Monday, March 28, 2011

Dungeons of the Cairn Hills: Session 3

Time now for the third installment- we were one player down this week with Pete doing an evening shift- so, with seven players and one DM- a cosy, intimate evening of gaming for a change ;) ...

The party: Yulnari, male L1 Paladin (played by George. Speaking with earnest confidence now, intent on leading the party towards lofty goals...)
                Myrna, female human L1 Cleric of Myhriss, devoutly seeking wealth for construction of a chapel in the Free City ( played by Michael)
                Arrmand, male L1 Ranger, local man and trail wanderer of the Cairn Hills (played by Adam)  
                Tzunir, male Baklunish L1 Illusionist, a fellow impressively moustached, a traveller from Ekbir, and budding amateur zoologist (played by Lachlan)
                Ledivis, male human L1 Fighter, a warrior of an honourable fighting order, from unknown distant lands. A forthright deal-broker (played by Mick)
                Faralin, male Elven L1 Thief, urchin of the Free City, the unluckiest elf  I've met (played by Lewis)
                Cashmir, male human Magic User L1, brilliant, silent, mysterious (played by Jimmy.)

We had left the group upon their arrival back in the grubby mining town of Diamond Lake, lugging sacks of  copper coins, silver-filled amphorae and a handful of more precious jewelled relics. The party seemed relatively unscathed after various encounters with giant rats and giant ferrets- and a much more unnerving encounter with a hideous robed ghoul that almost slew the fighter, Ledivis, with its flesh-numbing claws. Struggling not to drop the slippery tear-shaped urns in the drizzling rain that had settled in, they stumbled towards the heart of the town down muddy streets, glowering at the groups of bleary and unshaven townsmen who watched them with undisguised curiosity from door-stoops and alleyways. Deciding that the new Able Carter Coaching Inn offered the best balance of thrift and security, they settled in to divvy up their loot and bed down for the night.

In the early hours Arrmand awoke feverish, the rat-bite on his calf swollen and discoloured. Horrified at the awful infection, which seemed to be spreading before his very eyes, Arrmand sought the aid of his companions, whereupon the paladin, Yulnari, prayed earnestly to Heironeous to cleanse the diseased wound. Almost instantly recovering, Arrmand looked upon his companion with new feelings of awe and gratitude. 
Clearly the group would need tobe  wary around the filthy vermin nesting in the caves at Lonesome Hill.

The next morning Myrna cast Detect Magic, seeking signs of any dweomer upon the artifacts recovered from the ghoul’s cave/crypt, but the items, though certainly precious, were not enchanted. The adventurers sent out a group to the shop of the local Gnome Jeweller and Gemcutter, Tidwoad. Taking note of the dangerous looking mercenary who glowered at them from where he stood, towering protectively over his employer, the group presented their coin, seeking exchange in semi-precious stones and gold, and proferred for his appraisal the golden signet ring, jewelled silver bracelets and large golden key. After a careful assessment, Tidwoad offered them such a quantity of gold for the trinkets that the fortunes of the group were basically altered on the spot. Various enterprises suddenly became plausible, one being the purchase or commission of plate armour for the fighters and the cleric. Before the sale could be finalised, however, they wanted to seek advice regarding the strange sigil inscribed upon the signet ring.

Making enquiries as to the presence of erudite or knowledgeable entities hereabouts, nothing of note was found in the various public houses and shops. Ledivis and Yulnari, however, upon visiting the restored fortress which served as garrison for the local Greyhawk military based in the town, met by chance the cartogropher Dietrik Cicaeda, a resident at the keep. Having heard of the group’s success at an unknown ruin in the hills to the north, Dietrik made enquiries himself of them regarding the details of the ruin. Upon being shown the strange trinket with its vaguely star-shaped pictogram, he confessed ignorance as to its meaning. Apparently  deciding, however,that the group were a trustworthy lot, he offered to introduce them to Allustan, Diamond Lake’s eccentric and anti-social sage- an authoritive enthusiast of the various burial-cairns of the Cairn Hills.

An interview with Allustan followed in short order. They found him to be a rather dusty and disheveled character, surly at first but very interested once he discovered the party had been traipsing about in a hill-cairn. He made a wax imprint of the sigil, then interrogated the pair at some length regarding the ruin. He told them, for nothing, that he was sure a that a holy man- of a faith that ecaped him at the moment- had been interred north of Diamond Lake some centuries ago- he could make a study as to the details. He also said he was certain he could identify the import of the ring’s inscription- but stated bluntly that all of this would interfere with his own, more important studies. He would only agree to work on the basis of a one week commission- at a mere 50gp per day so long as the group would agree to give him detailed  information about what they discovered in the hills. The fighter and the paladin decided that this price was somewhat too steep...

The rest of the group took issue with this position upon their return, however. Cashmir, himself somewhat experienced with sages, informed them that 50gp per day was in fact exceedingly reasonable. Others in the group expressed the possible merits of establishing relations with a sage who knew so much about local dungeons. Somewhat sheepishly, having furnished themselves with sufficient funds by selling off their trinkets, the pair hired Allustan after all. 

Next they looked into having three suits of platemail fashioned for themselves and Myrna. Myrna herself  arranged to have an iron torch-sconce bolted on to her wooden shield! Having initially flashed around their gold and brokered the deal for the armour with the town’s stern blacksmith, Osgood, they balked upon discovering that such crafting would require the work of ninety days. Offers by Osgood to have armour imported from the Free City were also refused, and they left the almost empty-handed blacksmith fuming. Unwise conduct, and somewhat unseemly for a Paladin, methinks...

Another night was spent in town- a quiet one for most of the group, though the burly southerner, Bronzetoad, took to carousing with some of the locals, settling in for a bender, and puzzling everyone by spending a drunken evening hurling stones at a tree on the edge of town which had been ‘Looking at him funny’ The group left early for Lonesome Hill the next morning without Bronzetoad, who was no-doubt sleeping it off somewhere or other...

Managing to make their way to Lonesome Hill before midmorning without misfortune (largely due to the efforts of the ranger, Arrmund), the group again accessed the dungeon via the cave they had used before. Many of the rat and ferret corpses were missing, though rancid fleshy fragments remained. The intrepid band made use of Arrmund’s scrawled map by torch and lantern light, and soon found themselves quite close to the ghoul’s sandy crypt. Determining to explore a side passage on the way, they encountered another large group of horrid giant rats. These they dispatched in short order, although not without the fighter, Ledivis, and the elven theif Faralin both being bitten by the filthy-fanged rodents. Despite this, both Ledevis and Tzunir the illusionist decided to take into their care tiny pink hairless ratlings that were found in the nest, ignoring the protests of the  paladin that they should be destroyed. Tzunir took a whole clutch of them in his sack, six in total. Ledevis decided to call his rat Boris!

In the former crypt of the undead monster the group found that the corpse was gone. Arrmund examined the sandy floor for any tracks, and after reflecting declared that several bootless humanoids had come from deeper in the dungeon, apparently dismembered the remains, and then departed again by the same route with the body-parts (CSI Greyhawk!).  Looking with a shiver at the sharp-clawed footprints indicated by the ranger, and shining their bullseye lantern dubiously down the tunnel, the party thought better of continuing in this direction, and decided instead to explore the worked stone passage they had found upstairs.  

There they found, filing out of the narrow tunnel in single file, a badly damaged mosaic decorating the walls, an archway at either end of the hall, and to the south of the eastern arch, an ornately carved wooden door, which had been boarded over from this side and marked with the crude image of a skull in black paint. Discussing what to do quietly as a group, it was determined to withdraw into the natural tunnel somewhat, while the elven theif listened carefully and looked into the adjoining archways with his infravision. 

Their torchlight and discourse had already done the damage, however. Faralin, crouching in the opening, discerned a a small humanoid figure, likewise crouching down watching him with a javelin at the ready in the chamber to the west. Apparently aware that it had been spotted, it ducked behind an archway, just as the sound of rapidly approaching footfalls became discernable to the southwest...

Faralin quickly alerted his comrades, who, steeling themselves for sudden battle, formed up in the corridor to resist their onrushing assaillants. A band of smallish snub-nosed humanoids with wild hair and hodge-podge armour, weilding crude wood and flint morningstars and javelins, charged in furiously to assault the paladin and the fighter in the party’s front rank. Urging them on with gutteral shouts, a man-sized fellow with yellow skin, slanted eyes and a blueish upturned nose flourished a larger morning star and spat gobbets of filth at their feet. The leader did not last long, however, felled by consecutive arrows to the stomach and neck, fired from over the paladin’s shoulder by the ranger, Arrmand. A javelineer, too, was felled by a well placed slingstone hurled by Faralin. Then the heroes whooped in triumph, as the first wave of goblins fell beneath the swords of Ledivis and Yulnari.

Myrna, defending the rear and shining her bullseye lantern into the hall to the east, shouted a warning- more creatures were approaching from that direction, apparently attracted by the sounds of conflict. Quickly, the ranger moved back to help the magic-user, illusionist and cleric to hold the line. The party was surrounded!

Two more goblins, leading a huge ferret on a chain, had rushed up a set of stairs there, and hurling insults, prepared to overwhelm the spellcasters. No sooner had the ferret been loosed, however, than it was blinded by a Light spell cast by the love-priestess Myrna. As it writhed in anguish it was quickly peppered with darts, and lay still.

Poor Faralin was just as unlucky- his efforts to find partial cover in the cave-mouth apparently only goaded on the marksmanship of the goblins- he was skewered by two javelins, and crumpled senseless to the floor, gushing his lifeblood as the battle continued. 

The nerve of the goblins failed altogether, however, as the second rank of warriors were cut down by the staunch steel wall that was Ledevis and Yulnari. Others were slain as they tried to flee, although two goblins did manage to escape- one down the stairs to the east, and another up a western set of stairs that led, as the party would discover, to the ruined tower above.

In place of pursuit the party instead opted to lend aid to their fallen comrade, and search the corpses of the goblins. Having gathered some electrum coins, and also a few gold pieces from the hobgoblin, they explored the chamber to the east, finding, apart from the stairs leading down further into the depths, another boarded up skull-painted door to the south. They also more closely examined the mosaics in the few legible areas. Yulnari was astonished to discover by that means that apparently a holy man of the church of Heironeous had been interred here some centuries past. Could this be the crypt of that beloved priest of Heironeous, Saint Ulther? He was deeply saddened that such a sacred place could become the lair of horrid monsters.

To the west, the group found a filthy barracks-room for the goblins, and beyond it, a better (though still foul) chamber, apparently for the use of the hobgoblin. Here, beneath a table, they found a large locked trunk. Alas, Faralin, although healed by the divine magic of the goddess of love, Myhriss, was weak and only semi-conscious- he would be of no use for some time. As the paladin was preparing to smash the trunk with the hobgoblin’s morning star, Arrmand cleverly searched the table, and turning it over, found a key nailed to the underside. This fit the stout padlock, and, upon opening the trunk, five rabbitskin bags were found, each containing a thousand silver coins. Checks for a false bottom availed nothing, however.

And so, with the party leaving the Lonesome Hill Dungeon once again, we close the curtain upon another session. For our next episode, they plan to return to the Free City of Greyhawk, to purchase suits of platemail, before heading back to Diamond Lake and Lonesome Hill Dungeon once again...

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