Saturday, September 26, 2009

Temple to Darkness, Part Three

Early the next morning, the party's third foray into the temple began. It started out well, but soon became a mess, due to some poor planning. First, the party entered with Endefal in front, and he turned the group of ghouls waiting in the main room (no sign of the ghast, however). The party, satisfied the undead creatures wouldn't be returning for awhile, went to the door in the north wall of the room that they had yet to check or open, having investigated the staircase, east and west corridors. Finding it locked and barred from the other side, Cadelaine was able to pick the lock, but Mongo was then forced to break the door down to enter inside. Upon stepping inside, Mongo saw a large bare room with a large dark pit in the middle against the dark wall. As he stuck in the Continual Light torch, a loud squeaking came from the pit, and a horde of slavering, rabid rats poured over the lip towards the party! Throwing oil, both Mongo and Endefal missed the swarm horribly as the vials broke off target on the ground (one in front of the door), forcing them to retreat into the main room. Soon, the rats were swarming the party, biting and scratching, as the druid Kal attempted to communicate with them but found them maddened by pain, fear, disease and rage.
It was every man for himself as the party members began hacking and bashing at the Giant rats climbing and biting on them. Finally, their numbers were cleared out enough for someone to drop a lit torch on the oil in front of the door, and the flames shot up to burn many of the rats and put up a wall of fire between the party and the other room, temporarily stopping the tide of living, squirming flesh.
Finally, after every rat in the main room had been killed and wounds bound up, the party entered the pit room to see what lived. Out of the pit came a giant, pig-sized rate with huge jaws that seemed to be the leader! Endefal and Mongo attacked, and soon killed the "leader" of the rats with arms and a Dust Devil spell cast by the priest. After the beast was dead, the party began searching the room, only to find the remaining rats had fled into holes at the bottom of the pit. As they made to leave the room Mongo leading, a sudden stench overtook him and a sickly grey arm reached out and scratched him. Falling back into the pit room, paralyzed, he was suddenly followed by the form of the Ghast, slavering and cackling! Endefal attempted to turn him and two ghoul minions, but he failed, Nadal was also quickly struck and paralyzed, and with the two party fighters' down the battle became desperate. Kal faced off against one ghoul while Endefal hammered the Ghast with a fist of faith spell as Cadelaine pegged it with arrows. Luckily, Kal finally killed one of the ghouls, and the Ghast was held off long enough by Endefal for Mongo to shake off the paralysis and rejoin the attack, dropping the killing blow on the undead leader! Kal finally finished off one of the ghouls, and the other was wounded by Cadelaine and Mongo before bolting the room to escape.
Wounded, bleeding, tired and out of spells already, the group decided to go back outside not an hour into the latest exploration. The made a camp under the trees and the spellcasters rested and regained their spells as the fighters took watch. Late that afternoon, the spellcasters again loaded up on healing and other spells, and the party decided to once again brave the halls that day. They went down the east hall to the cells and back down into the ghoul's lair, but the now leaderless abominations scattered before them and would not engage them. Satisfied the ghouls wouldn't bother them any further, the party checked a few rooms off the east hallway. They found a couple of treasure room, guarded by a pit trap, and managed to find Healing potions, many bags of silver coins, a magical set of leather armor and dagger, and a bronze statue of a shadowy figure and a covered mirror (the last two they left behind, but hauled the other chests out and looted them). Further investigation in the hall found a large door with signs of fire and lightning scarring the walls, and several skeletons. Another skeleton of a dead priest type was found, and since his robe was still intact they took it also. Investigating one last room in the east, they found a giant spider as big as a small horse, which Mongo and Nadal took care of, with Cadelaine gathering it's dripping venom in a vial as it lay dead. Deciding to call it a day, the party went outside to rest as the night was upon them. To their surprise, they found Ardu up coherent and somewhat mobile, as the sickness was almost gone. He told them to stop their explorations of the Temple, as only evil resided there, and soon fell back asleep. That evening, they had another dream....

In this dream, they all saw the shadow fiend Sathlos in his dark pit. His red glowing eyes seemed to see everything inside them. He knew their greatest fears, and their greatest shame, and chuckled as he threatened to reveal each of theirs to the other.

The next morning, the party was nervous and suspicious of each other, not knowing if their secret fear or shame had been revealed to another of the party. Nadal especially seemed nervous and anxious to now leave the place instead of search further.
Deciding to again brave the banquet room full of Shadows, the party went and Endefal again attempted to turn no avail! The battle quickly became difficult as Mongo and Nadal, blocking the door, were struck again and again sapping their strength and cause them to weakly continue fighting the undead. Cadelaine and Endefal helped with spells such as Magic Missile and Spiritual Hammer, and Kal got a light spell cast at the doorway that kept half the creatures inside the room. As four of the creatures were finally brought down, Mongo and Nadal rested as the other three fired magic arrows and silver sling bullets into the room to bring down a couple more shadows. Finally, Mongo and Nadal were healed up sufficiently to enter the room and finish up the undead, but everyone was heavily injured. Searching the rooms off the banquet hall found a worship area for Shadow, cold, dark, and very eerie. They left the room alone and investigated another room with looked like a meditation chamber, and their were many hacked up bodies covering the floor and sofas in the room. Cadelaine located a secret passage, and the party realized this passage was in their dream and led to the chamber of "Sathlos", the demon form they had witnessed.
Going back outside, the party once again rested the day as the strength returned to the shadow-injured party members, and the spellcasters recovered their spells. That evening, they once again decided to brave the temple, and perhaps find and put an end to this "Sathlos" once and for all....
Going to the east, the party ended up in front of the large fire and lightning scarred doors they had the day before. After carefully examining them, they pushed them open to face the room they had seen in their dreams. A dark open pit lay before them in the center of the room, with 20 ft above a lantern with a blazing light shining forth, held in place with a silver chain tied off by the door. As they slowly entered, a deep, evil voice from the pit began cajoling them, threatening to reveal their greatest secrets and shame to the others. Nadal was especially anxious and not eager for a confrontation, while Endefal was defiant and shouted out his faith in Attar and the eventual destruction of Sathlos.
Sathlos whispered to each of them, if they freed him from his imprisonment and served him, he would help them with that which they most wanted. To Mongo, Sathlos revealed he knew the location of his enslaved family, including the brother who had went to track them down, who he said was in danger. To Kal, he revealed he knew the exact location of the lost elven city Kal and his group had been searching for. To Cadelaine, he revealed the fact her father never loved her, and wanted her dead, and had sent an assassin disguised as someone she trusted to finish her off. To Endefal, he said he was far older than even his god, Attar, and that instead of being a enslaved man who fought for freedom and justice, Attar had died mewling and pissing himself and begging for release at the hands of his captors. Endefal shouted down his lies (?) and taunts with chants to his god, and at this, suddenly Kal walked stiffly to the chain from which the lantern hung, struck it with his scimitar, breaking it and causing the lantern to plunge into the pit! A shattering sound was heard, and then the room went completely dark.....!

Suddenly, a demonic form 8 ft tall, with wings, horns and red glowing eyes, as fiery as red hot coals, leapt from the pit and landed solidly on Endefal, tearing and biting him! Kal had collapsed to the floor, his body wracked with pain after it had been usurped by the demon's consciousness and used to help release the beast. As the fiend reared up to strike again, Cadelaine read from the scroll she had gotten from the Bag of Holding and hit the demon with a high level magic missile, knocking him off the priest. Nadal screamed and attacked wielding the magic short sword, striking Sathlos for a large amount of damage. The battle began in earnest, as Mongo borrowed Ardu's magic longsword from Cadelaine and began chopping at the beast with that and his magic short sword. Endefal was able to roll free and hit the creature with a Fist of Faith spell. Kal could do little but managed to hit the creature with the Magic Stones given him by Endefal. Badly hurt by the numerous attacks, the creature slashed and bit among them, screaming, taunting and laughing. Grabbing up Nadal, he threw him against a far wall over Cadelaine's head, causing him to slam to the stone and then limply to the ground like a sack of potatoes. He lay bleeding and unconcious as Kal, now recovered, hurried over to bandage him. Cadelaine managed to strike the creature with a few arrows, but Mongo took the brunt of the demon's attention in a long and bloody battle there on the edge of the pit. Seeing Mongo's distress, Endefal taunted Sathlos until the shadow demon again leapt on the priest and began tearing him apart, slashing and ripping with his claws and fanged mouth. While he was distracted (and right before Endefal was torn in half), Mongo was healed by Kal, and then the ranger took advantage of the creatures inattention to strike him a deadly blow! The shadow demon wailed and became a fine black dust that fell softly all over the room.

With Sathlos dead and Nadal stabilized. The party healed their wounds and searched the chamber. At the bottom of the pit, they found the lantern, now broken and destroyed, and a key. Also, they found the skeletal body of the Ashante warrior they had seen in their dream, who had obviously given his life to keep the shadow demon trapped in the pit while the lantern was used to hold him in forever. Beside him lay his great spear, which they knew from their dream held great power. Reverently, the wrapped the warrior's bones up in a blanket, and along with his spear, lifted him gently up out of the pit to bring outside for a proper burial.
Searching the room brought out a few items like a jeweled baton and a ring, along with some scattered gold, which they placed in the Bag of Holding. Leaving the structure, they found the still surviving ghouls huddled in a corner of the complex, looking at them with a mixture of fear and awe. They went outside and were surprised to find Ardu walking about, almost fully recovered!
Long into the night they talked with the old ranger, who told them the warrior must be the long-ago Ashante chief Boshir, who wielded the flaming spear "Talon-Bar" (Burning Spear in Ashante). As they talked, Kal, who had felt weak since Sathlos had usurped his body, began to get sicker and sicker, and soon toppled over sweating and with fever. Ardu said he had been infected with the Shadow virus, a fatal disease that probably infected him when the demon had taken control of his body. After a short period where Kal seemed to fall deeper and deeper into some sort of delirium, Endefal forced his Elixir of Health down Kal's throat, which immediately took down the fever and destroyed the virus. Kal's health, however, would forever be scarred as afterwards he found he was much weaker and not as strong as before, as if some of his strength had been permanently leeched away. the "Mark of Shadow", as Ardu said. Ardu added he was very lucky to be alive, though. As he lay recovering, he reached out and grasped Talon-Bar, and the spear began speaking in ancient Ashante, and then ancient Delosian, saying that the party was "worthy" of bearing him, especially this one......while not a native Delosian, he had battled the power of shadows and was permanently scarred in the attempt, but survived, making him a good wielder of the flaming spear. The spear revealed special powers to Kal, as well as the fact it could speak, and said as long as he was brave in battle it would serve and assist him. Grasping the spear by his side, Kal seemed to sleep easier from then on, and that night the party had no dreams outside the temple.
The next morning, the party re-entered the temple (with Ardu, now fully recoverd, staying outside as he refused to have anything to do with the evil place). The entire atmosphere had was not as dark, as cold, and did not feel as oppressive and evil as it had days earlier. None of the undead, including the shadow hound, seemed to be about. No longer like a temple of gloom, the interior seemed like just another abandoned structure sitting isolated in the jungle...with the destruction of Sathlos, the curse seemed to be lifted on the temple. Entering the upstairs room ready to battle the haunt by the locked and barred door, they were surprised to find it sitting quietly, asking if it could now go. Endefal released it, and it disappeared.
After using the key found at the bottom of the pit to open the locked and barred door, the party came upon an small treasure room. Heaps and chests full of silver, along with a odd jeweled helm on a pedestal, and several other valuable objects, lay within. The party took everything, and later identified many of the items found the last few days as magical...the leather armor, the dagger, the helm, the stone, the robe, the ring. Cadelaine took the ring (which turned out to be a ring of Feather Falling), the leather armor and the dagger, and Mongo gave her the "Silence Stone" to wear about her neck as he translated the trigger word for her; Kal kept the flaming spear, and the robe and the helm were placed inside the Bag of Holding for further investigation before using. Ardu told them now that he was back to health, their job was to find if there were any surviving members of the merchant group, and then warn the village of Onnja there was a war party of Tzulan warriors nearby. It had been six days since the attack, but there still might be Tzulan warriors lurking about, and if they couldn't find survivors or warn the village they must at least make it back to Port Maugre to let the powers that be know of the war party. Ardu said that he and Mongo would attempt to backtrack their trail back to the initial attack site, and from there try to follow the trail of Talith and the rest (if they survived) to help them or at worst recover their bodies. Ardu also cautioned the eager adventurers not to mention their foray into the Temple of Darkness to anyone else......superstitious native types would shun and perhaps even attack them, while telling of the demon itself and Kal's shadow virus would guarantee that no native Delosian would have anything to do with those who had come so close to evil's darkness. "You aquitted yourselves bravely, but some things must not go beyond these stone walls, eh?" The party agreed, and resolved to not speak of the last week to any but themselves, even to House Valaryan authorities. Making their pledge, they party buried the bones of the warrior Boshir in front of the now powerless temple, with Endefal blessing the spot, and then began to make their way back to the site of the attack a week ago....stronger, wiser, better euqipped, and more experienced in the ways of battle and spellcraft!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Temple To Darkness, Part Two

After a fitful night of sleep, the adventurers awoke and made plans to investigate the temple. First, they dealt with the wounded snake by smoking him out of his lair, then killing him when he emerged, so they wouldn’t have to worry about the giant reptile while they were inside. Then, they had to decide what to do with the sleeping ranger Ardu while they investigated inside the temple. It had been noted that none of the beasts of the jungle seemed to want to enter the courtyard, so Ardu would probably be safe from the tiger that had earlier stalked them. Finally figuring that the ranger would be fine in the tent with as many of the giant rats guarding him as possible (courtesy of Kal’s animal friendship) and Endefal’s Sacred Guardian spell cast upon him, they made ready to enter the darkness.
With Cadelaine in the lead, and Nadal in the rear holding the Continual Light torch, the party slowly entered the temple through the jammed open door. Immediately they entered a large entry room covered with bat guano, as hundreds of the mammals laired on the ceiling. Inside the room, there was a staircase to the right leading to a balcony surrounding the room, as well as openings to the east and west, a door to the north, and a spiral staircase filled with rubble in the center. Calling out to the bats, Kal got them to talk about the “dark ones” that laired in the room, and after their eyes got used to the gloom (after putting away the continual light torch so that the elves and half elves could use infravision), they did notice flittering movement out of the corners of their eyes. Finally fully entering to investigate the entry room, four evil shadows rose out of the darkness to attack! They seemed to flutter and moan as they went for the party. Only magic or silver would hurt the creatures, so Kal and Endefal were helpless weapon-wise…both retrieved vials of holy water, and began trying to splash the undead menaces….where it splattered, it effected the shadows like acid! Nadal took out his continual light torch, which caused the shadows to shriek and pause, giving him a chance to furious chop at them with his magical short sword. Meanwhile, Cadelaine used her magical arrows to good effect, and Mongo did the same with his magical sword.
Seeing the distress of the shadows in the flare of the continual light wand, Endefal took the rock with continual light on it from the small box in the Bag of Holding, and used it to force one of the shadows into the corner, while Kal did the same with the torch, allowing Nadal to hack two of them to bits. Mongo finished the other two, and soon the characters stood alone in the room except for the frightened bats. All had been touched by the undead except for Nadal, and where they had been touched a burning coldness enveloped them, causing a weakness and loss of strength that was very slow in returning.
Investigating the room found nothing, so the group trooped up the stairs. Much search brought forth a concealed door, which Cadelaine opened to lead them into what once had been a torture chamber. Inside, various instruments of torture lay scattered across the long abandoned room. In front of a door in the far wall lay the skeletal remains of some ancient guardian. As they searched the room, Endefal stooped to give the dead one a blessing, which caused a spirit form to rise screaming from the corpse! The body was all that remained, but the torturer’s spirit was now a Haunt, cursed by his life and violent death to guard the door. As he spoke ancient Delosian only Mongo could understand him, and in his ravings he spoke of a “great treasure” beyond the door. As Endefal held the spirit at bay with his prayers to Attar and his holy symbol, the others examined the door. It was triple locked and barred stone with iron, a formidable challenge to enter. unless one had a key! Using her still meager skills Cadelaine attempted to pick the locks but was only successful with one. Using brute strength, Mongo, Nadal and Kal were unable to break or bend the locks or bars, even though they were of great age. Resolving to return when they were through searching the ruins, or when they found a set of keys, the group reluctantly left the chamber (the haunt did not follow as he was bound to that area). A giant, 6 foot long centipede tried to attack Mongo on the stairway down, but it was quickly dealt with.
Downstairs again, the group began investigating down the western hall. Disturbing imagery of darkness, death and cannibalism were carved into the ancient stone walls, and a constant murmuring was heard almost below the adventurer’s perception. At the end of the hall was a T-intersection, and as Cadelaine investigated, a shadow slid itself from the rubble and attacked her. Cadelaine and Mongo’s magical swords spelled doom for the undead, and they went back to the hall to examine doors on both the north and south walls. All the locks had been broken a long time ago, so they pushed open the southern doors to find some kind of burial chamber, long collapsed. Bits of bone, armor and glints of coins poked out from the soft earth of the room. The group carefully picked their way through the death chamber, until suddenly the earth at the south end broke open, and two slavering ghouls emerged! One struck Mongo and rendered him paralyzed; however, two strong blows from Kal (who, as an elf, was immune to the paralyzation) brought the stinking undead down. Nadal engaged with the other one, and after striking a few blows, was assisted as Cadelaine backstabbed the menace and put it down. Searching the room only brought forth a handful of gold, silver and copper coins, but nothing else.
The north room proved to be a banquet chamber, with a long 20ft stone table stained with long dried blood. Many hacked up skeletons were in the room, as it had obviously been ransacked and destroyed sometime in the past. As Endefal cautiously entered to examine two doors against the far wall, 8 of the shadow monsters detached themselves from the walls! Attempting to turn them and failing, Endefal ran for the door, which was quickly shut tight behind him…..if 4 shadows in the main room had been a challenge, 8 would have surely finished them off!!!
The group went back down the corridor, then north past rubble and a basin filled with dirty water. Rounded a corner, Cadelaine froze in fear as she saw 40 ft away a large dark hound with glowing red eyes sitting in front of a door! She carefully withdrew and told the rest, who guessed the shadow hound must be some undead or mystical guardian. Rounding the corner to get a better look, the party stared at the dog, and Cadelaine fired two magic arrows (which missed), This did not amuse the hound, who arose growling and ran full speed at them, barking an eerie and ear splitting howl!!

Cadelaine, Mongo and Nadal reacted with fear as the dog bounded at them, dropping their weapons and running full speed to the outer exit. As they reached the sunny outside, the fear (magical in nature) seem to dissipate, and they quickly turned around and began running back inside as they knew Kal and Endefal had no magic weapons and would be helpless vs the menace!
Inside, Kal and Endefal had braced for the attack, but the shadow hound pulled itself up short as it reached the end of the corner and the basin. Endefal opined that the hound was mystically bound to the corridor, and found a symbol on the base of the fountains that seem to indicate the dog could go that far, and no further. There it sat, slavering dark drops of shadow, growling and whining, as the three who had fled in fear returned to the party.
Discussing the situation among themselves, they could find no way past the hound to the doors on it’s other side. A sling bullet fired at the dog at point blank range merely bounced off his skull, seeming to assure that magical weapons were needed to harm it. Swinging at the hound from the safety of the other side of the basin, Mongo missed the mutt but a quick jerk of the hound’s jaws clamped it’s teeth on Mongo’s wrist, hauling him into the zone and dragging him down the corridor!!! Nadal and Endefal rushed down the corridor, fighting off the hound and retrieving Mongo, before running full speed back into the protected area! Mongo’s wrist had nearly been bitten through by the hound, so the party decided to explore elsewhere until they could figure out how to get past the deadly dog. After healing, the party headed back to the main room.

Once back in the main room, the party made the decision to go down the west corridor. The corridor went back 90 ft to a T intersection, much like down the East corridor. They passed a door and checked it out, finding a “dorm room” consisting of bunks chained to the walls, two high. Several skeletons were in here, and Cadelaine found a nice emerald ring that had rolled under a bunk. Placing it with party treasure, they went to the next door, which was already ajar….the room within was filled with webs, which Endefal quickly fired with a torch, causing a spider as big as a cat to jump out of the flames and skitter around the corridor, until Mongo put and end to it with his sword.
Going to the end of the corridor, south they noticed rubble and a wooden door. Inside the door, they found a row of cells on both sides of a corridor…and old prison area. They carefully looked inside each cell, noticing some skeletons, mummified bodies, and in one a dark hole. One by one, they entered the still locked cells by means of a set of keys hanging on a ring beside the door..most contained either human or animal skeletons, some were empty (or appeared empty). There were a few encounters of interest, including a strange dancing snake skeleton that hypnotized and began biting both Mongo and Endefal (who were hauled clear before the door was again locked); a hole leading into the earth and a tunnel system that a ghoul popped out of, only to be cut in half by Mongo; another haunt bound to a cell (a priest of Shadow who wanted to take over a body to leave this place, but was avoided and locked up again); a shadow (which Mongo quickly destroyed), and finally, a mummified human body. As the cell was unlocked, the body rose, it’s eyes pinpoints of gleaming evil intelligence. Turning failed, and the creature was quickly locked back in the cell. However, it had other ideas, and the zombified form smashed it’s way through the cell door. The party, now worried, ran out into the outer corridor, and locked that door behind them. Endefal had distributed some magical stones earlier that did damage to undead, the party threw them to little effect. Suddenly, the zombie smashed his hand through the wooden door, which Mongo promptly hacked off with his sword. Worried about what sort of undead this was, and what it might do if it caught up to them, the party backed down the hallway arguing the entire way what to do….until finally the zombie smashed through that door also and continued towards them, one arm hacked off at the elbow. At this, the party was in full retreat to outside!
As they reached the outer chamber, the party decided to try and ambush the undead. Mongo and Nadal awaited it with swords drawn, while Cadelaine hid in the shadow near the entrance, awaiting a chance to backstab the creature. As it entered, Cadelaine missed her first blow, but then struck from behind and cleaved the creature to the bone! It’s eyes lost all semblance of activity and it collapsed to the ground. Hurt and without any more cures, the party then decided to head for the entrance and come back the next day for further exploration….

That night, as they slept in the courtyard under the stars, another dream…

A large, room, dark everywhere except for a lantern that hangs from the ceiling by a silver chain. It hangs above a large deep crevice, preventing what lies within from leaving. Two bright red eyes, surrounded by shadows, peeks out from the darkness below but cannot leave because of the lantern. The eyes seem to bore inside your own right before you wake with a jolt!

The next morning, again leaving Ardu alone in the tent (except for the many rats that had taken to sleeping in the nooks and crannies of his body), the party cooked up a hearty meal of giant snake (from the constrictor’s body they had killed the day before), healed themselves, then made way into the darkness for further exploration. Immediately, they realized the cold and darkness inside, which they had been subject to all day, again fell upon them like a blanket and their mood immediately changed to wariness.
Making their way back again to the cells, they investigated a door at the end of the corridor that lead to another short corridor with three rooms off it. One room led to a sort of dissection/experimental chamber, which had been thoroughly destroyed; another had a charnel pit 30 ft deep, the last ten feet full of skeletons, and another a room of sand where a creature composed of the substance came to life and struck Cadelaine, after which the party ran out and locked the door behind them.
In the charnel pit, a gleam of something shiny could be seen, but the party was reluctant to go downward. A cell door was removed, and thrown down the pit to disturb anything that might be hiding here….soon a ghoul appeared at a heretofore unseen passage leading into the charnel pit from below, but he withdrew before he could be attacked.
There was now much discussion about where the party should go next. Finally after much haggling, they decided to go into the tunnel in the cell to discover where the ghouls were coming from….perhaps a ghoul warren would have much treasure! Single file, they entered the tunnel and immediately pulled out their continual light torch as they headed west. Traversing the stench ridden, slimy, earthen tunnels, they soon came upon the bottom of the charnel pit. Within, Mongo looked among the bones and came upon the shining object, a small diamond worth about 500 gp, which was put with the party treasure. Heading further NW, they soon quietly came upon the main ghoul warren in a basement area under the main chamber above (they could see the blocked spiral staircase in the center) and saw a half dozen ghouls and a larger, more evil looking leader type (a ghast) eating some giant rats. There appeared to be loose kinds and various items that looked like treasure all over the room. Quickly forming a plan of action, Endefal cast the Protection From Enemies ’10 radius from a scroll on himself, forming an impassable barrier around the party.
The party entered, and the evil creatures surrounded the party as close as the circle of protection would allow, but they could not enter. Hissing and gibbering, the undead creatures patrolled the outskirts of the circle as Mongo fell to the ground retching at the stench exuded by the ghast. Soon, the party carefully made their way around the room, gathering treasure in the form of coins, a scroll tube, a book, a ruby pendant and a stone hanging from a thong necklace. After this, they began to slowly retreat, and came back out the way they had come in, followed by ghouls the entire time. Slowly down the corridors and into the main room, where 10 ghouls and the head ghast followed, growling and screaming as the party was about to make it’s escape. Before the circle went down, the party exited the temple and breathed in the outside air and bathed in the sun, safe at last and with a bag of treasure. From inside they could hear the incoherent evil shrieks of the undead, deprived of their meal. The return to exploring the temple the next day would definitely by complicated by the presence of the enraged group of ghouls awaiting them right beyond the door!

After checking on Ardu (who was now occasionally opening his eyes and murmuring, his fever broken) and the campsite (nothing had disturbed the area still), after another dinner of snake steaks the party members watched the dusk come and the bats leave the temple. They heard some murmurs and shrieks from the ghouls, but like everything else undead within they did not seem able or willing to leave the confines of the dark structure. Still, the door was watched carefully in the gloom, with the continual light stone sitting outside on the ground to blind or deter anything that might think of leaving. They divided up the treasure with Cadelaine taking the book (which turned out to be an old traveling spellbook of some mage), Endefal a priest scroll, and Mongo the stone hanging on the thong, with the ancient Delosian word for “Quiet” inscribed on it’s back (he did not want to speak the word to activate it, in case the item had charges and each use would use it up).

Again a fitful sleep, and again a disturbing dream…..

The food had been prepared for the feast, and was delicious. Pygmy stuffed with shallots, herbs and fruit, and their tender and delicious children for desert. Even better than the heart of ape stew the night before. A special blood wine had been prepared for the priests of Shadow as they sat in their banquet room, talking gloomily of the ominous signs in the jungle that might foreshadow trouble with the local native tribes. The temple, who once ruled as far west as any of the Shadow servants, was slowly losing worshippers and power, despite the presence of Sathlos.
Suddenly, faint screams, cries and howls could be heard, and the priests looked frightened as they stood up and began placing on their armor and getting their spells ready. The natives had finally gotten the nerve to attack the temple! Suddenly, a servant stumbled through the door, with a spear transfixed through his body and blood on his lips. “They are here! They have overrun the gates and fences! We are doomed…” and as he slid to the ground, the door burst fully open. The priests screamed as a light as they had never seen burst through the darkness, from a lantern wielded by an old shaman, caused them to cringe and cover their decayed eyes. No less dangerous was the light flickering from the spear of a native warrior, who began stabbing his flaming weapon again and again through the hearts of the cowering priests as more native warriors burst in, hacking the rest to pieces in a frenzy. Only one priest survived to slip out through a back door, and then through a secret door, to the chamber where dwelt their demonic servant…
“Sathlos, hear me! We are doomed without you! Sathlos, help us!”
The howling of the shadow hounds reverberated through the complex, and from one double door leading into the chamber an explosion was heard. The demon’s words slid into the priest’s brain…”Help yourself, human..” As the doors flew open, the priest barely had time to start his spell before his body was filled with arrows fired from the screaming native warriors….His last sight was of Sathlos, rising up out of the pit to face the now frightened warriors….

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Temple to Darkness: Part One

Week Three:

A week passed and the new members of House Valaryan attended their duties, slowly getting accustomed to the heat and humidity. Finally, the House Valaryan head warrior Talith approached the newest five members and told them their services would be required on a short trip to an Ashante village, Onnja, to trade steel weapons and cloth for cloves, pepper and ivory. He told them the trip would take a week, and should get them more acquainted with the area more than anything.
To celebrate their first real trip out of town, the five (Nadal, Mongo, Cadelaine, Kalphistane and Endefal) went to the Number One Inn for some drinks, but the occasion ended up being somewhat quiet as they wondered about their eventual fate in the jungle, even on such an easy mission as this. They met another newcomer to Port Maugre, a young, nervous priest of Vistna named Alando, and he talked of his apprenticeship to the temple in Port Maugre as being punishment for some deed. He was uneasy about the area and had heard several unsavory things about the flora and fauna, and was disappointed to be so far from a “real” library. He was, however, resigned to serving the church in whatever method necessary.
Walking back to their quarters that night, they parted with Alando at the Vistnan temple, but were soon alerted to trouble as Alando passed around a corner and yelled in fear. Rushing down the street, they saw a priest of Vistna being assaulted by five large, tall and primitive looking natives armed with knives and clubs. Alando was standing and watching the assault, yelling for help, as the party came upon the scene and engaged. Nadal and Mongo took on one very tall (nearly 7 ft) specimen with a giant war club, as the rest of the party mixed it up with the bandits (one who appeared to be stealing a scroll tube from the unfortunate unconscious priest of Vistna)
Cadelaine, outclassed by the swinging weapons, climbed above the fray to a nearby rooftop and spotted a shadowy figure further down the passageway on the ground, watching the combat. The native with the stolen scroll tube passed it to him, and Cadelaine let a few arrows fly, hitting the man in the shadows. He appeared to direct the native who had given him the scroll to attack her, so he ran across the street and began climbing up to her hiding place. Once there, Cadelaine quickly disposed of him with well-placed arrows, but the man in the shadows below had now taken better cover as he was warned of her presence.
On the ground, the combat went well, as the party quickly cut through the primitive native types, one fleeing heavily wounded as Kalphistane gave chase. Nadal and Mongo went to confront the figure in the shadows, but after being hit with poisoned arrows from the man, Nadal collapsed in a heap and started turning blue as the poison took effect. Producing a vial from his vest, the shadowy figure told Mongo the antidote was inside, and then threw the vial in the air as he took off running. Endefal leapt and caught the vial before it hit the ground, but at this point the leader type had disappeared without a trace. Quickly forcing the liquid down the fallen fighter’s throat, the priest of Attar was rewarded as the potion brought Nadal back from the brink of death and restored his breathing. Of the man from the shadows, and the other bandit, nothing could be seen.
Soon after the city guard arrived, led by the captain of the guard Manshu, and the native Delosian remarked upon seeing the bodies that the four dead bandits were Tcho-Tchos, and that the party would now be marked for death by their tribe. Asking who or what Tcho-Tchos were, Manshu gave them a look and said one didn’t speak of these things. Later, Mongo told them legends of a debased, primitive tribe that inhabited Delos’ highlands, who were rumored to be the inbred remnants of the ancient Shadowmasters, identifiable by their sloped heads, filed teeth, great strength and resistance to pain, and single-minded pursuit of violence.
As they left the scene, the priest of Vistna they had rescued said he would speak to Gam in the morrow about the adventurers saving his life, and might have further words with the adventurers about the scroll tube he had lost, and it’s contents. The mystery of what was inside, and why the priest was attacked, would have to remain so for several more days.

The next morning, a small group consisting of the adventurers, a few other mercenaries, 25 or so native Delosian bearers, the fighter Talith, the ranger Ardu, and a priest of Akadi named Derk started off with many heavily packed water buffalo for the village of Onnja. Nervous yet excited, the group listened to what Ardu had to say, which mostly consisted of nearly useless advice of “Watch the trees!” or “Watch your feet, where you step!” or “Watch were you piss!” Along the way, a small flight of a dozen jungle stirges (horrible variations of the regular variety with sharp tails and poisoned bite) attack the rear of the caravan and the party fought them off after killing a few.
For the next few days, the travel became monotonous as nothing out of the ordinary was seen, heard or encountered. Suddenly, on the third day, Ardu took Mongo aside and pointed out several bare footprint tracks on the ground….”Tzulan warriors, a war party on a manhood rite, very bad!”. He went on to explain to the party that occasionally a large group of young Tzulan warriors invaded Ashante territory to collect “tokens”…ears, noses, eyes, even genitals….of Ashante warriors as a rite of manhood. Tzulan warriors were quite skilled and deadly, and even worse this looked like a large group. The native ranger told the party to keep their eyes and ears open, and passed the bad news along to Talith.
Talith looked grim, and quickly ordered double-time to perhaps reach the village of Onnja before nightfall. Alas, luck was not with the party. Several hours later, a horde of almost 100 screaming Tzulan warriors threw a rain of spears into the caravan, killing bearers and animals alike, and descended on the survivors with a fury! Ardu had stayed close to his charges, and they were immediately cut off. He yelled at them to run as he grabbed a backpack from an animal, and followed them as they ran pell mell into the jungle wilderness.
As they left the path and quickly became lost in the vines, grasses and plants, almost a mile away from the screaming and fighting, suddenly the party ran smack into a group of ten Tzulan warriors, obviously some sort of rear guard assigned to prevent stragglers or runners from escaping! Battle was joined, but the party quickly realized that the warriors entirely outclassed them all but for Ardu. Cadelaine quickly slept two, and the battle got nasty after that as the hide and wooden shield wielding natives armed with javelins and spears quickly began striking dangerous blows again and again. Soon, Ardu was surrounded by four warriors, and the rest of the party was barely holding their own as they each had a warrior fighting them. Their cures were quickly used up, and quick thinking allowed Kalphistane to cast a Entangle spell that caught four of the warriors and Ardu, giving the party a brief respite as they then only faced four of the Tzulan warriors. Two were quickly killed by Cadelaine’s arrows, and she butchered the two still asleep by her spell, evening the odds somewhat as Nadal and Mongo struck down two others. Unfortunately, a plan by Kalphistane to unnerve the warriors went awry as after beheading a dead warrior and holding up the head, he was set upon by a vengeful warrior, and a spear was run completely through his stomach. He fell to the ground nearly dead, and Endefal had to bind him up before he bled out.
However, the Entangle spell had given the party a much needed break, and they were given time to heal and ready themselves as they peppered the entangled warriors with sling bullets and arrows. By the time the remaining four warriors escaped the vines, they were all bleeding and injured, and much easier prey for the four and Ardu (minus the unconscious Kalphistane). After a short and violent battle, the warriors all lay dead around the exhausted and bleeding party members. They were victorious, but there would be no rest. Ardu told Mongo to grab the unconscious Kalphistane and follow him, they still had much ground to cover to put space between them and the blood mad Tzulan war party!

After several hours hacking through the trackless jungle, finally as dusk came, Ardu told them to halt. They had reached a small stream, and nearby was a rock overhang where they could rest for the night. Kal was made comfortable, and Ardu showed the remaining four what he had rescued from the caravan: a backpack containing rations, some weapons (including magical arrows and a sword), and a small Bag of Holding with a few potions, scrolls and other needed items for survival. Distributing a clerical and magical scroll, the magic arrows, and the potions, Ardu said these plus the rations might be the difference between life and death as they were now alone here in the jungle. Ardu said that travel to the village of Onnja was going to be closer than a trip back to Port Maugre, so they would start in the morning. First, he took Mongo as they went downstream attempting to hunt some wild game for food and save their rations for when needed.
As it became dark, Ardu and Mongo managed to kill a antelope that came to the stream to drink, but as they began butchering it for the meat, another predator announced himself. Suddenly, a large tiger leapt from the brush and landed on Ardu, biting him several times! Ardu and the big cat rolled around until the ranger fought free, then Ardu and Mongo managed to kill the tiger. They finished butchering the antelope and brought the meat back to the waiting camp, but that night Ardu became feverish and ill from infection. The next morning, he was worse, and heal spells were not working to banish the sickness (although at this point Kal was up and functioning with the help of rest and heal spells, carrying a scar across his belly from the Tzulan’s spear) The day was spent searching for herbs in the jungle that would cure his affliction, but the best the party could do was find some Sleepthistle, which when brewed in tea has the effect of causing a long and restful sleep. This was given to Ardu, with the hopes that the next morning his fever would break.
That night there was a scary encounter with a 12 ft bushmaster snake that crawled into Kalphistane’s bedroll as the slept, looking for an easy meal (under the eye of Mongo who had fallen asleep on guard duty). Kalphistane was able to talk to the snake and convince him to go elsewhere for food, and when he began sliding towards Endefal, he was attacked and driven off by Kal, Mongo and Cadelaine.
The next morning, Ardu still slept, his body healing as the ranger was in a semi-coma from the sickness and the Sleepthistle. Truly on their own, the party decided to head downstream to eventual civilization, with Nadal rigging up a stretcher for Ardu to drag behind them as they traveled.
Into the afternoon, they soon noticed they were being paced and hunted by a large tiger, possibly the mate of the one Mongo and Ardu had killed. The great cat was careful to never come out in the open for missile weapon fire, so the party picked a good spot for a trap, and Cadelaine (who had experience in this sort of thing) directed the men to dig a tiger pit, with sharpened stakes at the bottom, and cover it with palm fronds. As they worked, they notice a few yards behind them a very ancient looking stone arch and fence surrounding an overgrown area. Investigating, they found as soon as they entered the courtyard all jungle sounds were silenced, as there seemed to exist none of the small bird, insect or animal sounds elsewhere in the jungle. The tiger was soon seen on the outskirts of the stone wall, but would not enter the area the party had just entered. In the center of the overgrown courtyard stood a large dark temple, covered with thorns, brambles and briars, and investigation found it covered with disturbing death and dark imagery…..the priests and Mongo recognized the seal on the opened door as that of the God of Shadow, and apparently they party had discovered one of the ancient temples to this blasphemous god! The place looked long abandoned
After battling and chasing off a giant constrictor snake inhabiting the courtyard that had tried to attack Endefal, the party looked around and found only rats and giant rats inhabiting the ruins of the courtyard. Kal was able to speak to a giant rat (and later a bat) about what kinds of creatures inhabited the abandoned temple. The adventurers deduced from the animal’s descriptions that the temple was mostly inhabited by undead (perhaps shadows and some king of walking dead) and that nothing human had been there for quite awhile. Learning that nothing from within the temple ever left the temple, they felt somewhat safe about spending the night there rather than leaving the relative safety of the courtyard and perhaps facing the tiger at night.
The gold-nugget studded bronze door spoke of treasure within, and Mongo told them that legends among his tribe told of giant treasure hordes secreted by the evil priests of Shadow who had demanded all sorts of tribute from subjugated tribes. The opened front door ended in darkness beyond; as it was now dusk (and as swarms of bats began flying out of the opened door into the night air beyond) they decided to postpone any exploration of the temple until the next day and morning’s light. A watch was set up (for anything leaving the temple, and perhaps the return of the giant serpent), and Ardu was placed within a small tent to rest and hopefully recover soon. By the light of the Continual Light torch and stone, the party quietly discussed their plans and distributed the magic weapons among themselves (including Ardu’s magical longsword, which went to Cadelaine, some magical arrows, and the magical short sword from the bag which Nadal appropriated) and took stock of their meager magic and holy water. The proximity of the temple kept sleep at bay until exhaustion finally caused those not on watch to, one by one, drop off to a fitful rest.

Suddenly, as clear as day, the party stands in the courtyard in full daylight…but does not. A dream? Perhaps, but it seems so real. The temple, unlike the sunken, razed pile of rocks in the present, stood tall and gleaming, light seeming to be sucked in by the absolute darkness of the basalt and obsidian walls. No vegetation mars the smooth stamped rock surface of the courtyard, and nervous dark men wearing symbols of darkness and death begin to file out of the doorway to man the stone walls of the holy place. They cringe in fear at the light, and you realize only dire necessity would draw them out of their cold, dark home to face whatever is coming. A yell is heard, along with booming drums, and the distant yelling of hundreds of screaming natives gets closer and closer.
Suddenly, a large group of Ashante warriors, well armed with weapons, and led by a proud warrior carrying a spear that licked with an unearthly flame, howled like madmen as they swarmed over the walls like ants. Priests in black leather and cloaks, armed with staves made of black wood and knives of some dark metal or stone, tried to stop the advance, but though their spells took their toll they were all eventually brought down and hacked to pieces by the wild eyed mob.
Afraid to brave what was beyond the door, the warriors used thrown rocks and crude catapults, pulled up from the jungle, to hurl stones against the shadowy walls, finally bringing down the roof which collapsed into the first story. Eventually the leader with the flaming spear calls upon his men (in Ashante, but even if you cannot speak that language you can here him as clear as any orator in your native tongue), to finally show their courage and brave the depths of this hellish temple to drive away the shadow demons who have ruled this land for too long. Only a quarter of the warriors have backbone enough to follow their leader inside, and they are accompanied by a wise looking shaman holding a lantern that seems to burn brightly without any fuel source.
Violent scenes flash across your eyes, of cold and darkness and death, the brave warriors going from chamber to chamber killing the priests and their unearthly servants. The images begin to blur, and you are back outside. The remaining warriors have waited a day and longer for their brothers to return to the light, muttering to themselves and praying to their gods, until finally they gasp in sadness and fear as only a small fraction of the invading warriors exit the doorway, all wounded and bloody, and without their spear-wielding leader. Finally the old shaman exits, without the lamp, and you see him face the stunned crowd to tell them that many gave their life but the priests are dead, their servants destroyed or banished, and their demon ally imprisoned for all time.

You awake with a start, a low moaning in your ears…but it is only the wind.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

1st Patrol on Delos

Week Two:

During their first week at House Valaryan, the adventurers acclimated themselves to the tropical weather (hot, wet and muggy) and their new circumstances. Endefal took the time to visit the Attarian temple in Port Maugre, and met the high priest there, one Jerrod. Jerrod filled the young half elf in on doings around the Port Maugre area, telling him it was mostly cleared of slavers and their ilk. Far to the south, and to the east, however, Tzulan warriors took slaves for their Taranthian masters, and the Snakemen and their loathsome allies were rumored to be taking entire caravans of merchants and their followers captive. Many merchant trains had disappeared entirely, leaving nothing behind, not even bodies. What the Snakemen wanted with the humans, no one knew.

After getting a small gift of a Healing potion and some holy water from Jerrod, Endefal left to join with his new mates as they were also exploring the small town. That afternoon, Mongo’s uncle Ardu told them that the next morning they would go on patrol outside of the village’s walls for the first time, and they would have to get rest…

Early the next day, with the ground wet from an evening rainfall, the small group (Ardu, Cadelaine, Endefal, Mongo, Kalphistane and Nadal) left through the large wooden doors of Port Maugre to their first patrol. Skirting the edges of the temple to Akadi, the market, and Swinetown, they entered the foliage of the jungle proper. Although it had been cleared for several hundred yards, Ardu told them that there were workers constantly tearing up new growth as the jungle continually threatened to take back it’s own. Up to the edge of the jungle, several plots of land grew crops for the village, and several groups of cows, goats and water buffalos sat in wooden pens, guarded by vigilant city guards and tribesmen.

Right at the edge of the small farms, the jungle quickly overtook them. Suddenly, all sunlight disappeared as the heavy vines and growth blocked out the light. Many noises assaulted them, from birds, insects and small mammals, to the sounds of the jungle itself. Ardu led them on patrol, right on the edge of the jungle, for about a mile or so south of Port Maugre. He continually shared knowledge of the dangers in the jungle, chuckling at mention of this or that former mercenary for House Valaryan that had died instantly from a snake bite. His refrain of “It was so funny!” when referring to particularly gruesome deaths due to poisonous reptiles, jungle stirges, or other creatures of the jungle did little to reassure the nervous group, who besides Mongo had little (in Kalphistane’s case) or no experience in such territory. Former trails cut through the undergrowth were barely visible as they followed Ardu, looking for any signs of enemy warriors, slavers, or creatures that should not be there.

Suddenly, Ardu held them up with a lip to his fingers and pointed up towards
the jungle canopy. The party heard a strange whirring and flapping, and from above several bat-winged forms descended down on them. “Flying snakes”! shouted Ardu “Very bad, they spit acid!” Luckily, the party dealt with the flying reptiles quickly, with virtually no injuries. Ardu proceeded to cut off the wings and heads and throw the snake bodies in a sack. “Good eating!” he exclaimed happily, as he led the now-blooded party along.

Heading back towards the village, a child’s scream caught their ears. Ardu ran ahead full speed, with the others following. They burst out on a small clearing next to a stream, to see several small, evil monkey-like men encircling two native children who were huddled near the bodies of a man and woman pierced with small javelins. The monkey-men, known as tasloi, were scourges of the jungle as they attacked in large groups to use humans for food or worse. They were trying to tie up the children when the party burst through the foliage, and immediately attacked!
Ardu and Nadal quickly split a couple of the creatures in half, as Kalphistane cast an Entangle spell which held tight six of the tasloi. As the battle was joined, Cadelaine also used her spell abilities to good effect to put down another six with a Sleep spell, evening the odds considerably. After a short combat, the tasloi were killed (including the slept or held ones), with only two wounded creatures escaping deeper into the forest. Speaking to the children, Ardu discovered they and their parents were attacked on their way back from gathering fish and water from the stream. Ardu then questioned one terribly wounded tasloi before wringing his neck, finding out the location of a small cave nearby wear the creatures laired. He told Mongo that he must use his skills to track the wounded ones back to their cave, and eliminated them. This, he said, would be a good test of their abilities of planning and executing an attack, and he reasoned the tasloi would not be too tough of a foe for the fledgling adventurers. Saying he would stay with the children to guard them, he bade them hurry and track down the tasloi!

Applying some minor healing, the party quickly followed the ranger Mongo through the twisting vines and growth of the jungle a short way until they came to a small hill. Sure enough, a trail of blood led into a dark cave entrance in front of them. Some confusion then resulted, as Mongo and Cadelaine tried to sneak ahead, only to be quickly discovered by guards at the entrance, who attacked. Nadal ran forth to protect Cadelaine, cutting down a few, and Kalphistane and Endefal were left on the edge of the jungle to ponder how quickly their “plan” had become no plan at all! Battling at the entrance, soon Mongo and Nadal had taken very nasty blows from the tasloi’s javelins and clubs, and glances inside showed more than a dozen of the creatures still ready to fight! A retreat was called for, and Kalphistane saved the day with a Puffball spell as he threw a magical mushroom into the entrance, causing a huge stinging cloud to appear which caused any tasloi passing through to fall to the ground gasping and choking. The party healed the injured and quickly dispatched several of the incapacitated tasloi, only to enter into a grim standoff at the entrance. Sneaking in was now out of the question; frontal assault would be suicide, and the tasloi refused to come out and engage the party outside the cave.

Other means of entrance to the complex were then sought for along the cliff base. Finding none there, Cadelaine climbed the small bluff (perhaps 20 feet high) to search along the top. As she wandered around, a whirring sound gave her pause and she jumped behind a tree trunk, only to see a giant spider with dragonfly-like wings emerge from a hole beside a dead tree trunk, fly around for awhile, and then re-enter the hold. Very carefully creeping forward, she saw the hole led downward…..perhaps a hidden or back entrance to the caves? Summoning the others, they decided on a plan: Nadal would stay and watch the front entrance, while Endefal, Mongo, Cadelaine and Kalphistane would attempt entrance through the spider-hole entrance on top the cliff. A shout from Nadal would let the party know that the tasloi were attempting to exit; if so, the he would retreat and the party would attempt to meet up with him.

Soon, the four found themselves staring down a dark, slimy, web covered hole leading down into the ground. A very faint light came from down below, but the party was loathe to enter. As they stood pondering, the giant flying spider stuck his head out of the hole! Taking them by surprise, Endefal dropped a vial of oil he held onto himself, preventing any firing of the hole or spider, and the party began swinging their weapons, but couldn’t strike the arachnid nightmare. The spider flew out of the hole and began buzzing around their heads, trying to bite and poison the adventurers! A blow by Endefal almost brought the spider down, and wounds by Mongo and Cadelaine almost tore his wings off….as he attempted to fly away, Kalphistane finished him off with a well placed sling bullet. Soon, as their hearts beating slowed down to normal, a plan was made to tie a rope to the tree and lower themselves down. One by one, all four entered the hold to a small, disgusting room that must have been the spider’s lair. Webbing, pieces of bodies and equipment, and other nasty bits of effluent were scattered in the 5 foot tall chamber. The party soon found a tight passageway of 2 feet leading onward, but searching the webbed bodies produced some treasure, including a continual light torch, potions, and some gold!

While the elf and half elves were able to slide themselves down the narrow passageway, Mongo found himself too large and bulky to do so, and had to remove his armor. As Mongo and Cadelaine reached the exit, they found themselves in a chamber filled with stained cushions, pillows and blankets, along with sacks filled with items. On the opposite side of the room stood an ancient looking iron door with a new lock, and a corridor leading onward. With only a minute to investigate their surroundings, they were surprised as a tall, strong looking tasloi strode into the chamber, glowing short sword in hand…they had come upon the tasloi leader’s room! Combat was joined as the leader, one Urglat, screamed for help!

All was pandemonium in the small chamber. Mongo and Cadelaine blocked the leader at the entrance, preventing any further tasloi from entering, as Kalphistane and Endefal quickly entered behind the battle. They were unable to join the combat, so tried to help with spells of healing as Mongo and Cadelaine were injured during combat with the head tasloi. Soon, Urglat lay dead at their feet, but swarms of tasloi began to pour into the room. Combat got deadly, as injuries resulted that led the party members to rotate themselves in combat as tasloi were downed and party members injured. Finally, Endefal threw a container of lamp oil down the corridor, and followed up by throwing a lit candle. Immediately, the oil caught flame and in the confined space caused masses of black smoke and flames to fill the corridor and small room. Mongo was overcome by the smoke, and had to be dragged back down the narrow corridor back to the spider’s lair. Unfortunately, the companions forgot to remove his armor, and he became stuck! This left only Cadelaine and Endefal in the chief’s chamber, with Cadelaine’s curiosity getting the better of her as she examined the large locked iron door. Her thief skills could not get her inside, so she and Endefal instead collected several sacks of booty lying around, consisting of books, coins, weapons (including the tasloi chief’s glowing sword) and more. As the stinging smoke died down, Cadelaine found a key in the chief’s belongings that seem to fit the newer lock on the iron door. Opening it, she and Endefal found a dark, gloomy chamber with a human figure rising to meet them….an undead zombie! Presenting his holy symbol, Endefal turned the creature to the back of the small tomb. The tomb, obviously older than the caverns dug around it, seemed to have been untouched for many centuries. As the pair entered, the tasloi again began to attack from the open corridor! At this point, Nadal had joined the party…having seen the dark smoke pouring out of the cave entrance, along with several retreating tasloi, he had climbed up the rope and then entered the spider hole himself. Pulling his chainmail off, he had managed to squeeze down the narrow corridor just in time to take the brunt of the tasloi’s attacks. Nadal and Mongo met the newest tasloi attack, as the other three quickly investigated the small tomb and it’s inhabitant.

Inside, the undead introduced himself as Gruumstead, and said he was a worshipper of Shadow, the ancient god of darkness. He hinted cryptically at several things, including a return of darkness and shadow to the continent of Delos, but was unable to attack the party due to Endefal’s steadfast faith and holy symbol. Noticing several rolled up scrolls in an alcove in the tomb, Cadelaine gathered them up and the tomb was exited and locked upon leaving. As the tasloi again pressed their attack and injuries mounted, again oil was tossed down the corridor, and again lighted. However, this time a burning tasloi ran into the room screaming, and began rolling amongst the furnishings, setting the entire room alight! It was time to leave, and the party, dragging their booty, hurried through the narrow corridor to the spider’s lair, and from there, up to the hole in the hilltop. After leaving, covered with soot, blood, grime and gore, the weary adventurers made their way back to Ardu, who was anxiously awaiting their return with the still frightened children.

Telling Ardu all that had transpired, he said on the morrow he would lead a group of soldiers to finish cleaning out the tasloi lair, and praised them on a job well done by killing the tasloi leader and wreaking havoc on their lair. They returned to Port Maugre with the children in tow, weary but triumphant on their first foray into the jungle.

Upon their return, the scrolls were found to be written in ancient Delosian and contained much information on the history of the Shadow worshippers and their reign many hundreds of years earlier….they were sold to the Vistnan church for a tidy sum, along with some older mold covered books found in another sack. Kalphistane, to his wonder, found one of the books to be a huge tome, rune covered leather with gold hinges, and written in high elvish! The book was a true treasure, a history of the elven House S’thelian, the elven house who had attempted an ill-fated conquest of Delos several hundred years before. It seemed to be a journal and history written by one of the survivors. The priests of Vistna were very interested and offered the elven druid 750 GP for the tome, but something inside told Kalphistane that this tome might hold the knowledge he and his mentor had been seeking, the location of the lost elven city and temple. He resolved to study it on his own and see what knowledge he could find…

Among the other treasures, Mongo was allowed to have the magical short sword, while a magic scroll went to the mage/thief Cadelaine, and various potions and coins were divided up among the rest. A substantial donation was made by Endefal to the Attarian church, and a grateful Jerrod rewarded his faithful worshipper with potions and holy water. Ardu had been pleased by their quick thinking and battle prowess, and mentioned to the house Patriarch, Gam, that perhaps it was time to let the adventurers join in a short trip to the interior of Delos on one of the trade routes to an Ashante tribe…

Intro to Delos, the Dark Continent

It had been a rough life, and particularly a rough month for the half elvish Cadelaine, as she gazed out over the ocean. Born to a Silver elf ambassador and a noble merchant prince of The League (House Valaryan), she had been both blessed (daughter of the leader of a noble house) and cursed, as her mother’s dalliance led to an embarrassing exile for the silver elf and her half breed offspring. Silver elves lived quite different lives from their Gold or Wood elf brethren, and were considered royalty among their kind. Unfortunately, this meant the bloodlines must be kept pure, and half-human liaisons with Silver elves were not spoken of or acknowledged. Except for her silver eyes and streaks of silver in her hair, Cadelaine could pass for human….too closely, some said, for as she grew older her resemblance to her father grew far too recognizable.

Instead of being in line for the throne, Cadelaine had been a constant source of friction. Being a bastard child, even of an elvish ambassador of a Silver Elven Noble House, and the head of House Valaryan, was a hindrance more than a help growing up. When it came time for her mother’s entourage to return to the Elvish isles, Sedalia stayed behind because the shame would have been immense and she reasoned a half-elven child might be treated better in The League than back at home. Cadelaine’s mother taught her the magical arts, and gave her a spellbook when she came of age. Of her father, she saw little, although guilt and love for her mother made him support her with sporadic gifts. However, Sedalia died young for an elf, and at that Cadelaine’s father’s visits (and support) stopped abruptly.

Virtually abandoned on the streets, Cadelaine was lucky enough to be taken in by a local family whose same age son was infatuated with her silver hair and eyes, and became her best friend. His family (a large but happy brood of bakers) welcomed her and soon she lived alongside them as one of their own. The son, Taylor, became as close as any brother, and she soon learned the art of thievery as well as her magic to supplement the business in weeks of low sales.

However, the wonderful life she had fallen into ended the week before. Her resemblance to her father had become too close to ignore, and whispers around the city placed Cadelaine in the middle of any number of rumors and muddled plots among those who wished House Valaryan evil. Sadly realizing her presence would only endanger her new family, Cadelaine packed up in the dead of night, and stowed away aboard a House Valaryan merchant ship bound far, far away…to distant lands, where she knew not. The name "Delos" was mentioned, called "The Dark Isle", "The Dark Continent", or "Island of Shadows". This sounded like an ideal place to escape to, and she hid aboard the ship as it headed out into the unknown.

Discovered several days into the journey, the gruff but kind Captain Bohema put her to work on the ship, telling her she must earn her way and plead her case before the head of House Valaryan when the isle of Delos was reached….for no one rode for free! Captain Bohema hinted when they arrived there would be a way for her to work off the cost of the trip, and if she played her cards right, she might make some gold in the bargain….

On top of this interesting set of circumstances, two other variables had entered her life…another shipmate, a “Sir Nadal Kingsworth Valaryan”, had attempted to befriend her on the voyage. A tall, strong, brash fighter type, Cadelaine soon realized he had also been sent off to far away Delos for reasons of birthright. Being the fifth son of the leader of House Valaryan’s 2nd wife, he had also muddied the waters of succession had his father passed. The scheming of his older brothers and sisters quickly got him out of the way, as he was told he was being sent to far away Delos to learn how to be a leader of men so he would one day rule the noble House. Cadelaine quickly realized (even if Nadal didn’t), that no only had his brothers hoped he would leave to never return (perhaps perishing in the harsh climes of Delos), but that she was his half-sister. Resolving to let him know neither, she wished him well but kept her distance, not wanting him to examine her too closely and wonder why she looked so much like his father….!

The other interesting shipmate was found floating on day on a piece of lumber, miles and miles from land. His name was Endefal, and he was a Gold half elf and priest of Attar. Although the marks on his wrists and back told of a past of servitude, he refused to tell anything about himself, or how he came to be floating on the ocean, even to a fellow half elf (but truly, he and Cadelaine had as little in common in their heritage than any other random human, elf or half elf). Captain Bohema had his ship cleric nurse the young half elf back to health, then put him to work also. Endefal showed a remarkable ability on the boat and sees, which seemed to place him as a sailor at some point in his past. Whatever his origins, he refused to speak of them to either Cadelaine or Nadal.

After several weeks, after open seas, soon various islands began to dot the ocean around them. Unlike anything she had seen back in the League, the islands were covered by lush, tropical foliage, the arm was warm and muggy, the sun hot and merciless. When Captain Bohema would talk to her sometimes, he told her of the dangerous waters they plied, full of orcish, human, and Taranthian slavers and pirates, and containing many other dangers such as dragon turtles and worse! He also talked of Delos, a land hundreds of miles long, filled with jungles, dark skinned natives, incredible monsters, and danger underneath every tree and vine. Yet he also spoke of great treasures contained in ruins on the isle, of cities made of gold, diamonds as big as a man’s fist, and lost magic that had been undiscovered since the Cataclysm. The stories fired Cadelaine’s imagination and she felt excitement to explore this strange new world. If Endefal felt anything, he did not speak of it, but Bohema’s tales of battling pirates and slavers cause his golden eyes to angrily flash and he would rub his wrists where Cadelaine saw knife marks. perhaps where he had sawed free of a set of manacles? She was too embarrassed to ask, and Nadal seemed to be oblivious, in a world of his own…planning his training to one day rule House Valaryan with the troops he would train at their landing spot, Port Maugre!

The arrival at Port Maugre had been a bit anti-climatic. For what is was worth, she felt a bit smug yet also sorry for the proud Sir Nadal, who had been laughed at and scoffed at during his arrival as he found out rather than “commanding” anything, he was to be assigned to work at House Valaryan like any other employee, family member or mercenary alike. His pride with his plate armor and sword were even taken from him, as well as his bragged-about riding skills, after finding out that heavy armor could not be worn, the best weapons to use were small and compact, and that no horses existed on Delos to ride (they all caught some sort of disease within weeks of landing and died).

She, Endefal and Nadal all stood in the plush office of Gam, referred to as “The Patriarch”, who was the nominal head of House Valaryan here on distant Delos. Along with other members of House Valaryan, Gam took care of trade with the native Ashante and Kongon tribesmen from his villa in Port Maugre. Dealing mainly in spices (cloves, cinnamon) and ivory, House Valaryan was along with House Tarn and House Mith (rival trading houses) the only noble houses of the League able to operate out of the outpost of Port Maugre. Captain Bohema had introduced her and Endefal to Gam, saying they were “not half bad youngsters”, and suggesting perhaps Gam could find a place for them there. Gam told Endefal that he owed House Valaryan his life, and it would only be right of him to work off his debt working for House Valaryan; to Cadelaine, he sternly told her the penalty for being a stowaway was indentured servitude, but since Bohema had vouched for her, he would instead let her work off the cost of the trip while working there at House Valaryan.

Three others were there, also. A tall native warrior type, and an older warrior named Ardu who obviously had worked for House Valaryan for awhile. He introduced the young native boy as his nephew Mongo, and said since his village had been destroyed by Tzulan natives, he was eager to join his uncle at House Valaryan to use his skill as a ranger and tracker. The last individual was a full blooded Gold Elf, wearing the holy symbol of Faerel…a druid! Apparently from the conversation he had with Gam, he had come to Delos with several other elves searching for a mythical elvish city founded some 500 years earlier, and his mentor and the rest of the expedition had been killed not two days into the jungle by “snakemen”, creatures who sounded perfectly horrible! The elf, Kalphistane by name, had survived with several Vistnan priests accompanying the expedition, and he had been brought here awaiting a future delegation of gold elves. Not knowing when they might arrive, Kalphistane was offering his skills and powers to House Valaryan until that day. Gam questioned Nadal, Kalphistane, Mongo, Endefal and Nadal a bit, and then told them their duties and the rules of House Valaryan: they were employees of the House, and would be assigned duties such as caravan escorting, scouting, or being bodyguards of important members of House Valaryan or merchants they had to deal with. In return, they would be given room and board, and allowed (when not on duty) to pursue their own explorations. Agreeing to the terms and signing a contract, Gam produced a small sack of gold for each member (10 gp each) and told them to go out on the town and celebrate their employment, as the next morning would be their first day of work!

The five made their way to the local inn/tavern, taking in the rough dirty streets of the town, which sat on the end of a peninsula extending off the coast of Delos. A huge stone and timber wall separated the town from the heavy rain forest only half a mile away, and looked to be (even at this late hour) manned by ever alert warriors on several towers along the walls. While the area they walked through consisted of several poor huts, they could see a few expensive mansions and towers farther on towards the end of the peninsula, indicated that there were at least a few inhabitants that seem to have profited from their stay in Delos.

Still a bit stunned by the recent turns of events, the five made their way down to the “Number One Inn”, the best known drinking establishment in Port Maugre. Inside, the age of the building was evident, and it was full of every sort of individual. Port Maugre was the ass-end of the world, it seemed, and every criminal, outcast, runaway, warrior with something to prove, secretive mage, or worse ended up there. While drinking banana beer in the bar, they met the acquaintance of one bard of ill-repute, Drake by name, as he introduced himself to the five. A man of high spirits, and apparently low morals, Drake seemed to be an engaging rogue and entertained them with a few tales. When the head of the local house of ill repute (Nann) came into the bar roaring his name (something about money owed), he beat a hasty retreat out the back. The young adventurers also met the bartender, a shifty old gnome named Skull, who told them a bit about the town (and told them not to wake the muscled halfling woman passed out at the bar, if they valued their lives), and several other interesting individuals. Tired yet excited, they walked back through the earthen streets to their barracks in House Valaryan, eager to discover more about this strange land.