Perfectly Legitimate Adventuring Party

On Top of Old Smoky
Flaming Goblins!

After a small rest, Al cast a pile of resistance spells on us, and we searched for wherever the goods would have dropped – because of course we wouldn't be the only ones who had been attacked by a triffid. There were quite a few bog-standard fungi. (Bog-standard. See what I did there? Oh shut up) and bits of a well-chewed goblin with an amulet around its neck. We tried to get it off carefully, but the head wasn't actually attached any more, and we all ended up with a bit too much goblin guts all over us. The amulet was magical (no surprises there) and some sort of a Monkish "Fists of Fury" magical doover – all set for us to sell the next time we're somewhere handy. Or able to give back to the dwaves. Or something. Me, I'm for selling. It's definitely not the sort of thing for me, because I'm not the type to hang around where the fight it. Much prefer hanging back. Waaay  back. Mel popped it on, and it didn't seem to cause her any problems – but then something got the drop on us.

Vampire_Squid.bmpNow I used to live on the docks, and sometimes those fishermen brought in things that would make your eyes fall out of their sockets. Fish shaped like the moon, octopus tentacles long enough to wrap twice around the boat, fish that looked like they came from the Dimensions of Chaos – and once, they brought in a thing that looked like a squid married an umbrella. And that's what this thing looked like. Floated down, and tried to EAT ME!

They missed.

Maul cast the usual blessing, while Mel swung, and I threw another Alchemist's Fire (that splashed a little. Oh well). A second one went for Mel, missed, and then the first one went for me again. Filthy unnatural creatures! I ducked it, and had a good look around in case there were any others, while Al used her lovely acid ray and squirted the bastard. SEE! THAT'S WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE SQUIRTED YOU SQUID THING! It made a horrid noise and flapped up into a crack in the ceiling, but Maul chucked a spear up after it, and a moment later, both the spear and the dead Darkmantle fell down among us, uncovering in the process a bag of bones, a bag of rags, and a bag of gems. Nice!

Shrieker.jpgAnd in the distance, further up the cavern, something shrieked.

Loudly

Loud enough that we were pretty sure we were spotted and done for.

Until I spotted a little something up beside the shrieking critter, that was probably the reason it started sounding the alarm. He was probably trying to do the "try a little from the left hand side", although without a friendly caterpillar. hqdefault.jpg

Al sent a sleep spell up to the small fellow, but all it did was encourage him to yell "INTRUDERS!" as loudly as he could and shoot back at Al. Luckily the snit's aim was worse than mine – the arrow skittered past Al and into a nearby puddle. Two more showed up and fired – alas, one did hit Al. Maul set up the Entropic Shield just as another two turned up and fired, this time at Mel (but they missed). So Al pulled up the regular Flaming Nuisance Sphere, which, from the lovely smells of burnt goblin that wafted back, did its job very nicely. I added to the Rain of Unhitting Arrows, and we suddenly realised that one of the goblins was halfway up the side of the rock wall and doing a lot better than the rest of them. There was a bustle of goblins at ground level drawing their swords and going for Mel, but Roderick was in prime "Bite Them" mode, and whacked hard.

Maul threw her Soundblast at a pile of them, and Al fired away at the one up the wall. Then, a snarling noise from the back of the goblins caught our attention. The dude up the wall scurried to a crack and disappeared, and a bunch of confused goblins started hitting each other as the ugliest dog you ever saw charged through them and towards us. Towards Mel, to be exact. There was chaos and arrows and flailing blades and another pair of dogs after Mel dropped the one that had taken a chunk out of her. Mel found herself surrounded, but made a yell of "TARGET RICH ENVIRONMENT" and swung Roderick with such enthusiasm. His old master would have been so proud! Maul cast one of her Obscuring Mist spells, and I kept a wide eye out for that tough dude who was undoubtedly awaiting his chance to sneak up and do his worst. And indeed he was – and that HURT! So I ran back into the mist, and when I tripped over a soft warm thing that smelled bad and wasn't one of our party, I ensured it never woke up again.

There were uglies everywhere! I was reloaded and ready to fire when I suddenly got drenched with something hot and wet – Mel had connected with a goblin and Roderick had been rather active. Indeed, she couldn't stop him barking with glee! Then something large barged past me – luckily I realised at the last moment that it was Maul, and didn't fire on her. There was a strong smell of charred goblin (Al at her best), and the sound of dying goblins left, right and centre, and gradually we worked out that all but the ugliest of the lot had met their maker.

We backed out of the mist towards where he'd gone up the wall.

Maul: "Surrender and no more of your people will be harmed!"

Goblin: "I don't think you understand how goblins work!"

Cogs: "I don't think you understand how I work!"

FlamingSphere.png And Al just lost it and cast a FBNS onto him, and we watched as he dropped off the wall and onto the floor with a soft  'Thud".

We hurried on over, weapons at the ready, and Al made sure the FBNS was on the guy good and proper until Mel persuaded her that the dude might have some treasure. And sure enough, a nice cache of gems and a few items we couldn't identify – a ring of some sort, a loop of cord around his neck, and bracers.

Oh, and he did not survive the fall. In fact, he probably wasn't alive when he dropped.

We searched further up the cavern and found the Goblin village, but it looked like they had abandoned it to squeeze through a hole at the end, and we had no doubt that going through that hole would be trouble. Al and I could have made it (single file), only to be cut into pieces at the end, and Mel and Maul wouldn't have been able to make it through at all.

So we faced up to the inevitable – time to climb back to the spider cave, recuperate, and then attempt getting back up to the bridge tomorrow.

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Reporting back

We decided we’d better report what we found to the tower… but as we began heading up the tunnel towards the gate where we had first come in, we heard boots coming up the corridor towards us. We set up an ambush with an obscuring mist and a stealthy Cog (crouching fighter, hidden rogue?). Things started going badly for us when two of the party were attacked by undead dwarves with picks… making absolutely no sound.

Al moved up the corridor and made herself invisible, which worked for a time. Meanwhile some (not undead) dwarves flailing in the mist managed to damage each other, and Mel hit one of the undead hard enough to leave its guts hanging out… sadly, that wasn’t enough to (re)kill it yet.

Around Al it had been quiet while she was being attacked by a nasty undead dwarf, and then suddenly it wasn’t quiet any more when said nasty undead dwarf ran back down the corridor to hit Mel. A lot of wandering around in the fog went on, but finally we took them all out (Al was quite proud of her swarm of rats).

We then headed back to the gates of the Deep, and talked with the guards, who eventually brought a sub-abbott, and after using a Zone of Truth brought us back into the Tower.

The master abbott was very concerned by our report (after “scolding” us for “stealing” his key), and offered us the healing of the sub-abbotts (who very kindly sorted out our energy drains). Mel was then invited to the forge. We showed them the spiked chain which we had taken from the boss in our last fight, to give them some clues about who or what we might face below.

The smith then offered to improve Roderick (the smith is a relative of Denerik, and he appreciates what we’ve done for her), making a remark about Roderick being “not up to his full potential”. It’s not every day you consider upgrading a sentient sword, so Mel offers the upgrade to Roderick, who commented “hammering’s kind of nice! Oh boy, the forge! My favourite!”. And so it was that Roderick began his journey to becoming an even better boy.

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Upward and Onward
With quite a lot of downward, too.

Another day, another set of identification attempts:

  1. a set of bracers – lesser bracers of archery (ooo!)
  2. a ring – ??
  3. a loop of cord – ??

Yeah, not much luck there.

Cog began to attempt the climb out of the pit (with the rest of us to follow once he made it to the top). This took a long time and a lot of falling back down, while using pitons and rope to minimise the losses of unsuccessful attempts at climbing. However, as Cog got close to the top, a dwarf reached over! He seemed to be making a friendly gesture, so Cog took his hand, and then… the swarthy little bastard threw Cog out off the cliff. As Cog was falling (slowed somewhat by the zippering pitons pulling out of the wall), someone else started shooting. Al yelled some things in Dwarvish, and the shooting continued. We all took shelter in the cave, the big guns put their armor on, and Al yelled some “diplomacy” back and forth.

After various falls, an air elemental from Maul, and then a fried dwarf courtesy of a flaming sphere from Al, the rest of the dwarves ran away. Maul (being wise) realised that the boss goblin of our previous encounter was inexplicably good at climbing around the place, and bet on the ring being a ring of spider climb. She put it on and attempted to climb the rock… at which point she promptly fell into the pool below. On the bright side, for a fall of over 50 feet, she didn’t seem to hit very hard. Ahh… a ring of featherfall!

Of course, while the impact wasn’t much, the chill of the pool was more than enough, so we now had two fatigued climbers, and decided to spend the night before making any further attempts at ascent.

Another day, another set of identification attempts!

  1. a ring – ??
  2. a loop of cord – ??

Bugger.

While we were sleeping, more dwarves had assembled at the top of the canyon. Al called up to the dwarves that had assembled, and they told us to come up unarmed. Two of us (Cog and Al) did so… and were immediately attacked.

So we did our best in the fight, which resulted in Al becoming quite badly wounded, and without many options left for survival. But, as the old saying goes, “a friend in need is a friend who will push you off a bridge”. Cog put the ring of suspected (!!) featherfall on Al’s finger, and pushed her over. That worked quite well, actually! Then Cog – being super-stealthy through the mist conjured by Mel – disappeared off into the cavern and hid. Meanwhile the dwarves – out of targets for the time being – sent a runner for reinforcements.

Still little closer to having our party at the top of the canyon, Maul tried the cord and found it made climbing much easier. So we used the wand to make Mel invisible, gave her both the ring and the cord, and sent her up the wall… literally.

She dispatched two of the dwarves very promptly (the element of surprise near the edge of a chasm can be highly effective – especially when accompanied by a deftly-wielded fecking huge sword), then charged across the bridge and skewered the one remaining dwarf.

And so, our party finally regained the top of the canyon, with all our stuff, and all (miraculously) in one piece.

The dwarves we had killed had some loot on them: plate and banded armour, ordinary weapons, a masterwork heavy pick and a masterwork chain shirt. As it was of little use to our party for the time being, and the dwarves of the tower would presumably value these items, we left it all piled neatly on the tower side of the bridge.

And now, since we believe reinforcements will be coming from the far side of the bridge (and evidently no welcome awaits us in that direction), we decide to start heading back the way we had come so many days before.

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So Many Goblins
Where did he come from, where did he go? Where did he come from, Goblin-Eye Joe?

After a rest, we investigated the area where the plant had come from, but found nothing but normal cave fungi. In one corner, there was a rather dead (and somewhat chewed) goblin. Cog investigated, and found a rather nice amulet (Amulet of Mighty Fists +1). While we were looking, some dark mantles dropped on us. Gross. Fight time! Splat and splat.

And then while we were discussing things, one of the fungi started screeching (apparently our Knowledge: Mycology isn’t up to scratch). Oh dear. We killed it, but we know such fungi screech to attract predators.

We headed up the gully, Cog going ahead (stealthily) to scout… and then he returned, having spied something furry and goblin-size near the screecher. Which probably was what set the screecher off, not us.

The goblin yelled “intruders, come quick!”, and shot at Al. Two others showed up and also shot at Al. Mel and Maul moved forward. Then more goblins showed up.

Target. Rich. Environment.

Even more goblins, and a dire rat. The boss climbed up, then disappeared into the ceiling. Evidently an exceptionally good climber… who subsequently sneak-attacked Al, causing quite a bit of damage… but Al got her revenge in the end with flaming spheres (and honestly, one sneak attack isn’t much compared to a couple of flaming spheres in your end).

Our fight with the goblins yielded quite a lot of loot, especially on the boss goblin. Four magic things: a Shortbow+1 (perfect for Cog), a set of bracers, a ring, and a loop of cord… the latter three of which Al failed to identify.

After making our way up the rift, we found a deserted goblin campsite about the point where the rift ends, and a hole through which we expect we would have found the bulk of the goblins. Not wishing to fight an entire community of goblins, we instead plugged up the hole with dead goblins and rocks and whatever else we can find, then returned down the rift.

And thanks to our great and glorious DM, the old giant spider cave is… a safe place! DING!

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Botanical Nightmares

We spent the night in the ex-spider’s lair, and then went fishing (after zapping most of the leeches), getting several more valuable items. The water was freezing cold, so those who went in suffered a bit, but we’d dry out and warm up eventually. However, just as we began to climb up the rope back to the bridge, a cart full of rocks (which had been attached to said rope by bastard or bastards unknown) came crashing down on top of us. Someone set us up!

Now without an easy option to climb back up to the bridge, and knowing that an enemy could be waiting when we got there, we decided to head down instead. We climbed down to the pool, where there was a crevice (about 15 feet across) to climb gradually upward and, hopefully, out. The bottom of the crevice was “suspiciously clean”. While cleanliness may be next to godliness, “suspicious cleanliness” has much less appealing neighbours. Specifically: a gelatinous cube. It engulfed Cog and Maul (twice), but fortunately was sufficiently scorched by three rounds of Al’s flaming sphere that a couple of arrows and a crossbow bolt finished it off.

As the cube disintegrated (gross), we found… stuff? Bat and goblin bones, as well as a wand of invisibility and quite a few hundred gold worth of coins and rings.

We explored the valley further up, found a boulder, climbed it and set up camp atop the boulder (because a high place above a valley which a gelatinous cube has roamed until very recently should be entirely safe, right?). However, during the first watch, we got puffed by spores, and Mel & Al started having some unpleasant hallucinations. Al was initially convinced she was covered in a swarm of spiders, and then the spiders “vanished” and she believed she was melting. Mel dropped her dagger (because it apparently grew teeth and tried to bite her), then believed she had shrunk to a very small size and needed to get under the corner of the boulder to avoid being stepped on.

After a couple of rounds, that wore off, and we were back to a normal fight. With a tree. That was moving around the roof and down the walls. And swinging at us with tendrils. But, y’know, normal otherwise. In the end, we defeated the plant and finally had our night’s rest.

We’ll go investigate where it was hanging out (geddit‽)… next time.

Oh, and Al finally identified the dagger: +1 Dagger “with a really annoying glow”

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Jelly, Jelly on a plate
Some spores make you taller.

We spent a very quiet night near the web. I was able to catch a bit of a nap before my watch, but those bloody leeches took more out of me than I expected. Mind you, around the dinner circle (of … can you guess? It starts with a F and ends with an “Ucking Horrid Flatgoat”), we had a robust discussion about which way to go the next morning. Although I had spotted a possible way out of the pool area below (following the water upstream), we decided to make for the Monastery first, try and sort them out, then look at the stream on the way back.

However, before that, we would ensure that the stream’s goodies were looked after by worthy types such as ourselves. And to minimise the effects of the leeches, we would use a combination of freezing spells to send them to Leech Purgatory before getting out the shiny things.

And a bit of dead dwarf to lure the leeches in so we could blast the fuckers. Honestly, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear they were the Almighty’s revenge for something. Although I’m sure that Irori wouldn’t create such a being. Anyway, we gave the leeches what-for, so that the only not-nice thing Mel and Maul got for their troubles was a small dose of hypothermia, easily cured. We scavenged a few nice gems and a ring for that.

Then it was time to head back up to the bridge. The plan was for me to climb up, and then assist the others by belaying them.

Yeah. That was the plan.

The slight tug on the rope assured me that it was still firmly attached up the top. So I grabbed it with both hands, ready to haul myself up.

The rope went slack.

And instead hauled a wagon full of rocks straight down onto us. OMG IT’S COMING RIGHT FOR US!!!

I’d show you a picture of what it looked like, but instead you can have a picture of what it looked like for me…

passout2.jpgOK, that was done by someone who knew what they were doing. They’d very carefully balanced one of those broken down carts on the edge of the bridge, set to fall as soon as anything more than a slight tug pulled on the rope. Oh – for an added extra bonus, they’d taken my block of flatgoat out of the bridge mechanism, so the trapdoor was locked shut and hard.

All of us were badly beaten. (At least it wasn’t Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies – but it had been close!)

But on the good side, they’d taken the flatgoat.

So, the plan was now rather one-sided. Straight down to the pool, then along the tunnel into the cave. The crack in the wall was just wide enough to let us through. Although Al and Mel noticed that the rocks, which are normally pretty slimy, were clean. Sparkling, non-slippery clean. We decided to extinguish all the torches, and send Maul up ahead because she has the darkvision. I was just behind her, and at the same time, we spotted a great gloopy oozy pile of goop.

GELATINOUS CUBE!!!
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I’ve heard of these beasties, but obviously not enough. And I was a bit concerned that this might be a non-solo cube, so I took a second to look around.

Too long.

I got sucked in. The gelatinous ick wrapped itself around me, and I could not move. Maul got caught as well, but was able to pull herself free while whopping at it. I was still a bit whoozy after the rockfall , so I could vaguely hear sizzling and whacking, and then felt the whole thing dissolve around me as the creature died in a puddle of acidic goop. Mel pours clean water on myself and Maul, which helped rinse off the acid but left a nasty brown stain on my underwear (or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

We did, however, find some pretty things inside it, including a Wand of Invisibility. We could tell by the rockfall at the end of the cavern that the cube had been restricted to this small area, and in face had also kept the water clean. Already, the first whiffs of sewerage were coming from behind the rockfall.

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We decided to camp on top of the large boulder despite the mould and slime on the sides of it. It was nice and dry up there, and well away from the huge mushrooms crowding the cavern. The roof above us was clear, and nothing could get up the sides without us seeing it. So we slept (with watches, of course).

And in the middle of the night, Al was attacked by a swarm of spiders, and Mel’s dagger woke up and bit her.

Or at least that’s what they saw.

Maul and I looked at each other in amazement. There were no spiders, and Mel’s dagger had not suddenly become more sentient than Roderick. But there was a faint musty pollen-y smell in the air that we thought …

And looked up, and there was a large plant where earlier there had been bare rock.

Unfortunately, at this time, Al was screaming “Get them off! Get them OFF!” and running around just under the plant, so Maul grabbed her and jumped for it. Mel had already jumped, and was attempting to squeeze into a tiny crack. Now Al was screaming that she was melting, and Mel was trying to fight a twig. I tossed an Alchemist’s Fire at the plant (which unfortunately missed) and jumped off the side to join the others. Maul dunked Al and Mel in the water, and that must have done the trick, because she suddenly shook herself, used a word I really must get translated some day, and sent one of her trusty Flaming Nuisance Spheres up at the plant.

Which swayed and bent like a reed in the wind, avoid the bloody sphere with an agility that one scarcely expects in a plant. Mel, too, recovered her wits, and pulled out the long bow for a decent shot at the beast .It flailed around, dropping spores like Fronson with a Pepper Pot, but we realised what was happening and managed to avoid breathing too much in this time. Al left the Sphere to do its thing, while sending out an acid attack that did the job very nicely. Unfortunely her second shot just grazed it.

“Is it a tobacco plant? Was that close, but no cigar?”

The plant tried to reach us, so Mel swung with Roderick – and missed. The plant also swung at Mel, with a slightly better aim, and hit her, so Mel hit again and pruned it of a fair number of branches. At this moment, Maul’s summoned Eagle arrived, and went for the plant with its celestial talons. The plant disappeared over the back of the rock, and Al sent the sphere over to meet it.

And in a moment, we had a scorching smell. Not feathers – more like roasted broccoli. The plant fell off the wall into the middle of our campsite, scorching Maul’s bedroll. We gathered ourselves and our equipment back on top of the rock, and proceeded to get a decent night’s sleep, after which I felt almost back to normal.

And Al managed to identify the glowing dagger as a +1 glowing one. Not one for the secret attacks, then…

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In the Tower

It was time to finish up some business in town. Various members of the party needed some new supplies, and to Mel’s great delight, Roderick was entirely repaired.

We asked Denerik to tell us a bit about the Deep: after Venarik had built the Tower, she went into the Deep, and built a monastery there. The dwarves usually trade with the monastery… and with the races who live further down. However, the Deep is currently locked off. They lost contact with the monastery two weeks ago, and no one who has gone in has returned. The master abbot has therefore ordered it closed until they re-establish contact.

Denerik made an appointment for us to talk with the master abbot, and accompanied us to that appointment. In front of Denerik, he told us that it will have to wait for the council to consider it (in two to three weeks). He then sent Denerik away, and told us discreetly that he absolutely can’t authorise our venturing into the deep, and nor can he give us the key that is on his belt – right here – this one (Cog took the hint and stole it), while he made loud apologies: “sorry I couldn’t help you!” “Thank you, we respect your decision!” etc.

We waited until a suitable time, then headed down to the entrance, where we tried to bluff the guards to let us through (we had the key, so obviously it was authorised). They said they wanted to check with the folks upstairs – clearly they were rather suspicious of a band of random non-dwarvish adventurers being sent on official duty – but we convinced them that a delay could be dangerous and so they let us through – provided we leave the key with them (they said they would check our authorisation while we were away). We decided to take the chance for now, and headed down into the cave. As we walked ever downwards, we noticed various changing features along the way: rooms off the side near the entrance, murder-holes, a gridded floor, then the cavern sloped further downward.

We noticed that the walls have dwarvish script carved into them. We saw a cart that one of the wheels had broken off. We saw small side passages, but the main route was always pretty clear. And we saw no evidence of combat. It was very quiet: the sound of our footsteps, nothing else.

After about two hours of walking, we came to a spot where the cavern opens out a bit, and there’s a rift in the ground with a bridge going across it. Cog made an exploratory crossing, without event. There was a sound of water far below.

Then Maul crossed, and half way across… the bridge – trapped, as it turned out – dropped from underneath her. Mel, who had the other end of the rope, was pulled over the edge too.

They landed… in something sticky. Pro: it broke their fall. Con: giant spider.

Fight!

After defeating the spider, Maul & Mel investigated the bodies wrapped up in the web. Some looked relatively fresh (less than one week old), some shrivelled. About 10 dwarves, and a bunch of goblins. The smaller folk also climbed down to the web (Cog lowered Al, then climbed down himself). Searching the bodies, we found various identifying items, plus some cash on the goblins. And the cave in which the spider had lurked made for quite a secure shelter.

Al extracted some giant spider venom x 2 (double strength medium spider venom). We’d also seen something glowing in the water down below… so Cog climbed down to get that, and unfortunately leeches got him while he was doing so. And it was… a glowing dagger which Al utterly failed to identify.

And with that, we’ll heal everyone up and rest and decide where to go next (and how).

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Spider! Spider! Burning Bright!
Down down, deeper and down.

This dwarvish city was a bit of all right. Most things were made for the lesser-heighted individuals (like me), and for once the others were the ones who felt a bit … not quite the right size. Maul found her armour to be chafing in odd locations, so she handed it over to the dwarves for a makeover, and bought a basic suit of a lesser sort to tide her over until the pretty set was ready. One of the weaponsmiths was even trying to sell Mel a pretty dagger, with pinstriping. Honestly – next time it would be hammers that matched her eyes!

We got the wand and the scroll analysed. The wand is a “Protection from Evil”, and the scroll is “Align Weapon (good)”. Local shops were offering a special recipe for Flatgoat. “Best Flatgoat in the Tower!” Joy. I politely declined a second helping, and consider myself utterly virtuous for refusing it with a lack of expletives and new words for that filthy, disgusting vile substance. Shame my boots don’t need resoling – that would be the perfect substance for it. Luckily, there’s also Dwarvish Flat Bread. The special one. With Cheese. The Special Dwarvish Cheese. Can you guess what the special flavour in the special cheese is?

DNE.jpgWe headed for the Church of Torag, and on the way, I noticed a symbol on a bunch of doors. Denerik told me that these were the symbol for “Do not enter”, so I thought it might be a good idea to memorise it. I was also about to ask her about her brother who had gone missing, but something told me that that wouldn’t be a great idea. She did, however, mention that the Monastery had barriers between the Dwarves and “Further Down”, and something about the Lord of the Deep. I kept getting images of some enormous, ancient dwarf performing a ritual dance with their hands held down by their sides.

Either way, the Abbot should know who that is. The deep is currently locked off, and there has been no contact with them for a long, long time. Those that went to investigate have not returned either. Denerik kindly arranged an appointment with Master Abbot Lewarik so that we could see what needed to happen. I had a quiet chat with Al about the possibilities of poison sacs at the end of the crossbow bolts, which we will look further into later. (Hmm – small sponge, long-lasting fast-acting poison …. Later. Honest.)

Then we went off to meet Master Abbot. And his beard. He has a massive beard, a surly beard, a beard of great consequence that reaches far down to his knees, and which he strokes affectionately. Either that, or they keep some strange pets in that end of the world.

We offered to go and try and make contact with the monastery. A fair offer, I would have thought, but his Abbotness would not permit such an undertaking without the consensus of the entire council. Conferring would mean summoning the council, which would take 2 to 3 weeks. I was just about to consider an alternative, which would have involved a large distraction and a small slit to his belt hook, when he sent Denerik out.

And then proceeded to lean forward and say in a very stern voice “I couldn’t possibly let you down there, and I certainly could not give you the key on my belt.”

For a moment, I thought he’d caught my own thoughts, and I fumbled rather badly at swiping the key as he leaned over. In fact, it’s only by sheer and utter luck that I didn’t stab the old fellow in the process. (I really must get that small knife sharpened up!) He gave me a look of complete and utter disgust, and repeated even more firmly that he couldn’t possibly let us go down there, or to use the key on his belt.

This time I got it. The hint. And the key. Both.

We headed out of his office, to where a very dejected Denerik sat waiting for us, and let the poor lass know that we’d probably want to do a few tours of the area, especially the allowable lower areas of the tower. She was glad of the diversion, and we were easily able to pinpoint the locked gate to the Deeps, and to notice the very empty ore storerooms nearby. Then, with a few rather fake yawns (honestly, did no-one train in deception and bluff?) the four of us announced a need for an early night.

Dwarves_at_gate.jpgSo of course, as soon as it got all quiet outside (they don’t have much in the way of sunlight down there. Afraid of tanning or something) we snuck to the gate. And faced four rather burly guardsmen, and behind them, the gate.

“Do we sneak past?”

“Not a hope.”

“Kill them?”

“NO!”

“What then?”

“Why not tell an 80% truth?”

“A what??”

We marched right up to them.

“We have been sent to investigate the Deeps, and find out what’s happening with the Monastery.”

“We have orders – no-one to pass.”

“But we’ve been sent on purpose. Look – us two,” pointing at Al and myself, “are sneaky, and the other two are back-up.”

“I don’t know about this…” The chief guard was visibly wavering. “I need to check it with the boss.”

“But there are people in there! We must get through…”

“All right. But you leave the key with us.”

" errr … All right."

And through we went. The door was locked behind us, although they’ve promised to keep an ear out for us and let us back if when we return.

The pathway was lined with nice dwarvish-cut stone, and the walls and roof were likewise lined – and lined also with murder holes and other nasty surprises, to be used in the event of attack from beneath, I have no doubt. After a while, the pathway opened up to a large cave, with a smooth floor. The air was cool, and dampish. Except, of course, when Roderick farted and the smell of well-digested flat-goat wafted around us. The path gradually wound around and down, past walls with dwarvish scripts, and abandoned wooden carts that were obviously once used to haul the ore up to the gate. It was quiet.

Too quiet. For my liking, anyway.

Then, after a couple of rather nervous hours, the pathway opened right up to a huge cavern. Across the cavern lay a rather large chasm, with the faint sounds of water far below it. And, conveniently, across the chasm lay a rather nice bridge, of obvious Dwarven work, and pretty work it was too.

22-3_Cavern2.bmp
Not being the suspicious types, we still decided to take this bridge very, very carefully. Al tied a rope around my middle, and paid it out as I crossed. There was just nicely enough rope to reach the other side, and I undid my harness and fastened it to a nearby rock. The rock itself was fairly shiny, with striations. Although with what happened next, I’d be more likely to call it Schist than Gneiss.

I waved my lantern, and Maul started across. She was halfway there, when suddenly she dropped out of sight, pulling Mel down with her.

Then – a scream.

Then …

Silence.

I rushed over to the hole, which seemed to be a very well made weight-balanced trapdoor. There, below Al and I, was a huge spiderweb across the chasm.

Do you know what comes with Big Spider Webs?

I’ll give you a hint. They’re big. They have eight legs. Huge eyes. And enoooormous fangs.

And they think Maul would make a lovely meal.

Spider.jpgMel and Maul went for the spider, while I shot from above and Al sent down her Flaming Nuisance Sphere. Then, the bridge started creaking. The trap door was closing! I did the only thing I could think of.

I jammed a block of Flat Goat into the mechanism.

It worked! The levers creaked to a halt, and the bridge stayed open. Mel and Maul launched themselves at Old Hairy Legs, balancing between the wrapped bundles all over the web, while Al and I sent down bolts from above, both sharp and magical. There were a few moments of sheer panic – like when the lovely Magic Missile wand suddenly crumbed in Al’s hands (must have been nearly out of bolts), and when the bastard Arachnid actually managed to sink its fangs into Maul. But finally we subdued the spider, then killed her to make sure. The flaming sphere had actually managed to set the web on fire, but Maul was able to cast a “Create Water” and get it under control. Then Al and I checked that the bridge was properly jammed by the flat goat, and we abseiled down easily to join the others, leaving the rope tied tightly to one of the bridge struts so that we could get up it in the morning.

And none too soon, either. Pool Maul was turning a nice shade of green, and barely able to keep to her feet! We investigated the area, and decided there was nothing there that was alive and shouldn’t be. Sadly, some of those that we investigated were dwarf and goblin bodies; some fresh, some desiccated. But there were no little baby spiders (or their eggs) to be dealt with, so we tucked Maul into the spider’s den at the end of the web, and had a poke around. Most specifically, I looked over the edge of the web, and saw down to the bottom of the chasm.

There, at the bottom, is a pool of water. A light trickle of water comes down from one side, and out the other. And in the bottom?

Shinies.

Pretty, shiny things, including one rather pretty light that I felt ought to be taken out of the water before it rusted. Or something. So I got the others to lower me down on a rope, while Al kept a spell ready to blast anything that came for me.

The water was gold, and there were lots of skeletons in there, (goblin and dwarf), but the shiny thing was a pretty glowing dagger which I grabbed.

And while I grabbed it, a pile of leeches grabbed me. OW!

The others pulled me up while I called those bloodsuckers every nasty name I could think of. But even with the help of Maul, I was pretty dizzy and weak by the time they got me back up. I managed to tell them of the other shiny things in the water, before collapsing to sleep on the lovely soft webs at the side of the passage.

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Trolling for a response
When Roderick took a dive.

You know what’s worse than trooping along a muddy mountain track in the cold?

Trooping along a muddy track in the cold, knowing that some creep is back in Blackwater Port, slandering our good name left, right and centre.

Hang on.

I have an idea. No, not telling you, oh my gentle reader. Not until we get it rolling. But suffice to say that youthful enthusiasm may yet change the direction of history.

Anyway, back to the log. It got colder and colder as we made our way up the mountain, until the rain and the sleet became intolerable. There were little villages on the way up so that most nights we slept in some sort of rudimentary hut. That were tolerable, but only just (and at least twice it was only by huddling up together with Wallace and Bluefish that we managed to avoid freezing to death). But the villages were getting smaller, rarer, and the weather was getting colder. Also, the pathway was changing from a nice road to a rocky track to occasionally some sort of rough cliff-side ledge with half the rock missing. We only passed travellers going the other way once, and for some reason the rest of the party didn’t want to tell them about Slimy Vernon. Shame. I could have given them some prime ideas.

Keylong1.jpg Finally, we got caught out in the rain with no sign of a village or even a hut anywhere. The weather seemed to be getting worse, snow started falling, and our only chance for not being completely frozen was to huddle under the lee of a rocky overhang. It was only Maul‘s skill with weather resistance that stopped yours truly becoming a cold piece of meat as well. One good thing, speaking of cold meat – it was so cold that my tastebuds couldn’t even taste the flatgoat. Did I mention that nothing on this earth makes that stuff in the slightest bit palatable? Luckily, because we didn’t even have the means of making a fire, so we couldn’t have cooked it even if we’d wanted to. Even so, the night was miserable, and we bedded down with cold stomachs and even colder feet. Of course we wouldn’t sleep in such places without keeping a watch, and I kept mine with Maul, but I must have got some snow in my ears, because during mine and Maul’s watch I completely missed the sound of mucking great heavy footsteps. Maul didn’t, though. She decided that, should those be approaching be friendly, what better way to greet them than with the sweet sounds of hymns to the Greatness of Nimbus.

They weren’t friendly.

But then what else would you expect from Ice Trolls. The bastards charged us, and one swung at me – OWWWW! Those guys hit HARD! At least Maul’s singing had the expected secondary effect – it had nicely woken Mel and Al, which meant that as the plugugly one hit me, Mel could swing the mighty Roderick.

Or at least she could have if Roderick hadn’t been huddling in his scabbard and refusing to come out in the cold. It took a lot of pleading and yanking before he came free.

Speaking of cold, Al employed her ever-faithful (if slow-moving) fireball, which did the standard dance of “Tag” around the troll while Mel and Maul swung their mucking great weapons. I made excellent use of an Alchemists’ Fire bag, which hit the big guy right where I wanted it to. A bit of splash damage as well, but hey, these things happen, and at least Mel and Maul were a bit warmer as a result. Fricking troll swung his hips like he was hula dancing, missing that Flaming Sphere, but a fast spell onto Mel meant that our lovely Lady of Whopping was now a BIG Lady! Blows were exchanged between the troll and Mel, but of course those bastards have regenerative powers, not to mention are able to shrug off any but the worst damage. I remembered (and observed) how powerful the Alchemists’ Fire was against them, and hoiked another one in the direction of the first troll. Or was it the second? Either way, the Fire pouch bounced between them and over the side of the cliff edge, merely splattering a little on the way. Dammit. Al’s fire thing finally stayed on its target, though, and the beast fell over.

Al cast a belated Mage Armour on herself, (Maul had already blessed us), but in that short space of time, the bastard got up! DAMMIT! I thought there had been enough damage of the non-repairable sort, but no. Mel hit him hard enough to drop him again, and raised Roderick high over her head, ready to put him (and us) out of his misery.

Then…

Poor Mel.

Poor Roderick.

In a massive swing, that in reality should have taken the head off the troll and had power left to chop up the second one, Mel’s grip slipped in the icy conditions, and Roderick went flying out and clanged down hard on the road.
And slid.
… Right
… … To
… … … The
… … … … Edge
… … … … … Of
… … … … … … The
… … … … … … … Drop,

Teetered on the edge for what felt like forever, but was probably just a moment.

Then
… tipped

And started falling down the side of the mountain.

We could hear him.

clang

YIP!

clang

ARF!

clang

AOWWWWWWW!

Poor Mel was almost in tears. The second troll started laughing, almost half enough to shake his own head. Enough worrying – we had a regenerating troll to deal with. I hit at him with my dagger, which barely scratched him. Bloody damage resistance. Maul was going for the laughing dude, who hit her. But Maul swung hard with her axe, then in the same beautiful, fluid movement, passed it on to Mel.

Al recast the Flaming Nuisance Sphere again, and set it on the one that was down until it was a crispy piece of trollish critter (no I will NOT post the picture of that. There are limits. And the smell!) Mel swung the axe with a very credible swish, but it didn’t connect.

clang

ARF!

clang

YIP!

I threw my next Alchemists’ Fire, aimed at my height on the troll. And yes, chestnuts roasted on an open fiery codpiece. Maul used her spears and stabbed hard, and as the troll danced around to avoid the Flaming Sphere, Al sent the Acid out and got him.

clang

ARF!

Mel yelled something about FOR RODERICK and swung the axe, which connected this time with a very satisfying “ker-CHUNK!” This took the bastard down, and Al got her fire to hover on him until he, too, was a roasting sizzle hunk of troll-meat, well done and charred in places.

We had 50 feet of rope each, so while Maul threw a positive energy burst on us while Al and I tied the ends to make 200 feet of lovely long line, minus a couple of feet for the knots and for the rope harness around me. We also anchored it on Bluefish, in case we needed an extra pull-up. Then, over I went. The rocks were slippery, and dark, and very very cold, but poor little Roderick was whimpering and howling, and needed to be saved. I got down to him, and carefully tied him to a spare loop of rope before starting the assisted climb back up. Poor Roddy had a nasty chunk out of the side of his blade, and was quite battered and bruised. I got over the top of the rise…

… then Mel kissed me!

Goodness.

Then she promised Roderick the services of a good weaponsmith. Or at least I think she did – I spent the next minute or two in the thrall of some sort of bliss-distraction-spell, I think. Failed my save on that one rather badly. Never mind – I think it had more positive effects than anything else.

Anyway, the good mood was quickly dispelled by the need to check out the troll’s sacks. Which were, as you’d expect, pretty disgusting. Slimy. Bits of … let me say that that’s one dwarf who won’t be resurrected easily. Despite being a follower of Torag. So much for careful planning, although the “avoiding the sun” bit may have been what met this one up with the troll in the first place. Oh well. Bit late now. The body bits had a Holy Symbol of Torag caught up in the beard (no guarantee of being male, though. Or female. Bloody dwarves). We wrapped him her them up in a rag and stashed her him them in the haversack

A wand and a scroll in a case fell out of one bag, and a variety of coins and jewellery to the value of about 500gp, which will help make up the cost of what will probably be a fairly expensive repair on poor Roderick. That, and the two dwarvish axes which we scavenged from the charred remains of the two trolls, before booting them over the edge of the cliff to bounce hard all the way down.

So we cleaned up as best we could, Maul did more of her lovely healing on us, then we went back to sleep. And in the morning, Maul used a spell of “Make Whole” on Roderick, to last us until we could get him fixed. I didn’t like to say it, but while at a distance it looked ok, up close that repair was rather noticeable.
Roderick_dented.png

So in the morning, we started hiking back up the mountain, in a fairly wary state. Until we heard the sound of a large and clanky group coming down the mountain towards us. Maul gasped “Bandits!” and hauled us all into the shelter of a convenient boulder, just as I was about to greet the newcomers. In fact, the silly half-orc put her hand over my mouth so I couldn’t let her know that her “bandits” were actually a bunch of dwarves with the same symbol on as our mystery body. Luckily, the others in our party realised this, and stepped out of the overhang to greet the newcomers. Turns out our body-in-the-bag was a dwarvish fighter by the name of Rorich, who had come afoul of the trolls. Used to be there was a giant in the land, until they left or went missing or something (How in Irori’s name do you lose a giant?) and then the trolls became a bit of a problem.

So the dwarves, who had to continue on their patrol, lent us one of their number, a fighting lass called Donerik, who accompanied us back to Venarik’s Deep. She wasn’t impressed at being sent back, as she had only just been allowed to go on patrol and didn’t want to miss any of it. However, I sympathised with her, and by the time we got within sight of the granite tower, she was quite chatty. It was still quite a way to walk, so we spent the night in one of the fortresses the dwarves were building on the side of the pathway, and headed out the next morning after a fine breakfast of yet more bloody flatgoat. I vote we make it the key ingredient in a Northport competition of Iron Chef, see if any of them can make it edible.

So the secret ingredient is … flatgoat! Each chef has to create dishes that maintain the theme of the …

Fukui-san?

Yes?

I’m sorry, but both chefs have taken off their aprons and gone to the pub. They said that their honour was not a match to this ingredient, and only a madman would do it.

Hmmmm. Maybe I should ask Al to cook it instead one day. With acid. It can’t be any worse than it is.

We walked along the pathway until lunchtime, when we settled down for a nourishing and rich repast of more flatgoat. As we ate, I noticed something in the sky, that wasn’t so much flying as hurtling along. The odd tube we’d found before turned out to be some sort of spy glass, so I used it to see what the object was.

It was a sack.

A sack that was heading straight towards us!

I yelled, and we all scrambled off the road as the sack came screaming down, and exploded in a puff of chalk dust in front of us. Seems that was what they fire out of their trebuchets when they’re practising.

Weirdos. I bet we’d have been far safer if they had been aiming at us.

The walls themselves, though, are amazing in their makeup – huge stones cut in odd shapes, big as houses, and locked together by virtue of their configuration. We were met at the front gate by a dwarvish high-dude, who spoke with Denerik before thanking us for bringing their partial brother back to them. We did offer to pay our respects at the farewell ceremony, but they said bluntly that it was a Dwarvish ceremony only. Not a problem – I prefer blunt talk. Easier to understand. Denerik led us into their edifice, and to a weaponsmith, who was happy enough to take the two axes we’d taken from the trolls in exchange for fixing Roderick. They also confirmed that the weapons we’d taken off the bugbears were of their make, the sort that was shipped for the export market.

And then we headed for a quiet night (at last) in the merchant quarters. Oh, and dinner.

No prizes.

MM Used: 0 leaves 46.
CLW used: 0 leaves 45
XP: 800 – takes Mel, Al and Cog from 12317 to 13117, Maul from 11394 to 12194

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Bug a bear
Because dead Bugbear is good Bugbear

So after our little encounter, we worked out a strategy:

  1. Find the leader
  2. Follow him to see who he’s dealing with

We were undisturbed all night, and refreshed and wound-free the next day, thanks to Maul’s ministrations. So we quietly snuck up towards where we thought the bugbear camp was, and yours truly of the Special Sneaky sneakingly snuck up ahead of the others.

Sure enough, there were guards. Two big plug uglies, keeping a watch out. I hid behind a convenient rock, and signalled back to the others – I would move around to their left, and they should attack in 5 minutes.

Of course, what I should have done is agree beforehand on signals. They later told me they thought I meant “I’m running away, as there are 5 of them!"

map_4-3.bmpOops.

I waited.

And waited.

And got sick of waiting, so I decided to do a little distraction. No, not with the pansy outfit. I threw a small stone to the south, past the bugbear there. Sure enough, he went to investigate while his mate watched out after him. I then proceeded to sneak around the other side of them.

Or at least that was the plan.

One rather drastic trip-and-crash-later, it seemed I had somewhat attracted their attention in a rather marked fashion. The others of our team then decided that that was their bloody signal. Idiots.

The others concentrated on the guy who’d fallen for my “hey, is that a stone clattering over there?” trick (well, that is, Mel fired at him while Al and Maul waved their hands around for a bit, but to be honest, Mel’s really improved with that bow of hers.) Her target took one shot, then decided to head back to the cave behind them, undoubtedly for reinforcements (or dance subscriptions. One of those two). Yelling as he goes, he clambers over the rough ground and we can only guess how many friends he’ll be bringing back.

The other guy headed towards the rather suspicious noise he’d heard in the rocks – only to come around a corner and find me, trying desperately to look innocent. That axe of his swung hard, but my Mithril was up to the job, and the blade just bounced off. (Those bruises take a while to heal, though. OUCH!)

Suddenly, it’s quiet.

Too quiet.

So quiet, in fact, that we can’t even hear the yelling bugbear. Reason: Maul has cast a silence spell on him, which has really screwed up his “HEY THERE ARE BANDITS HERE COME HELP!” yell. Maul fired her crossbow at him, but the distance was a bit too far – although the bolt didn’t even clatter on the rocks. Nice spell! The guy on me swings again, but his axe must be a bit unbalanced – he only waved it above my head. I wave at the others to move your bloody arses and get over here, but they wave cheerily back, undoubtedly interpreting my drastic signals as “I’m fine – you kids just go off and have fun, ok?” sort of signal.

(Note to self – buy a nice red handkerchief, and settle with the others on a series of signals)

Al did her sleep thing, then sent a flaming sphere to go and play dodge again with the locals. (I swear those guys have some sort of flame-repellent underwear on). Then, as the fighting grew rather fierce, she used the Magic Missile wands – but she must have got it wet or something because rather than a bang and a boom, we got a phut and a fizzle. Slight bit of damage, but not that much. I think Mel was trying to yell, but as the silence was still working, all she did was the best version of the East Rookery Greeting of the Morning Light dance that I’ve seen since the Squitting Dragon’s Back Rooms. My opponent was swinging and missing more than a drunk goblin in a stand-up comedy night, so I used the Taunt of the Squirrel once more, then let loose a mighty shot and dropped him. Go me!

Some more confused flailings of weapons for a bit more, then Al got her sphere onto one guy, and then a second, in a perfectly placed two-sided radiant-heat-burst of DOOM! Talk about Crispy Critters! Mel and Roderick did their stuff, then Maul yelled “Hold on a moment!”

sonic_rainboom___version_1_by_skyrings-d493x2m.jpgI was quite surprised – the sound had come back on rather suddenly – but I held back for a moment, and she cast a … sonic rainboom? This so confusled one of the bugbears that I was able to use my very best sneak attack on him, with the Bleeding Nuisance Add-on Extra, and hit the guy like a mûmak on a full charge. Double Go Me!

Then the Top Boss got his act together – and aimed his ire at the one who had caused all the trouble. There is, you see, a disadvantage to being the hard hitter in the party – you attract just the wrong sort of attention. I copped a big hit from the Boss Dude, prompting Maul to throw herself down in some sort of a grounding ritual. I threw a tanglefoot bag, but it bounced off a rock that I swear just jumped up in the way. Al sent a couple more magic missiles, this time with the sort of BANG we all love to hear.

Then Mel fired.

And I swear I’ll have that arrow scar on my back until my dying day. Not to mention the really nasty cut in the Mithril shirt.

Luckily, the bugbears’ accuracy was spotty at best, so when Maul taunted the big guy from the front, (I assume that “swing the axe but don’t hit” business was supposed to be a taunt of some sort), I came in from behind and dropped the bastard! 3 for me! Mel grabbed Roddy out, screamed a curse that I’m shocked that she knew, and slew the last one in front of us all, covering us all in a lovely shower of fresh bugbear guts.

So Maul and I tied the main guy up, as he wasn’t completely dead yet, and then Maul healed him so he wouldn’t go expiring on us while we checked out the cave.

And for all that hard work, sod all goodies. 30 gp for our Party Loot, a few more Alchemist Fire and Tanglefoot bags for my stash, a couple of masterwork weapons, and some lovely flatgoat of unknown age or … cleanliness.

Al used her lovely intimidate skill on the bastard, to the point where suddenly the smell got a lot worse – the guy had lost control of his guts and just let loose. Ew. Worse than Maul’s nightly farts. Or even Roderick’s. But we got the information we needed. Seems the Bugbears had been set up to rob those heading up over the mountain, passing the loot and such to their contact from town in exchange for supplies and weapons.

And their contact?

Vernon from the Inn that we stayed in two nights before.

This is going to be difficult.

Al offered the bugbear a clean death.

“Not interested in dying.”

“I wasn’t asking for expressions of interest.”

Then the bugbear started muttering something so low that not even I could hear it, so Al leaned in to hear what he had to say. Closer. Just a bit closer…

Yeah, I can hear you lot laughing from there. Needless to say, I slashed the bugbear’s throat and we still had to cut Al’s ear loose. Even while dead, that critter was hanging on like a pit bull with a grudge.

We decided to wait overnight, catching up on some sleep, but with strings tied from the person on watch to the others so we could wake the others quickly and quietly should the remaining bugbears return. No sign of them that night, so we spent the next day sticking the bodies around the side of the rocks so they wouldn’t stink the place up too much, then decided to sleep one more night before heading back down to the town to let them know what their lovely innkeeper had been up to.

12.jpgUnfortunately, somehow Vernon got wind of what had happened, and turned up in the middle of Mel’s watch with a large group of unfriendly-looking townsfolk wielding pitchforks and torches. I tried reasoning with them (and showing them the Bugbear captain’s head on a stick, which we set up earlier), but Vernon was telling them that we had been in league with the Bugbears all along. It took a lot of persuading from the rest of us (and none of us too good at it, that time of night), to get them to at least question how we could possibly be responsible, seeing as how we’d only arrived 3 days before. Even using the Zone of Truth (which confirmed our innocence, but Vernon somehow avoided its powers) didn’t help.

It took a seriously nasty glare from Al to get them to leave us alone, and I don’t think we’ll be allowed back in Blackwater Port for a long, long time. If ever.

MM Used: 2 leaves 46.
CLW used: 3 leaves 45
XP: 1200 – takes Mel, Al and Cog from 10467 to 11667, Maul from 10194 to 11394

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