The first part of the session was that least fun element of gaming, bookkeeping. The PCs needed to spend their monthly upkeep and their retainer fees. We had to level some characters up, including a handful of the hirelings. I also realized I was handling retainer morale and calamities incorrectly. So after sorting that out, they set about seeing to it that the arcanists could learn new spells and ignore the weak ones that their masters wanted to teach them.
The wounded, weakened party crawled to the entrance of the priest’s cave. They deposited the wounded with Lairn and Alren, after they explained that they were going to try to rescue the two henchmen. Lucian came with them to get Nethren back.
They made their way with the wounded Bone Shaker back to the lower level of the cave and then up the northern passage he told them about. They tried to bust down the door to the torture chamber, but Alfric was having an off day thanks to his injuries (two 1’s in a row!). Finally, they did manage to burst the door down, only to find themselves facing a tall, broad figure wearing chainmail and carrying a great sword. His face was covered by a leather sack with torn holes for eyes.
He and the party fought a brief, bloody battle. He nearly clove Lucian in half with a strong blow from his sword, but the Tryshallan twisted away at the last moment (2 hp remaining!).
But while he was unbalanced, Alfric smashed him in the face with his shield and knocked him out (they decided to resuscitate the torturer and rolled a 20, so he was merely dazed). They freed their friends and then escaped the caves.
The journey back to the fort was tense, and when they arrived, they saw a terrible sight.
After resting, the Prefect spoke to them and asked what they intended to do. They said they were heading to Threshold, so he asked if they would take the prisoners to Threshold along with the letter, which they agreed to do.
Threshold was in the middle of a festival, with street performers, singers, bards, actors, acrobats and other wildness. Only a day away, men fought and died, facing beastmen, undead, and even a dragon, while here the city partied as though there was no threat. The group was less than amused.
In Threshold, they met the Tribune who took the prisoners and offered to send what troops he could spare to Restwell.
Decius came to visit them and warned them that envoys from the Principality of Aardmoor had arrived in the city a couple of weeks ago and offered the Tribune a large sum of gold for the ‘political prisoner’ Otho. The party couldn’t believe the Tribune had let them go so easily. Decius said he’d argued against it, but gold and political alliances made a far stronger argument than he could. At least, he added, they envoys did not look pleased with Otho, and she left more in the manner of a prisoner than a princess.
After that, the party began to rest and recoup. Long Tom found the two best tailors in town and offered them a competition to make a mask, the best mask they could make. He would pay them 250 gold for parts and labor and the winner would get an additional 100 gp. When the masks were delivered, he sent them up to Anika, who had been hiding in her room ever since she recovered. A short while later she came down the stairs, wearing a red leather mask with golden inlay, designed to mimic the classically beautiful statues of Old Valas.
Other interesting things that happened… Lucian spent time with the priests of Dakanan and they, upon hearing the rumors of a dragon were true, decided to send some acolytes to the keep to help. Long Tom found out that an attractive blond woman had been asking around about him. And the axe they left in town to be sold over a month ago had found a buyer.
So the party remembered they had a magical divining statue and went and asked it where Jayna was (they assumed she was the blond hunting Long Tom), whether Otho was still in town, and whether there were any agents of the Inverted Spire in the city. Jayna’s location was the Raven’s Heart, while the other questions came up negative.
On their way there, Lucian asked, “Is this woman a priestess of the moon?”
“Yeah,” Long Tom said.
“Oh, that’s all right then. We can only see her god because of my god.” (he worships Dakanan, the god of the sun)
In Raven’s Heart, they found the priestess receiving the attention of two young performers. When she saw Long Tom, she dismissed the others. They scowled at Long Tom, but when they saw the rough dwarf and tryshallan in tow, they immediately made themselves scarse.
She was pleased to see them, but Alfric cut the small talk short. “What do you want?”
Jayna blinked a few moments, and then shrugged. “Direct, I like that. Well, I was hoping that I could spend some time sleeping with Long Tom, if you must know.”
“Oh, well, how about five gold a pop then,” Alfric said. “I think he’s about worth that. We can split it,” he said to Lucian.
A few awkward moments later, she sighed and warned the party they were making a name for themselves in all the wrong places. She knew all about the Inverted Spire, because she’d been there. They’d courted her and her sisters, the Nightmasks, trying to get them to ally and help over throw Threshold when the time came. In exchange, they were offered Threshold. Jayna thought it an empty offer because she imagined the beastmen tribes and barbarian tribes they were trying to organize might well want to lay claim to it as well. But basically, she had no interest in helping a bunch of necromancers turn some place into a blasted wasteland.
In exchange for taking her on as a full member, she would take them to the Inverted Spire and help them assault it. The party spent the night drinking and haggling, mostly to get a feel for her. She struck them as capable and willing to participate, and not at all a knife wielding sociopath that was going to shank them in their sleep. She did not seem too bothered by Lucian’s lawful affiliation, making a few teasing comments now and then, but nothing worth picking a fight over. She even said she had hoped to see Kenan-Tal again.
So the party decided they would make arrangements to go back to the caves and clear out the champion if he remained. They sent Raak (their hireling Seneschal) to sell the magic dagger they’d had in their lockbox for ages and get some mercenaries. Since the Inverted Spire was several days into the wilderness, Jayna recommended hiring a large group to hold a base camp (i.e. allow them have a safe place to rest and recuperate).
That dealt with, they journeyed back to Restwell. The tribune’s soldiers were there, thankfully, and wooden palisades and barricades had been set up in front of the keep’s entrance. But there had been no attacks since the last.
They warned the Prefect about Otho being freed, just in case it became an issue later. Then they travelled up to the Caves.
The caves were strangely silent. Lysander, recovered now from his injuries, noticed the tracks of many that seemed to lead away from the caves and were quite recent. Most of the corpses were gone now, though signs showed many had been dragged into the kobold caves. Alfric tossed one of the biggest remaining into the cave and waited.
After a few moments, they heard the ponderous steps of a well fed kobold. He thanked Alfric and they started a conversation. The kobold told him that now the kobolds ruled the caves because all the rest had left. He indicated only the temple remained untouched, and one other cave that had ‘monsters’ in it. I pointed out the that the word ‘monster’ in kobold was strangely close to the kobold words for ‘human’, ‘dwarf’, ‘elf’ and…well just about every humanoid. However, Alfric was now ‘NotMonsterDwarf’.
They decided to clear out the temple. They found the room they’d been warned would curse them if they robbed it, and 7000 gp worth of jewels embedded in a bone throne. One of the walls had dark shapes writhing on it, but all but Onara avoided looking at it and it made her resist some effect (which she did, but she didn’t know what it was).
After some debate, Long Tom blessed the throne and the alters. There was a sound like all the air leaving the room, and then the alters and throne exploded, flinging all the PCs to the ground. But that block that Long Tom felt between him and Sethi disappeared. So they picked up the gems and left.
In a lower chamber they found a crypt and in one of the sarcophagi, a wight waited. Long Tom turned it easily and they butchered it. Inside it’s sarcophagi they found a golden silver sword covered with tryshallan script that spelled out, ‘Dawnbringer’. Lucian claimed that immediately. They also found a helm and a silver and jeweled dagger.
In another room they encountered another gelatinous cube, which they quickly put down. It’s bits and bobs revealed some coins and what looked like a wand.
With that haul in hand, they decided to return to the keep before clearing the last cave.
It was a good session and we got a ton done, which made me happy.
We did some wrap up over email to try and get things back to where other characters could get involved. Here is some transcripts of what happened in the follow up. Sorry for the disjointed nature of this post, but it’s a quick paste up of the various emails that flew back and forth dealing with the interrogation. Mostly it’s between myself and Alfric’s player as Long Tom’s player was lost to Guild Wars 2 for the most part. After seeing the cost of the battle, Alfric goes kind of grimdark, so you have been warned:
Leaving the kobolds, the characters immediately dove into Bone Shaker’s cave. The dark halls were no more populated then they had been previously. They went south, to examine the chapel and make sure that it was empty. They found that it was much as they’d left it, though the tapestries were gone and only dried blood stained the floor. There were no corpses.
The characters made it back to the safety of the Keep before the sun fell below the horizon. They found the nearest guard and demanded to speak with the Prefect of the fort. The guard chewed his cud for a second or two and then asked why.
“Because an army of undead is headed this way to tear this fort down to dust!” Long Tom blurted out.
He’s an excitable sort our Long Tom.
We had a mix of people not being able to make it, while other people who hadn’t been there in awhile showing instead. I’ve started being a bit flippant about saying, “All right, you run back to camp and swap out.” In other games I’d probably just run people’s characters as NPCs, but with old school being so deadly and so player skill dependant, that just doesn’t feel right. Sadly, our sessions are rarely more than 3 hours, so the party doesn’t often have the time to make it back in a single session.