Sunday, June 28, 2015

Idalium Game 24: Heart of Darkness

Session date: Monday, June 15, 2015
Game date: Saturday, April 13, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 14, xp 3129/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 2664/4400
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 2743/4000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 3692/5000
Vito Aneti, Thief 2, hp 10, xp 1540/2400

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1167/1500
Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 36/2000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1102/2500
Ylil, Thief 2, hp 5, xp 1320/2400
Sprat, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 254/1200

Today we had a full house of players, for the first time in quite a while! Emboldened by their numbers, the Infestation Managers set forth with a mission: To claim the Beating Heart in the Hero's Tomb. But first, they had to find the Hero's Tomb. Happily, they now had three people in the party who could read Ancient Idalian, and so they intended to spend some time researching the records room in the caretaker's quarters.

They traveled through the streets of buried Idalium without encountering anyone, and made their way through the temple of the dead without event. They descended into the catacombs and cautiously made their way to the caretaker's rooms. The living room was still draped in dried webs from the giant dessicated spider corpse that still lay in this room. As the party looked around the room, Gulleck noticed the painting on the wall of the harbor south of the city of Idalium at the shore of the Great Sea, and remembered a reference in the caretaker's letter to "the treasure beyond the sea". Carefully, he lifted the painting down from the wall, and discovered a crudely bricked up cavity in the wall. The mortar was old and crumbly and it took little time to chip it away with a crowbar, and pull the bricks from the wall. Inside the cavity, they found several sacks full of silver and gold coins, and a small velvet pouch containing four very nice gems. Very pleased with their success, the party tucked the coins and gems away and proceeded to the records room.

In the records room, Tyrriel, Wilhelm, and Vito, who were all able to read Ancient Idalian, set to work looking through the card catalog containing the index to the records of the deceased. The rest of the party guarded the closed door. After half an hour or so, Vito discovered a map of the catacomb system. It was water damaged and faded, but they were able to add a few areas to their own map. Tyrriel and Wilhelm, meanwhile, were looking for information on heroes of Idalium. Most references did not seem relevant, but eventually they found a reference to a General Sevintius, who led vast armies into battle to expand the mighty Empire of Idalium. He had been buried with honors in a tomb in the catacombs. They cross-referenced the location to their newly-found map, and quickly headed out to find it.

When they got to the location indicated by the map, they found that there was no tomb door there. Before they could address this puzzle, a half dozen bodies rolled from the crypt niches further down the corridor. The corpses pulled themselves to their feet and started to lurch towards the group. One of the zombies flailed at Tod, wounding him, but he retaliated by slicing its arm off! Then Brother Jibber raised his holy sun disc and spoke a fervent prayer that drove the zombies back, while the others pelted them with sling stones and crossbow bolts until they fell senseless to the ground.

Tyrriel now turned to examine the wall very carefully, and discovered that the entrance had been bricked up and plastered over so skillfully that there was no sign of there ever having been an opening there, unless you knew to look for it. Gulleck and Tod brought out their crowbars and began tearing away the plaster and then pulling bricks out into the hallway. This made a tremendous noise, triggered a wandering monster check for every turn that it took them to bring down the wall. First three giant beetles approached. They were not immediately hostile, so Gulleck kicked across the arm that Tod had chopped off of the zombie. The beetles eagerly began to tear at the decomposed flesh, and Tod and Gulleck returned to their work at the wall. Next, the noise attracted an enormous pack of several dozen ordinary rats). Gulleck and Tod gingerly flipped the rest of a zombie body over in their direction, and were pleased to see that the rats as well were content to feast on the ancient corpse. Several of the party lit torches to brandish at the rats should they approach.

Eventually, the bricks were cleared from the wall, and the party cautiously stepped into the secret tomb. A large stone sarcophagus occupied the center of the room. On the lid was painted the image of a man in repose, a beautiful sword laid atop his body. The walls were painted with scenes of General Sevintius leading an army of Idalians against a horde of barbarians, wielding a sword that glowed with an bright light. Gulleck walked around the sarcophagus, and discovered behind it a three-foot square area on the opposite wall that had obviously been plastered over. He stuck his crossbar through the plaster and found that it penetrated easily into an open space. Proceeding to tear away the plaster and lath, he soon opened up the entrance to a tight crawlspace. Crouching down to peer along the crawlspace he could see that it extended perhaps thirty feet before opening up into a small room that was lit by an eerie red glow. And as he looked, he became aware of a faint thumping coming up the crawlspace, a sound like the beating of a heart.

Gulleck and Tyrriel nervously crawled into the crawlspace, a rope attached to Gulleck in case he needed to be pulled back in a hurry. At the end of the tunnel, they found a small shrine. Strangely carved wooden icons stood on a small altar, upon which they discovered what looked like a large human heart. It glistened in the eerie red glow that pervaded the room, and as they watched it, they saw that it was visibly beating, and the throbbing thumps were loud in the small room.

Gulleck gingerly reached a hand out and prodded the heart. It was squishy like flesh. He carefully picked it up. Suddenly, from back along the crawlspace, there was the sudden scraping of stone upon stone, and then came Brother Jibber's unmistakable shriek of fear.

Back in the tomb, the lid of the sarcophagus was suddenly pushed aside from within, and a withered body sat up in its coffin. It was practically mummified, thin skin stretched tightly over bone. As it emerged from the sarcophagus, the atmosphere in the room suddenly became chill and dim, and the PCs all felt a panicky terror welling up inside of them, as if their very souls were being tugged away from their bodies.

The creature quickly threw its legs over the side of the sarcophagus and stood up. As it did so, a sword in its scabbard clattered onto the stone floor of the tomb. Gaspar backed up and sent an arrow into the thing's chest, but it didn't seem to bother it at all. It seemed to leer at him and then grabbed the arrow and snapped it off. Caryatid quickly spoke the words of the Magic Missile spell and a glowing golden arrow shot deep into the thing's chest. This time it staggered and seemed wounded.

Tod lunged for the sword on the ground, but the horrible creature turned towards with a grimace. It reached forward and seized Tod by the shoulder, digging its cold fingers into his collarbone. Tod's face turned pale as he felt his very essence being sapped by this unholy fiend. It released him with a snarl and he staggered back, slumping against the wall.

Meanwhile, Tyrriel and Gulleck were frantically trying to destroy the heart with axe and sword but couldn't manage to hit it. (I made them roll attacks vs AC 9, since even though it was a stationary target they were rattled and rushed.) Tyrriel swears to this day she saw it twitch away from her sword.

The thing in the tomb room turned towards Ylil, reaching a hand towards him. But Caryatid spoke the words of Magic Missile again, and a second arrow flew unerringly into the creature's chest. The unholy spark in its eyes faded and it crashed to the floor. Solo kill for the magic-user! The cold, oppressive atmosphere immediately lifted as quickly as it had fallen.

The party hurriedly regrouped in the tomb. The heart had stopped beating and Tyrriel put it in a sack tied to her belt. After carefully lifting Sevintius's body back into his sarcophagus and replacing the lid (apparently dead war heroes still command some respect even after they've turned into hideous undead monstrosities), the party set out, making haste to return to the Rusty Lantern.

They were almost out of the catacombs when a handful of skeletons emerged from the niches along the walls of the hall. As they approached the party, Tyrriel could feel the heart begin to throb in the pouch on her belt, and began to grow warm. The sound of its beating filled the hall. "Aaaah, you take it!" Tyrriel yelped, and thrust the bag into Gulleck's hands. Gulleck tried to silence the heart by smashing it against the wall, but it kept beating and the skeletons began to lunge forward. Suddenly, as if driven by an inner wisdom that came from somewhere unfamiliar, Gulleck drew forth the beating heart and held it aloft. The skeletons stopped and seemed to gaze at it in rapture. Then they all prostrated themselves in front of the party, bowed over in a kowtow posture.

"Go back where you came from!" Gulleck boomed, and the skeletons meekly retreated into their crypt niches. "And stay there for a thousand years," Gulleck added hopefully.

Excited by this new power over the undead, but wary of what horrible cost on their souls it might exact, the adventurers quickly continued on their way out. On the way, they encountered the horrible nine foot grublike monstrosity that had paralyzed Gulleck last week. It didn't attack immediately, so at first they were going to just keep walking away. But Tyrriel decided she wanted to acquire its paralyzing tentacles to sell or research or make some kind of use of, so a quick Sleep spell from her rendered the enormous beast motionless. A quick blow of a sword killed it, and Tyrriel sliced off the eight tentacles around its mouth and carefully packed them into some empty flasks she had been carrying around for this kind of thing.

They made it back to the Rusty Lantern safely, elated to have discovered the Beating Heart, but deeply uneasy about possessing it, and looking forward with some dread towards their inevitable confrontation with Gregor Snapespindle, who had charged them with finding the Heart but whom they knew could not be allowed to take possession of it.

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