmok, having immunity to disease, elected to try pouring oil on it – I ruled this was an acceptable use of oil for a paladin, since it wasn’t a combat scenario. The mold was set afire and a path created, but no one wanted to try passing through the haze, so they tested it with missile weapons and discovered those bounced right off it with a metallic sound. Garath braved the test and found the hazy wall was a solid wall of metal; feeling his way along, he found a door and lever handle, and easily opened it. This invisible wall created a sealed workspace in the back of the lab, and now the adventurers grabbed whatever bowls, flasks, beakers, and mortar and pestle seemed worthwhile.

Eager for action, they now followed the prints down the south passage and turned left at an intersection; this new passage had several archways on each side, and the place stunk. The first room brought them face-to-face with a troll, which was quickly killed and burned; they hurried to next room across and down the hall. Spying a brass lamp on a table visible from the hall, Paddy stepped into the room and was flattened by the open door crashing down on him, followed by a large male troll that jumped on the door to take on the fighters. A hurt Paddy wiggled out as the fight ended only to see a female troll rush in from a back archway, angry and screaming. She, too, soon fell and the troll chambers were searched for treasure. A room across the hall was filled with troll cast-offs, bones and armor and clothing and feces. Fearing nasty surprises or disease, this room was left alone.

Further on the party discovered bronze pipes and valves running along the ceilings, a brickroom full of sandstone block and ceramic bricks, and a hexagonal-shaped room with four great white-brick ovens built into the walls. Still seeking treasure and the Spring of Athis, the characters returned to the steps and explored the back part of the ground floor, finding a maze of small rooms with tables and beds all carved from the sandstone of the hill, but nothing more. They then passed through the main hallway, past the large double entrance and a grand stairway up, and into the south wing. Again first into the rooms, Paddy was trapped by a huge, flat stone colored-and-textured creature that dropped from the ceiling and began smothering him. Spells were cast and blunt weapons used on the monster, which died after a few rounds. Several coins were the only valuable recovered, so the party turned and proceeded to the back of this wing.

Here they encountered many crude traps and three minotaurs, two working as a team to flank the party, hurling javelins before engaging with their great bardiches and goring with their horns. Once these foes were defeated the party scrupulously checked for more traps and treasure, finding some buried in the dust of a flowerpot and finding a set of steps going down. In another maze-like rear section of small rooms with stone beds, tables, and basins, a brass-and-silver coffer held brass and electrum surgeon’s tools wrapped in rotting silk. Bruised and bloodied, everyone trudged back to the wagon to rest.

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Book Three, Chapter Three - The Dome
An extensive, pitched battle...

Entering the Dome Structure

It was nearing dusk when the adventurers again climbed the stairs and entered the structure’s plaza, finding a waterless pool filled with sand and dust and dried feces. The building itself seemed carved right out of the sandstone hillside, pillared stone-block wings extending eastward on either side of the plaza; the group chose to enter in an open door in the north wing, rather than the two great main doors near the pool. Paddy went first, followed by Garath and Darmok, with spellcasters in the middle and Allynfred the dwarf bringing up the rear. As the rest of the party began to enter and Paddy began checking for traps, figures rose up behind large empty flowerpots and fired crossbow bolts, immediately retreating through an open archway behind them at the end of the room.

The characters set a formation and the fighters moved into the next room, providing cover for the spellcasters, and were immediately beset by missile fire from behind mantlets and more flowerpots. Paddy, Garath, Darmok, and Allynfred fanned out into the room to engage the archers and a wave of swarthier fighters in chain and shield stepped out to meet them. The spellcasters began casting Sleep, Hold, and Magic Missiles into the room. The fighting was fierce, but the party eventually began to gain the upper hand, though Bobill and Exex had to retreat to safety back through the doorway. When just a handful of the tougher enemy fighters remained, their captain called out a strange command and they broke formation, charging the doorway where the spellcasters were. Our fighters routed the enemy, slaying all but the captain who then made a run through an open door in the south wall.

The Barbarian pursued the fugitive down a hall, with Paddy and Darmok close behind, only to have a pair of huge hyena-like beasts as big as worgs leap right over the captain and tear into Garath and Darmok. A big old scarred gnoll with a military fork jumped in and helped his “pets” battle our crew.

When all the carnage was over, bodies were searched but there was little coin to be taken and no magic. Exploring the next room revealed the gnoll hyenadon-master’s sleeping area and steps going down. These rooms had once been bright, whitewashed, and colorfully tiled and appointed with brass fixtures. Rather than checking out the west and south sections, the party voted to descend the steps.

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Book Three, Chapter Three - Pazar
Sometimes a sinkhole is just a sinkhole...

The City of Pazar

Most Clever Monster – The Troll with the net

Most Amusing Diversion – Sinkhole diving

Foe That Got Away – Giant crocodile

Within a couple hours the party reached Pazar:

Pazar

You pass north through the gap in the high dunes to see the ruins of an ancient city half-buried in the dust and sand, scattered throughout a very shallow valley formed mostly by a steep hill to the west. Mazes of weathered and broken stone walls run throughout the vista in front of you, some connected by sections of roads constructed by wide granite block. Low dunes of fine sand or dust lap over parts of roads and foundations and against still-standing walls, walls which just as often tilt at odd angles as stand straight, and many blocks of granite and sandstone dot the landscape like islands in a rolling sea of desolation. Most of the very few intact structures are small single-story buildings carved from blocks of sandstone or harder granite, featuring square pilasters, wide-block door bulkheads, and tall, thin windows. What roofs are left are flat block or very low peaked slabs, with little in the way of ornamentation, save for interlocking geometric patterns, which also appear on some of the structures.

Spying the domed building atop the hill they decided to go straight to the hill, but detoured to the lakebed as they thought perhaps a spring might be there. Discovering a sinkhole on the way, Paddy had himself tied with a rope and entered the shifty sand, trying to dig deeper into it, looking for secret entrances, perhaps. They spent two turns at this, Paddy having to be pulled out every so often, before concluding it was a waste of their time. Now Paddy, Exex, Allynfred, and Rebamac descended into the empty lakebed, traipsing along it’s dried and cracked bottom for over half-a-mile before spotting what looked like muddy water in the shaded northern portion. Proceeding cautiously, Paddy checked the puddle and found it was rather briny, dirty water thick with mud – then the puddle surged and splashed as a gigantic crocodile burst forth and tried to take the halfling for a snack. Paddy was hurt but had avoided being swallowed, and his compadres began attacking the enormous reptile, which retreated back into the water. Stunned and angry, the characters hiked back up to the rest of the party and pressed on to the hill.

They heeded the dervishes’ advice and didn’t even attempt to enter any structures, just followed the sections of road, checking for sinkholes, and killed a giant scorpion which was out hunting, until they reached a gully running from the hill to the lake; a stone bridge crossed the empty streambed. Seeing no apparent danger, the party and wagon crossed the bridge, but halfway across were ambushed by two trolls that swung up onto the bridge, one at each end. The troll at the north end immediately tossed a large net, trapping Darmok, Garath, and Paddy, and then began pummeling the helpless adventurers. As they struggled to cut themselves free, it was up to the rest of the party to take out the trolls. Eventually the regenerating beasts were defeated, burned, and their treasure found in hiding places below the bridge. The take was meager, nothing of any real consequence.

Dome of Elish

On the other side of the bridge were steps leading up the hill, past great crumbling terraces, to the domed building. Our gang elected to set up camp here, quartering the horses under an awning strung between the wagon and the bottom terrace. Leaving Trathonax the Ranger to watch the camp, everyone else proceeded up the steps. They were greeted at the top by a huge, lion-headed leathery-winged beast with brass scales; it leapt and landed in front of them, and spoke in Common, demanding tribute to pass. When they refused and insulted it it roared, weakening and deafening some. One of the mages cast a Silence 15’ radius on it’s location, but it then leapt up, over the fighters in front and landed on Bobill, raking him. The fighters all vigorously attacked the monster, breaking the magic-user free, and it roared again. By the end of the battle the creature was dead and much healing ensued, and a treasure stash was found beneath a huge flagstone that took the three fighters to move. Allynfred and Bobill decided that camp should be made right there, and so they slept and kept watch.

Near the end of the third watch screams for help were heard from Trathonax at the wagon, far below at the base of the hill. Everyone ran down to help, but by the time they arrived the Ranger was walking back to the wagon, having killed a couple gnolls that tried to kill him and raid the wagon. The gnolls’ tracks were followed to a low stone building which other gnolls used as a hideout – the party barged in and slew the whole group. They went back to the wagon and finished resting and recovering spells there.

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