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...

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