Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Player Journals from Session 28

Journal of Tod P. Quasit - May 4, 208
I finally got up enough energy to go back down into the UnderCity with the gang. It has been a while. I don't remember that much of the last few weeks. Drowning my sorrows in the Twisted Ankle.

So I hooked back up with Gunkle the Happy Dwarf and suddenly two of those Caryiatid dudes. Apparently the pool of resurrection duplicated her or something. Sure. Why not right? Why wouldn't that happen is the better question if you're even bothering to ask. I found Jibber proselytizing over in the Steppes area of town, handing out pamphlets and threatening to revoke people's tickets to heaven if they didn't repent. He had quite the gathering when I found him but later I found out it was because he had promised free sausages and beers to the first 100 people that declared their love to The Light. Which explained why the crowd looked angry and hungry and thirsty. But mostly angry.
He was happy to see me. Apparently the priests in the church had let him conduct mass last week and it hadn't gone well.

I hadn't seen Gunkle in a while. Boy did he look like crap. All scabby and pale and balding and somehow his teeth had shrunk a little and turned a nasty brown color and he had this weird sheen to his skin. Apparently he had grown quite attached to that accursed Heart and it was sucking the very health from him. Our mission - destroy the heart at all costs.

So we go down into the UnderCity and who do we stumble into before we even get to the stairs down to the second level? The stinking filthy Night Soils. And they freaking start a fight with us. Still pissed about that poisoned wine I guess. Their stupid fighter tried to steal Gunkle's axe and it was on. Before I could even get a strike in, they were all asleep. Bam. We decided not to kill them but we re leaved them of all their stuff and tied them up, wrote "Bad Elf" on some foreheads and then we went back to the Rusty Lantern to drop off their weapons and store all the stuff we had taken.

One of the items we confiscated was a short wooden pole that apparently the elves and magic users thought was sucking the magic from their souls. Someone had the bright idea to poke the heart with it, so I did. Kablamo! Pole and heart cracked and the heart sure looked dead. Not only that but Gurkle felt much better. He got that little gleam back in his eyes. And Tyriel said she felt better too. She had taken charge of the heart to give Gurkle a break.

So we went back down, and trying to avoid the what would probably be very pissed off and ill-humored Night Soilers, we went a different way and ran into nine skeletons. They got in one good shot at me. A flesh wound, but it hurt. But we killed them all. Gulleck was on FIRE! Hitting everything he looked at. It was awesome. Then we decided we were running out of time and went to explore the Music Temple which we hadn't finished. Jibber and I got a lung full of mildew and couldn't breath. Then we fought some spiders. All we found was some wads of wax and a nice silk blouse. That's adventuring for you.

Oh, and we sold the head back to Lord Fauntleroy. That was nice deal. And got a cool book.

I have to go. Meeting Jibber at The Round Bottom for drinks.

Tod -

Idalium Game 28: Street Fighting Man

Session date: Monday, July 13, 2015
Game date: Saturday, May 4, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 1470/2000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 3630/4400
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 3192/4000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 4454/5000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 4454/5000

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1402/1500
Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 519/2000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1327/2500

We had the full group of regulars today, but we got a late start and as a result had a shorter than usual session. It had been awhile since Tod and Tyrriel had been part of the group, and they were shocked to see how changed Gulleck had become, as his possession of the dismal Beating Heart took its toll on him. His face was pale, his hair was falling out, and he found himself somewhat short of breath. His Constitution score dropped by another 3 points, causing him to lose 2 hit points as well! And then there was the surprise of the two Caryatids. The two of them had spent much of the last week bickering about the ownership of their possessions. Having a duplicate was turning out to be less of a thrill than expected.

Tyrriel had spent the last two weeks sequestered with her wizardly master, researching a new magical spell. After spending 1,000 gold darics on rare and esoteric powders, inks, and liquids of various types, Tyrriel mastered the Read Magic spell, allowing her to read scrolls or spellbooks that they might discover in the dungeon. The party had heard tell of an abandoned wizard's apartment somewhere on the second level, and perhaps she was hoping to find magical scrolls there.

Concerned about Gulleck's worsening appearance, the group sought out the aged Professor Zinn in his apartment on the fifth floor of the teetering house that overlooked the city of Idalium from its perch on the hill across the river. The professor had little new information to offer them and did not know of any specific way to destroy the Beating Heart, although he recommended that perhaps they should share the burden of the carrying the Heart, at least to give Gulleck more time. The legends did indicate that the Heart could be freely given to another person, but Gulleck insisted that he would not wish this upon anyone. The professor promised to continue researching the Heart, in hopes of discovering some clue that might lead to its destruction.

After leaving the professor, the group made their way across the city to the Runcible Trading House, where they returned the Brazen Head to a visibly relieved Lord Runcible. He asked them if it was true that the Head could answer any question, and they confirmed that this was so, but averred that the cost (a blood sacrifice) was too great. In thanks for their efforts, Lord Runcible gave them a reward of 18,000 silver shekels as well as one of the items from the auction, a book written in the very early days of the new city of Idalium, detailing the heathen cults and idolatries of the former civilization.

And then it was time to continue their exploration of the underground city of Idalium. Again, the party sought to find the oft-mentioned Goblin Market, but they had not got very far into the dungeon when they were surprised to encounter their despised nemeses, the Night Walkers! The rival adventuring party was apparently on their way back out of the dungeon, crossing a room that led to a ladder up to the surface of the city. What followed was a standoff with a lot of posturing on both sides. The snide elves Death Watch and Cobweb demanded that the party pay them in order to pass by, and the party scoffed at this demand. Then, one of the Night Walkers, Randall - a big brutish thug - said, "That's a nice axe you got, Gulleck. I think I'll take it." They argued back and forth again, and then Randall got bold and tried to grab the axe from Gulleck's grasp.

Everyone jumped into action, and it's a very fortunate thing the PCs won initiative. Tyrriel and Wilhelm both cast Sleep and suddenly the entire party of the Night Walkers was snoring in heaps on the dungeon floor. Some of the party were all in favor of killing these obnoxious and ruthless rivals where they lay, but cooler heads prevailed. The Night Walkers were carefully tied up and relieved of all of their valuables and potentially magical items. "Bad Elf" was written on the foreheads of Death Watch and Cobweb using their own mapper's supply of ink, they were left to sleep the spell away while the Infestation Managers returned to the Rusty Lantern to stow their valuables and a note was left with the guards that return of their items could be negotiated later.

Among the items taken from the Night Walkers was a curious wooden rod, made of a dark wood like ebony or mahogany. Tyrriel and the party's magic-users all felt a disturbing sensation when they touched the rod, as though it was trying to drain the magical essence out of their souls. On a whim, Tod decided to strike the Beating Heart with the rod. He opened the metal box in which they were storing the Heart, and carefully prodded the Heart with the wooden rod. There was a clap of thunder and a flash behind everyone's eyes, although it was difficult to tell if the light was actually in the room or just in their heads ("I know that sensation well," quipped Tod). When their eyes cleared, they saw that the rod has turned ashen and chalky. But they also saw with satisfaction that the Beating Heart, once purple and glistening, had also turned gray and dry, and had split open, broken and dead. Tyrriel (who had taken possession of the Heart after their discussion with Professor Zinn) felt a burden lifted from her, and Gulleck too felt relief at seeing the Heart shattered.

Pleased with their apparent victory over the Heart, the group returned to the dungeon, seeking an alternate route to avoid the Night Walkers. It was late, and so plans of finding the Goblin Market had to be postponed. They retraced some old paths. They fought a group of skeletons (perhaps they wished they still had the Heart!) that Brother Jibber proved completely unable to repel. But the dice were hot for Gulleck's player, and he sliced through skeleton after skeleton with his axe.

They decided to explore some rooms in the Temple of Music that they had never returned to. In the main room, they found several hundred silver and gold coins scattered around the hydraulic organ in the center of the temple. The organ had a compartment where a scroll could be placed, like a player piano, and there was a mangled and shredded scroll in this place. The scroll was damaged beyond repair, but they could read the Idalian title at the top: "An Air of Prosperity".

They explored several of the side rooms in the Temple of Music, fighting some giant crab spiders and Tod and Jibber getting lungfuls of mildew and mold spores from a long-sealed closet, but finding little of value except for a brick of malleable wax, which they found on a desk in one of the rooms. Portions of the wax had long ago been molded into small blobs and placed on a wooden tray.

With little to show for this excursion, but pleased to be free of the Beating Heart and with their reward for the safe return of the Brazen Head, the adventurers returned to the surface.

Player Journals from Session 27

Gulleck's eleventh journal
This is a profoundly weird place.

Creepy fella is dead, and we have the skull back. Still got that heart, too. Can't get it out of my head. Making it hard to sleep at night. Really got to figure out how to destroy it now that it ain't so useful anymore.

Anyway, now that Creepy fella is dead, we're back to poking through some of the less unpleasant bits of the Undercity. Less unpleasant, but way more weird.

It all started out simple enough. Went on down to the lower level, through the orgy room as usual. Now that I write that down, I suppose I take some of the weird for granted these days.

We decided to look for the goblin market. Figured it might be worth exploring a little. Instead, we ran into a couple of orcs. Damn annoying beasts tried to take all our money to go through the door they were guarding. Didn't feel like starting a war with the whole damn orc population, so we went a different way. Orcs said it was full of treasure. That meant bad news, but we wanted to take a look anyhow.

Might not have been our best decision, thinking about it now. After a moment or two, a whole mess of orcs came pouring out of one of the doors. Killed my retainer, mustached guy, and then got scared off by that real helpful fear wand. Might have gone even worse otherwise. We killed one of em off, then headed for the healing goo, waving to the guard orcs on our way past.

Healing goo. Yep, my idea of weird has sure gotten adjusted since I been down here.

So we were heading to the goo, war drums pounding in the background like they'd been since we ran the orcs off, and all sudden like there's a horn sound, and a bunch of big hairy long armed beasts the like of which I've never seen came galumphing out of the dark, carrying someone in a covered chair, yelling something about the Queen of Nightmares.

We shuffled up against the wall to let em through, but I guess Her Nightmareness wanted a look, cause she had em stop so she could get a look at us. Guess we weren't what she was looking for cause she said we were too weak to take as slaves and moved on. Real weird, but we sure weren't done yet.

Dunked the body in the goo like normal, and out he popped, good as new. Then Magic Lady hopped in. Figured it'd make her healthier like it did me. Worked, too... But then things things got... Well, you know.

We headed back to the guard orcs, but before we got there, along comes another Magic Lady, all dripping like she just got out of the goo and such.

Got a bit of info from the orcs. They were a bit confused by then, and I can't say as I blame em. Then we headed back up for a good stiff drink or five.

Not sure what Magic Lady's gonna do now that there's two of her, but one thing's for sure. This is a profoundly weird place. Actually, two things are for sure. This is a profoundly weird place, and I'm having another drink.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Idalium Game 27: And Now For Something Completely Different

Session date: Monday, July 6, 2015
Game date: Saturday, April 27, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 3610/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 4434/5000

Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 509/2000
Ylil, Thief 2, hp 5, xp 1691/2400

Once again, we had a small group and the Dynamic Duo of Gulleck and Caryatid dared the dungeon alone. Now that they had defeated the sinister necromancer Gregor Snapespindle, they were eager to put the grim catacombs behind them and explore less forbidding portions of the second level of the dungeon. In particular, they were hoping to find the Goblin Market that they had heard occasional mention of in previous sessions. They knew that it was somewhere vaguely to the north of the temple of hedonism. Unfortunately, there were also orcs in that direction and they were keen to avoid a major confrontation.

In the week that had passed since the last session, Gulleck had stored the Beating Heart inside a locked metal box in their vault below the Rusty Lantern. Although he was no longer carrying it with him, it still seemed to exert a baleful influence on him. He had grown pale and somewhat gaunt, and his eyes had begun to bulge disturbingly. His hair was thinning and losing its color. He found himself preoccupied with thoughts of the Heart with growing frequency, and its disruption to his sleep was taking a toll. In game terms, he had lost one point of Constitution between sessions! "Oh great, I'm turning into Gollum," joked his player.

Through the undercity they went, passing through the temple of hedonism and using their temple robes to get past the crystal statue that guarded the stairs down. There was no one in the lower level of the hedonist temple, and they passed quickly through the north door into the halls of the second level. Soon they came to a place where two savage, bestial men stood guard near a dented copper gong. They looked aggressive, and had drawn rusty swords.

"You pay toll to go past us! Give us everything you got!"
"Uh... want some wine?" Gulleck offered. The orcs didn't accept the wine, and still wouldn't let them pass without a toll.

"What's through that door there?" Gulleck asked, indicating a door on the east side of the corridor near the party. The orcs glanced at each other and sniggered. "Unguarded treasure!" sneered one.

Well, that sounded suspicious, but the party decided to go through that door in search of a way around the orcs rather than starting a fight outside what they suspected was the lair of the entire tribe of orcs. The door led to a very empty room, with more doors on the north and south sides of the room. The adventurers moved cautiously into the room, and Gulleck stepped over to listen at the north door.

Suddenly, the south door was flung open, and half a dozen orcs came screaming out of the doorway. Their eyes were bloodshot, and their muscles bulged with battle rage. It was an ambush! Gulleck's retainer Gaspar was immediately run through by an orc's sword and collapsed with a cry. Caryatid was viciously wounded by another of the orcs. Gulleck quickly ran back to the melee and planted his axe in the chest of the orc that had killed his retainer, but the damage had been done. Caryatid drew forth the crooked wand of fear, and with a wave of the wand the orcs were suddenly overcome with terror. "It's a demon!" the orc leader cried, and ran for the door back into the hallway. The orcs practically fell over each other trying to escape. Only one had withstood the powerful magical fear. "Uh, guys?" he said as he looked back and forth between his fleeing comrades and the adventurers. Not liking the odds, he bolted for the door as well, but a well-aimed sling stone from Ylil cracked him in the back of the head, and he too fell to the ground.

"Well," mused Gulleck, "on the bright side, we're very close to that resurrection pool!" So Caryatid and Ylil hoisted up Gaspar's limp body, and they moved into the hall. The two orc guards up the hall gasped when they saw the adventurers emerge. "Oh, shit!" one exclaimed, having just seen his fellows run screaming out of the room. "Yeah," said Gulleck, "you just mind your own business!"

While they had been collecting themselves in the ambush room, an urgent, pounding drumming had started up. Along with the insistent thumps echoing through the halls, they could hear faint yells and shrieks, like war cries. Gulleck remembered with some trepidation that there had been large primitive drums in the hideously defiled temple that was just across the hall from the resurrection pool. And as they started making their way through the halls towards the pool room, it did seem that the ceremonial drumbeats got louder and louder.

But as they approached the hall leading to the resurrection pool, the air was filled with even stranger noises. A hollow, whimpery trumpet sounded, and from out of the darkness came a number of bizarre creatures. They were at least eight feet tall, huge hairy beasts with long lanky limbs. Their eyes were yellow and bulging, and nasty fangs jutted from their massive jaws. They loped down the corridor with an unnatural silence.

"Make way!" cried one of the creatures in an incongruously high-pitched, hooting voice. "Make way for my mistress, the Queen of Nightmares!" The adventurers, badly wounded by the orcs, wanted no trouble from the creatures and flattened themselves up against the corridor walls to allow them to pass. A number of the giants passed them, and then came four more carrying a palanquin draped in black curtains.

"Halt!" came a cold voice from within the litter. "I wish to examine these creatures." The curtains were drawn back, and the stern face of an old woman peered out at them with an unnervingly predatory and appraising air. She wore a plain metal coronet on her brow. The crone looked at Gulleck's gray and sickly visage, and then at the limp and bloodied body of Gaspar between Ylil and Caryatid and her own bloodied garment.

"What poor specimens you make. You are clearly unfit to be my slaves. Perhaps we shall meet again when you are in better fettle, and you shall then be granted that honor. Onward!" she shouted to her bearers and attendants. "To the Goblin Market!" The trumpet blew again, and the lanky beasts resumed their loping march and the procession had soon moved out of sight down the hall.

"You know, this is a profoundly weird place," stated Gulleck. The drums were still echoing from further up the corridor, and when they got to the door that led to the temple they could clearly hear the drums and bestial screams coming from the other side. They crept by that door as quietly as they could and slipped through the low rounded door that led to the circular chamber of the pool.

Closing the door behind them, the savage drumbeat was thankfully muted, and the peace of this strangely warm and humid chamber put their minds at ease. Gaspar was carefully stripped of his armor and equipment, and lowered gently into the pool of slippery liquid. Moments passed, and then, as with the others, Gaspar's arms came thrashing out of the water and he pulled himself to the surface, gasping for air and in shock of what had happened. The vicious wound to his chest was now vanished as if it had never existed.

While Gaspar dressed himself again, Caryatid contemplated the pool. When Gulleck had gone in some months ago to retrieve Twiffle's inert body, he had been filled with a sense of well-being and gained a point of Constitution. Caryatid decided she wanted to give it a go, too. Not wanting to get her robe wet, she stripped completely naked and submerged herself in the water.

It was quiet and peaceful below the surface of the pool, and Caryatid felt her body suffused with a feeling of vitality and well-being such that she had not felt in as long as she could remember. She was healed completely of the wound she had received from the orc, and her Constitution was permanently raised by one as well.

Pulling herself out of the pool, Caryatid dressed herself again and the group headed back out into the hall, hoping to make another attempt at finding the Goblin Market. They crept by the door with its primal drumbeat and returned to the hall with the orcs. They found the orcs rather subdued and timid, and this time they didn't mention any toll. Gulleck asked them about the Goblin Market, and they said it was off to the north and then through the caves. "What's between here and there?" "Old empty apartments."

But while Gulleck was talking to the orcs, Ylil heard a noise coming up the corridor behind him. The adventurers turned around to look, and coming out of the darkness, naked and dripping with the liquid from the pool, was Caryatid!

"Gulleck, why did you guys leave me? When I got out of the pool you were gone, with all of my stuff! And... wait, who's she?"

The other Caryatid could barely restrain her glee. "This is totally awesome! I've got a twin!" And the two orcs were just perplexed. "This is a profoundly weird place," said one to the other.

Both Caryatids were adamant that each was the true, original one, and the newly-arrived one was not pleased that the "imposter" had taken all of her things. Gulleck offered one of the togas from the temple of hedonism to the newly-arrived Caryatid, and they decided to abandon further explorations for the day, and returned to the Rusty Lantern. They sent the first Caryatid up the rope ladder first, and then after the men, the other Caryatid followed. The guards at the top of the trapdoor did a comical double-take, and then one shook his head and said:

"This dungeon is a profoundly weird place!"

Friday, July 10, 2015

Idalium Game 26: In My Time of Dying

Session date: Monday, June 29, 2015
Game date: Saturday, April 20, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 3092/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 3916/5000

Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 250/2000
Ylil, Thief 2, hp 5, xp 1432/2400

We had a short crew today, and so Tod, Tyrriel, and Vito were all otherwise occupied and Gulleck and Caryatid made plans to enter the catacombs and track down the foul necromancer Gregor Snapespindle once and for all. In the days since the last session Gulleck, Tyrriel, and Tod had rotated the Beating Heart between them, so that no one risked the full effect of whatever dismal influence the Heart might cast on its owner. Gulleck found himself relieved to be back in possession of the Heart. Tod and Tyrriel were well-meaning, but certainly not as reliable and trustworthy as he. He carefully stowed the glistening Heart in a sack at his belt, and he and Caryatid made their way into the dungeon with their retainers.

Taking a now-familiar route to the catacombs, the adventurers attempted to approach Snapespindle's lair from the other direction. Past the unbricked tomb of General Sevintius they went, until they came to an intersection in the catacombs. Gulleck led the way into a wide pillars fall that stretched south into the darkness. The hall was festooned with giant spiderwebs, and in the midst of the hall lay several corpses enshrouded in silk. Coins glittered on the floor near the husks.

"Nope, nope, nope, not this way!" muttered Gulleck, and the group backed away from the hall entrance. They were dismayed to hear a soft thump of something dropping down from the ceiling, and soon an enormous black spider with a red hourglass marking on its abdomen slowly approached the doorway, studying them curiously from its multifaceted eyes.

The group slowly retreated the way they had come, hoping the spider would not pursue them from its lair, but they could hear the soft clicking of its legs on the stone floor as it stalked towards in the darkness. They ducked into the tomb of Sevintius and took shelter behind his sarcophagus. Gaspar nocked a quarrel in his crossbow and covered the entrance.

The clicking grew louder, and then in their lantern light, a leg came into view, followed by the spider's head, peering impassively at them through the doorway. (I had the image in mind of a scene from Alien where Ripley is hiding and the alien comes into view in the doorway. Or perhaps I'm thinking of Jurassic Park and a velociraptor?)

Gaspar let his bolt fly, and the spider lunged forward towards him. Fortunately for the party, the entry to this tomb was barely wide enough for Gulleck to fit through, let alone a six foot long spider, and the spider was hindered trying to squeeze and wriggle its bulbous abdomen into the room. Its mandibles clacked and snapped, and flecks of venom dripped from them, as it strained to get into the tomb. Gaspar and Ylil shot at the thing as it wriggled its way it. Suddenly, it burst through the doorway, sending some loose bricks tumbling into the room, and lunged at Gaspar, but Gulleck ran up to meet its charge and sank his magical axe deep into its head. The spider shuddered and was still.

Collecting themselves, the group returned to the hall to hopefully collect some of the coins they had seen, but when they looked up into the shadows of the ceiling, they saw two more of the enormous black widows stirring in the webs above. They beat a hasty retreat, and were relieved that neither of the spiders followed them out this time.

Remembering the pleasure of leading an army of the undead last time, Gulleck stopped in a crypt hall, where the long dead lay in funeral niches on either side. Not sure if it would work, he withdraw the Heart from his pouch, raised it over his head, and boomed, "Rise up!" Five skeletons silently emerged from their niches and stood before him, empty eyesockets gazing raptly at the now-beating heart. "Lead the way," intoned Gulleck.

Westward they headed, until they came to an ornate tomb door with inscriptions that announced it as the tomb of the imperial family of Ancient Idalium. There had been a door like this on the other side of Snapespindle's lair. Gulleck heaved the door open, and they looked down a long hallway. In the darkness ahead, they saw a humanoid figure duck into a doorway on the left side of the hall, where a light flickered. The adventurers began to move down the hall, with their skeletal troops in front of them, readying themselves for battle.

Dozens of feet ahead of them, Snapespindle stepped into the corridor, with several of his ghouls in front of him. The two groups stared at each other across the sixty feet or so that separated them.

"You have pledged your lives to me," sneered Snapespindle. "You will give me the Beating Heart, now."
"That ain't gonna happen. Get 'im," Gulleck ordered the skeletons.

Snapespindle began making expressive gestures in the air with his free hand, clearly invoking some sort of spell. The ghouls sprinted disturbingly silently towards the skeletons and the party. Caryatid drew forth the wand of fear they had discovered weeks ago, and released its power at Snapespindle. A look of sheer terror came over his face. He abandoned the spell he was casting, and ran off to the north around a corner, screaming, "No! It can't be true!"

The ghouls crashed into the skeletons tearing at them with tooth and claw. Gulleck boldly raised the Heart and commanded, "Bow down!" Four of the five ghouls, and the skeletons, all prostrated themselves before him. The remaining ghoul charged past their prostrate fellows and the skeletons, and tore into Gulleck. A paralyzing fear filled his heart, and he found he could not move a muscle. Fortunately, Gaspar was able to quickly slay the ghoul.

It was an odd sight. Gulleck was standing rigid, stock still, with the Beating Heart still pulsing in his upraised arm. All of the skeletons and ghouls lay prostrate on the ground before him. Gaspar and Ylil gingerly stepped up to the motionless ghouls and quickly slew them. Then they waited for Gulleck to regain control of his body, which he did after about twenty minutes.

"All right then. Uh... stand up!" The skeletons stood obediently. "Now..." said Gulleck, amused by his control over the skeletons, "Macarena!" (I suppose that was said out-of-character.)

Then, with the skeletons again marching in the lead, they set out in pursuit of Snapespindle. They went down the corridor and through the other entrance to the imperial tomb (the one they had come through earlier that week) and down the dark halls of the catacombs, moving cautiously and listening for any sound of the insane necromancer.

They came to a place in the crypt halls where a short hallway on the left led to a empty mausoleum. As they approached, Gregor Snapespindle leapt out in front of them, snarling. He waved a hand and pointed at Gulleck menacingly. Suddenly, Gulleck felt a wild panic surge within his gut, struggling to climb his throat and escape as a terrified scream. Snapespindle seemed to loom and fill the narrow hallway, though he had not stepped forward or changed in size. Then Gulleck blinked and swallowed back the panic, and the momentary spell that had threatened overcome him had past.

"Get him!" Gulleck cried to the skeletons, but Snapespindle raised a medallion from his chest. It looked like a distorted and perverted version of the sun disc that Brother Jibber wore, the rays of the sun melted and withered. "Begone! You cannot stand before the power of death!" intoned the necromancer. The skeletons froze in place, then there was a snapping and crackling sound, as dry bones began to crumble and split. In a moment, the skeletons had crumbled into dust and bone fragments, and Snapespindle stood leering before them.

Before the adventurers could react, Snapespindle again waved an arm. "Let the darkness of death descend upon you all!" he cried, and suddenly everything in the hall went black. Gulleck alone could see with his infravision, but the others were completely blind. However, Gulleck assumed that Snapespindle could not see into the dark either, and this guess seemed to be correct as Snapespindle took a few steps backwards, nervously clutching his warhammer. Realizing that the enchanted darkness could be used to his advantage, Gulleck quietly fished out the sparkly potion he had found in the bank vault many weeks ago. Taking a sip, he found that everything suddenly became murky and muffled as if he had taken a step out of the world entirely. He quietly crept over to Gaspar, Caryatid, and Ylil and gave them each a sip of the invisibility potion as well and whispered instructions.

Ylil crept silently around Snapespindle, attempting to line up a vicious backstab. The others likewise attempted to move quietly towards him, but the sound of the fighters' metal armor drew Snapespindle's attention. "Where are you!?" he yelled. "I know you're here somewhere, I hear you!" Snapespindle began swinging his hammer wildly in the air.

And that's when Caryatid decided to put an end to this, and cast the Magic Missile spell, using the Big Green d30 to "supercharge" the magic missile damage. A brilliantly shining golden arrow shot deep into Snapespindle's heart. He staggered back, gasped, and then fell to the stone floor, dead.

Returning to Snapespindle's lair, they searched his rooms looking for the Brazen Head. They found it in the study where he had brought it to life several weeks ago, along with the fragments of the Book of Shadows that contained the instructions for the ritual. In his ascetic bedchamber, they found hairshirts and scourges, unleavened black bread and sour grape juice. They also found a large wooden chest. The chest contained hundreds of silver and gold coins, a scroll containing a protective incantation against werewolves and other shapechangers, and the silver and copper ankh that Snapespindle had bought at the auction. It also contained an angry cobra that spat poison at Caryatid's eyes, but Gulleck and Gaspar were able to slice it in twain before it did any damage to her.

Pleased with their success, the group gathered their treasure and made their way back out of the catacombs to the Rusty Lantern, leaving Gregor Snapespindle's body to grow cold among the dead he sought to control.

They put the Brazen Head and the Beating Heart carefully away in their storage room in the basement of the Rusty Lantern. Gulleck felt a bit reluctant to leave the Heart here, but perhaps now that Snapespindle was out of the picture, it didn't need a constant guardian. Still, he would need to check on it regularly and make sure no one had broken into their vault to steal it... Such a powerful relic needed to be watched over and protected...

Monday, July 6, 2015

Idalium Game 25: The Quick and the Dead

Session date: Monday, June 22, 2015
Game date: Sunday, April 14, 208 to Wednesday, April 17, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 1246/2000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 2888/4400
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 2978/4000

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1290/1500
Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 148/2000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1220/2500

Now in possession of the Beating Heart, a dreadful relic with the apparent power to bring the undead under the control of its bearer, the Infestation Managers set their collective eye on the defeat of the sinister necromancer Gregor Snapespindle. How fitting to use his own forces against him. But first, they wished to pay a visit to the reclusive Professor Zinn to make inquiries about the strange object and some of the other items they had discovered.

Tod, Gulleck, and Tyrriel made their way across the city of Idalium, through the decrepit and odorous district of warehouses and factories near the river, across the old stone bridge that spans the river, and through to the disconnected and peculiar neighborhood of The Steps. Here, where the streets and rickety houses cling precariously to the hillside, they made their way to the steepest street in all of Idalium - the Street of Steps - and began the long and tiring climb up the hill. Gulleck grumbled as usual about human idiosyncrasies as they passed below teetering houses that leaned forward across the street so far that the upper stories were connected with plank bridges. Eventually they came to the top of the street, and stood in front of the five story house where Professor Zinn overlooked the city of Idalium from his apartment on the top floor.

Tod pulled the bell rope and the three adventurers were let into the house by Professor Zinn's young apprentice Peter, who led them up the creaky, tilting wooden stairs to Zinn's apartment. Professor Zinn, sitting at his desk with his back to the large open window that looked out over the city, welcomed the trio into his office and asked how they had been fairing.

Tod paid the professor 500 shekels for information on the sword they had recovered from the tomb of Sevintius. Professor Zinn's eyes widened as he listened to their tale, and he pulled a book from one of his shelves, and showed them an illustration of General Sevintius leading an army into battle against a horde of barbarians ("our ancestors, most likely," mused the professor). The fabled Sword of Sevintius was capable of shining with a bright light when the Idalian words "lumo alans" were spoken. The words "lumo detans" would cause the light to fade again. Tod boldly spoke the words "lumo alans!" and was dismayed when nothing happened. "Er... I suspect you have to hold the sword," advised Professor Zinn. Tod blushed a bit, grasped the sword by the hilt, and then spoke the phrase again, and the room was flooded with light, causing everyone to squint.

The group sold Professor Zinn the water-damaged map they had found in the record room of the catacombs for a few hundred shekels, and then paid him another 500 shekel fee for information on the Beating Heart. The professor's face became drawn and grim and he told that it rang a bell with him but he couldn't remember any details. He told them he would research it in his books and asked them to return in three days.

Over the next few days, Tyrriel picked up her lizard-skin cloak from the cordwainer Elsbeth Finley, and then went in search of an apothecary to whom she hoped to sell her carrion crawler tentacles. The apothecary turned out to be an alarmingly intense man with wild, straggly hair, red-rimmed eyes, and smudges of ash on his face and hands. His shop was mostly full of quack remedies, though he did draw a couple of genuine (or so he claimed) magical potions from below the counter. The price was still too dear for the adventurers, and they passed on the opportunity. The apothecary hemmed and hawed at the decaying state of Tyrriel's tentacles, but bought them nonetheless. Tyrriel sweet-talked him into giving her several jars full of preservative for future collection purposes. When they asked the wild apothecary if there was anything else in the dungeon they should keep an eye out for, he let slip that he was very interested in a certain powder carried by the horrible savage orcs. Tod gladly sold him two pouches of the "rage dust" for several hundred shekels each. "Oh great, now we've become drug dealers too."

They rested in the city for two more days, waiting for Professor Zinn to complete his research. Gulleck had been keeping the Beating Heart for safe keeping, and he found he was growing somewhat paranoid and obsessive about. He would find himself thinking about the heart and going to check on it periodically. When the group reunited on Wednesday to speak with the professor again, they noticed that Gulleck looked a bit peaky and twitchy. "You sure you're OK?" "I'm fine!" "Maybe someone else should hang on to that for awhile." "No, I'm good."

Professor Zinn told them that the Beating Heart was the subject of several legends and apocryphal references. Its origins were lost in time. It was said to begin to beat when in the presence of the undead (and therefore could detect them). When presented boldly before the undead, they could be warded off or even controlled. And if the sticky blood that oozed from the stump of the heart's aorta was squeezed onto the lips of a corpse, the heart had the power to give speech to that corpse and allow the bearer to ask questions of it.

Gulleck asked what the legends said about the one who possesses the Heart. Professor Zinn said the legends were somewhat contradictory: some spoke of the Heart granting great power to the one who held it and controlled armies of the dead. Other legends spoke of the Heart corrupting and consuming the one who carried it.

Sobered by this ominous information, the group made plans to confront Snapespindle in his lair in the catacombs. Down below the Rusty Lantern they went, and through the temple of the dead into the catacombs. They headed west, vaguely remembering the direction they had been dragged by Snapespindle's ghouls while paralyzed. As they passed through a crypt hall, two corpses staggered from their niches and lunged towards Gulleck and the Beating Heart that he held in front of him.

"Bow down!" roared Gulleck, raising the Heart. The two zombies immediately prostrated themselves in front of him. "Lead the way," he commanded, and they rose and started heading west.

At a T-intersection, the group took a detour to explore a hall full of iron crypt doors. Most were nondescript, either occupied by long-dead remains, or apparently plundered and raided already. However, one crypt door bore markings that Brother Jibber recognized as being an early version of the sun disc of the Great Church of the All-Pervading Light. They pulled this tomb door open and found themselves in a tomb with further symbols of the Great Church; clearly this was the tomb of a very early adherent to the dominant religion of modern-day Idalium. Brother Jibber noticed a recessed carving of the sun disc symbol, and discovered that his own holy symbol would fit within it. It turned within the recess and with a click, a secret door was unlocked, leading to a hidden chapel. The atmosphere in here felt peaceful and serene, and the the group noticed with some pleasure that the zombies would not follow them into the chapel, even when ordered to do so. A sanctuary! They also discovered a small wooden reliquary that held the holy eyeball of a very early saint. Brother Jibber believed the Church would be very grateful to have this relic in their safe keeping. The group was unsure if the relic was what was granting the feeling of sanctuary and decided to leave it here for now and come back later.

They locked up the secret chapel and headed west again, and the hall ended at an ornate tomb door. Tyrriel read the memorial plaque, which declared that this was once the tomb of the one of the imperial families of Ancient Idalium, though it seemed that Snapespindle had converted it to his own lair.

They entered the imperial tombs, and walked cautiously down a stone corridor. The western corridor turned south, with a door on the north wall at the corner. Inside this tomb, they found a grim and dismal sight. Skeletons lay scattered around the room, but all seemed horribly wrong. Some had hands where their feet should be, another had a skull inside its rib cage, another had its skull replaced with a foot. Across the room, an ancient male corpse lay naked on an examination table. Its chest had been cut open and the dessicated organs had been removed, labeled with tags, and arranged neatly on a nearby table. Another examination table held a female corpse, much more recently deceased, which had been slashed with a knife in many places and drained of blood.

As the adventurers crept towards the corpses to get a closer look, the skeletons on the floor all began to rise, blindly seeking the Beating Heart. "Bow down!" yelled Gulleck, and all of them kneeled and kowtowed before him.

With this army of the dead being herded before them, the adventurers left the tomb in search of Snapespindle. But they didn't have to wait long. "What blasphemy is this?!" cried a voice from the south. Through the skeletal bones of their small army, the adventurers could see Snapespindle standing in the hall with three of his "pet" ghouls. "Have you found the source of power that I seek? You will give it to me now!" barked Snapespindle.

"Kill 'im!" commanded Gulleck, and the skeletons and zombies lunged forward towards the ghouls that stood between them and Snapespindle.

Snapespindle waved an arm in the air and intoned, "May the darkness of death descend upon you all!" Suddenly, everything went black for Tod and the three retainers. Gulleck and Tyrriel could still see dimly with their infravision, but could only make out the dim forms of the skeletons and ghouls battling in the hallway.

Snapespindle must have run, for they heard the sound of a heavy door opening and closing far to the south. The battle raged between the skeletons and zombies on one side and the three ghouls on the other. The ghouls clearly had the upper hand and eventually destroyed the skeletons and both of the zombies before Gulleck used the Heart to force the ghouls obediently to the ground, where the party quickly destroyed them.

Dismayed at letting Snapespindle evade them, but wanting to regroup before pursuing him (and we had already run over our session time!), the group retreated to the Rusty Lantern, retrieving the reliquary from the hidden chapel along the way. The Church was indeed pleased to have recovered this relic, giving them a payment of 1,000 gold darics as a reward for their service.

Although Gulleck felt rather flush with power from commanding a small army of the dead into battle, it was decided that the group should rotate the Beating Heart among them, so that if there were adverse effects from possessing it, they would be spread out and slowed down. Gulleck agreed to this, but perhaps grudgingly. Could the others truly be the proper guardians that such a powerful artifact merited?