Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Tale of the Last Captain (part3)

Jezabell, Nuwah Kawah, William, Blu and Mandingo step through the gate after Daena Sabertooth.

They step into an underground cavern, somewhere deep under Skullcape. Daena explains the site is one of the last burial grounds remaining from the era before Manifest. These catacombs were used, she says, by the people who lived there long before there were any pirates on the waters Skullcape, and before the site was named as such. The sages of the area suspected these people were part of the Great Host that came to the Spires long ago and defeated the Lost Kingdom to the South. After all, some of the tombs down there seemed too large to belong to any human being, so who could these belong to, besides some of the giants, these "Hu Charad" of old?

Soon enough it seems clear the place is no longer at peace. As was the case in Ogrebound's cemetary, undead are roaming the corridors of the complex. Something or someone is awakening the dead all over the area! The heroes avoid traps and other hazards during their exploration, and finally meet Lo Careth, a friend of Daena, who found refuge in the catacombs when the pirates' camp was attacked by the forces of Hornsdeep.

But it is instantly apparent Lo Careth has changed somehow. It is clear he wants to kill Daena and her companions. He performs a ritual and changes into a hulking, raging beast. Some Rodhins appear out of nowhere and join the fray. A terrible battle follows while Daena, shocked at the change of her friend, is left to her thoughts, undecided.

Only when Lo Careth falls does she react, showing her suffering and pain as she looses a friend she trusted beyond all others. Whoever triggered this dramatic change in Lo Careth would have to pay. This is with this single thought in mind that she goes on through the corridors, going straight for one of the main burial chambers, knowing whoever would have come to the catacombs couldn't have resisted to the lust for treasures this place inspired.

Indeed, they find one of their enemies there. A Mojh who seems to know the heroes of Ogrebound. Jezabell and William remember the message they found in the possession of one of the bandits who attacked them on the road north to Ogrebound: this Mojh has to be connected to them somehow, but there is no time to ask questions. After a many blows and many spells have been exchanged, the Mojh is defeated, and the heroes are left with no answers to their questions.

Skullcape's Burial Grounds, Level 1
1- Entry point from the portal to the Surface
2- Undead Ambush and multiple traps
3- The cistern - access to Level 2 (see below)
4- Lo Careth and stairs to the above Burial Chamber
5- The Mojh and Burial Chamber
6- Room badly damaged over the time - access to Level 3 (see below)

Skullcape's Burial Grounds, Level 2 - Natural Caves
1- Access to Level 1 (see below and Level 1, #3- The Cistern)
2- Living area for the Inshons (with underwated access to #2a)
2a- Second Living area of the Inshons (with underwater access to #6)
3- Ante-chamber to one of the dragons' lair (with underwater access to #2a)
4- First twin's lair
5- Second twin's lair
6- Secret breeding chamber of the Inshons

The heroes of Ogrebound go on their search for the Last Captain and the access to the Trireme of the Doomed moored nearby.

Soon, the adventurers discover that a cistern nearby serves is in fact a flooded shaft leading to another, unexplored area of the complex. They decide to dive in, and after a few excruciating minutes holding their breaths, they emerge in natural caverns which serve as the breeding grounds of a tribe of Inshons.

But the Inshons are not really hostile to the newcomers. Indeed, two twin black dragons have been taking over this cave complex and ordering them around for the past while. They came in recently, they add, and they are waiting for someone. The heroes decide to help the Inshons out, but after trying to confront the twins, it becomes clear these dragons, who are in fact Mojh able to shapechange into black dragons, present an opposition far beyond their abilities. They flee the scene through the flooded tunnel where they came from.

The adventurers and Daena Sabertooth investigate further the first level of the burial grounds. They finally find a grand chamber where hundreds of bodies were piled up. Today, only their fragile bones remain as a legacy to their number and might. Opening the chamber causes many of these remains to crumble to dust, and the adventurers have to wait before entering.

When they finally do come in the room, it is obvious some sort of geological activity was at work some time after the complex's construction. This burial chamber was torn apart, and a huge rift was tearing the room apart right in the middle of it.

With no other options, the adventurers decide to climb down the natural opening. They soon discover yet another level to the complex, and instantly start to explore. This level was left untouched for centuries, and it is not long before they discover the tomb of the Last Captain. Daena helps summon the spirit, and then asks the permission to access the Trireme of the Doomed. The Last Captain's spirit agrees to the request if his visitors can bring him to rest. He explains how he was caught during one of his expeditions, and how he was brought back to Skullcape to be tortured and buried alive in the catacombs. One of the magisters who punished him created elemental seals around his tomb. His spirit was trapped until now, the seals stopping him from reaching the afterlife.

Only after defeating all the seals and talking to each of their elemental spirits could the adventurers free the Last Captain's spirit, and talk to each spirit they did. Their wits are rudely tested through riddles and enigmas inflicted upon them by the spirits (the Last Captain hated such things in his lifetime and could not bring himself to solve them, which was known by many just prior to his capture), but they finally manage to overcome all the difficulties cropping up in their way.

Skullcape's Burial Grounds, Level 3 - Tomb of the Last Captain
1- Water Seal
2- Air Seal
3- Earth Seal and access to Underdark mines
4- Fire Seal and access to the open sea (and Trireme)

Finally, before departing, the Last Captain agrees to take them to the Trireme of the Doomed. He leads them back to the Fire Seal, and there the heroes of Ogrebound see a small skiff just reaching the shore. They join the Last Captain on the skiff and leave the burial grounds.

The Trireme of the Doomed is a large ship moored near Skullcape. It looks as if it was sculpted from a single piece of ebony, and huge, heavy copper arabesques cover its hull. Its sails are all aged and shriveled. There is no crew to be seen.

The heroes follow the Last Captain up to the Trireme. A few minutes they wait, the Last Captain just standing there without uttering a word. Then, they see movement: at first, it is just a strange feeling, and the heroes do not know if they are just imagining things, but then, the movements, the forms and shapes become more distinct. They can make out some some arms, some legs, and finally some entire bodies... the crew came back from Beyond! Slowly, the Trireme moves and fends the waters of the High Lake. Soon, the heroes think, they would arrive to Laelith, their final destination. They would be able to deliver the Chalice of Life and Death, to Spellhold and thus keep the Maze sealed...

Next Time: The PCs' arrival to Laelith and their dealings with a cheating gambler!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Tale of the Last Captain (part2)

The Baron of Hornsdeep

November 21, 2004 (10 AM to 6 PM)

The Tower of Hornsdeep is a maze of dark corridors, stairs and rooms where torches spread a dim light on old withered walls and tapestries. After following the Chorrim for a while, Blu, Jezabell, Mandingo, Nuwah-Kawah and Jezabell enter a vast vaulted throne room. There, many goblins affected by the same strange disease that infected the villagers outside stand along a large corridor leading to the throne room. There, on the stairs climbing to the elevated throne, sits the Baron, and behind him, half-hidden by the shadows in the room, there is the translucent form of ghost. As the Baron stands to greet the newcomers, the ghost laughs at him and begins to taunt him, and our heroes see for the first time the extent of the madness that took over the Baron’s life.

They learn throughout the discussion that the Baron in fact usurped the throne by killing his elder brother. Since then, his spirit remains and taunts his betrayer. The Baron slowly fell down the pits of madness where he remained till this day.

Treating with the Baron isn’t easy. His shifting, alienated behavior prevents them from getting their point across for a while, but ultimately they do. They struck a bargain with the Baron: he gives them back Daena Sabertooth and all the other survivors of the sack of Skullcape and they bring back a cure to the “Green Plague”, the disease affecting the inhabitants of Hornsdeep. They accept and swear an oath with the help of the Baron’s éminence grise, a Mojh going by the name of “The Metarex”.

Daena and the other pirates are freed. The Metarex then asks another favor from our heroes: one of his apprentices attempted to transform into a Mojh but failed. His twisted body is preserved in a levitating metal coffin. The Metarex wants them to bring the coffin to one of his dear friends, in Laelith. They agree to his request, and off they are, back to Skullcape (Daena had the two last TempleCrystals on herself. How she succeeded in hiding them from the guards of Hornsdeep, one may just wonder).

A few hours later, they are back to the temple of Skullcape. Daena uses all four crystals to open a magical dimensional gate to the temple’s catacombs. There, she says, they would be able to seek the Last Captain of the Trireme of the Doomed, the last remaining ship moored at the Altalus’ mouth.

Next: Our heroes explore Skullcape's catacomb system.

The Tale of the Last Captain (part1)

After much debate between our heroes (Blu, Jezabell, Mandingo, Nuwah-Kawah and William), Maeve, Malvolo and the two faen of Spellhold, it is decided to lend the Chalice of Life and Death to Laelith and help keep the Maze underneath sealed, forever if may be.

A few artifacts were recovered during the search of the catacombs that followed our heroes’ battle against Ivor and Garsh. These are given, after study by Malvolo, to the adventurers leaving the village with the two faen.


Thus, Blu, William, Jezabell, Mandingo and Nuwah-Kawah travel down the Altalus river with Thendren Aranradh and the two faen. Their intention is to go up north to Hornsdeep, a citadel long owned – and long forgotten – by the God-King of Laelith, and decide there either to take a ship or to walk through Caras Calaedhon (the forest of the Sidhe) to reach the Holy City. But the travel isn’t as peaceful as could be expected: after a few hours of walk, they are ambushed by soldiers of Hornsdeep.

After a harsh fight, and some extensive search of the mercenaries’ corpses, the heroes find a note explaining their purpose here. The note reads (click on the picture to see full size):

It looks like these Hornsdeep soldiers where not sent by the Baron – but who? And what is this “cause” M. keeps talking about? This, our heroes will have to find out by themselves.

Dead Pirates

November 01, 2004 (10 AM to 6 PM)

They decide to go on and avoid Hornsdeep in case other mercenaries wait for them there. They go instead along the coast to the nearby pirate settlement of Skullcape. Hornsdeep and Skullcape have been in competition for the control of the Altalus’ mouth for some time, but when the heroes arrive at the settlement, this is to find it utterly destroyed, it ruins still smoking.

After visiting what remains of the settlement, our heroes realize that all the pirate ships have been sunk but one, a black trireme moored not far from the coastline, down the cliff on which Skullcape was located. There doesn’t seem to be any crew onboard, nor any way to gain access to the boat from the coastline.

A ruin in the settlement seems to stand aside, however. This building seems to have been some kind of temple or shrine. Four pillars of stone still stand within this ruin, and they are each bearing a socket. They have to be some kind of keyholes. They decide to camp within the ruins, pondering about these discoveries.

They are awakened by ghosts, literally. These spirits of the dead pirates did not find rest and wish their bodies to be taken south to Manifest, which stands above the physical Gates to the Underworld (or so the story goes). They confirm the heroes suspicions about the pillars and sockets: these are indeed the keyholes to a dimensional door leading below, to the ancient catacombs which existed well before the pirates settled in the region. It was thought better to seal these catacombs, and to keep the keys under the protection of their spiritual leader, Daena Sabertooth, a litorian witch. The settlement was attacked a few days prior to the coming of the heroes. Daena was taken prisoner, but she managed to hide one of the keys within the settlement’s boundaries. The ghosts lead the heroes to this key, a wand-shaped crystal, in exchange for their corpses to be carried to Manifest by Thendren Aranradh. The ghosts also indicate that through the catacombs one may gain access to the Trireme the Doomed moored not far. The goal seems now clear: find Daena, have the three other crystal keys back, and go through the catacomb to reach the ship and travel to Laelith.

Next Time: The PCs visit Hornsdeep and meet its mad Baron!