Secrets of Pavis

Muriah and the Mistress, Part II
In which our heroes discover a den of depravity in Sun County

(GM note: I didn’t take good notes during this and the next few adventures, so apologies that they aren’t as detailed as the previous recaps)

Our heroes realized that not all of the vision had been accounted for in their expulsion of the broos from the Vilnar headwater caverns. They discussed the visions with Leotychidas, Homophilus and Cleombrotus, who said that all clues pointed towards a village called Black Rock, on the western outskirts of Sun County. The party marched through the heat of Fire Season to the village, moving through dead fields, a deserted village and past up dried up streams. At Black Rock they were greeted as emissaries of the Count by the village headman Fethal, a former Sun Dome templar, and his cocky son Varloz. They pronounced a feast in honor of the visitors that night, and Fethal insisted that the militia would drill for the visitors the next morning.

At the feast, the party noticed some strange things. Grom noticed that the youths of the village were unruly and uncouth, particularly for Sun Domers, although he was distracted by an attractive young widow. Xaraya noticed that there were few young men, as opposed to teens, and that Varloz spent much of the time leering at her. That night, Leo and the other Domers were asked to sleep in Fethal’s hut, while the unbelievers were asked to sleep outside. Suspecting something was up, Xaraya, Skye and Grom split up watch duties. When Grom was on watch, he was approached by the young widow, bearing her child with her. She said her child was sick, and she needed to take her to the Earth Temple, but wanted a strong man with her to keep her safe. Grom agreed, because there was something threatening about the place. They proceeded to engage in increasingly affectionate conversation. After she left the child with the crone at the Earth Temple, she asked Grom to retire with her, but Grom, though tempted, refused.

The next morning, Grom and Leo supervised a drill session. They declared the Black Rock militia in severe need of discipline and proceeded to start knocking it into shape. While they were doing that, Xaraya, Skye, Homophilus and Cleombrotus searched for information, with Varloz acting as their guide along with two militiamen. They found the crone in the Earth Temple had lost her wits, although she did try to show them writings in a language no-one understood. Climbing the rock slide to the waterfall above the town, they found a shack that housed the village shaman, a woman who seemed compltely and utterly terrified by something. Xaraya tried reasoning with her, but failed.

Looking from the top of the cliff, they spied a pool and barn in the distance. Remembering the presence of a pool in the vision, the party insisted on going to investigate, despite Varloz complaining that it was just some fields and a barn. Xaraya called Grom to join them, while Homophilus went back to join Leotychidas in training the militia. They made their way along the cliff top and down to the barn area. Varloz looked more and more agitated. After Grom opened the barn, they suddenly came under magical and missile attack from hidden opponents in the grain fields. On top of that, Varloz and the militiamen turned on them and shut the barn behind Grom, locking him in. Varloz killed Cleombrotus with what was obviously a magical spear. Skye faced off against Varloz while Xaraya dealt with the other militiamen. Grom failed to reach the barn skylight, so took the simple expedient of ripping down planks from the barn wall and made his way back out.

Eventually Skye killed Varloz, who had failed to control the magics of his spear (and took the spear for herself), while Xaraya and Grom finished off the other militiamen. They then turned their attention to their hidden assailants, by firing burning arrows into the fields. The assailants fled, and the party noticed they looked like children. The children were fast, and made off over the plains to the southeast under cover of the smoke. The party managed to find tracks and followed them.

After a while, they lost sight of the children, and then lost the trail. Recovering it, they found that the children appeared to have been picked up by a band of Sable riders – Xaraya’s tribal enemy. Continuing on, the party indeed encountered a band of Sable Riders – a Lunar provincial survey team, headed by a charismatic young officer named Hazphar Phraates, and an Iron Centurion named Dalmades. Xaraya and Hazphar, a sorcerer, proceeded to flirt, while Dalmades and Grom sized each other up and agreed to duel the next time Dalmades visited Ronegarth. Hazphar revealed that his command had indeed come across children in the plains, and out of charity had taken them off to the southeast, where they appeared to know some settlers. Hazphar did not know where they had gone precisely. Despite their mutual attraction, Xaraya was sure Hazphar was not being totally level with her.

Reaching what seemed like a dead end, the party decided to return to the barn, which they explored. They found a horrific sight, with mutilated corpses hanging in the barn and evil phrases carved into the roof. They also found a series of pouches that Xaraya recognized as fetishes – including a male testicle and a lock of hair that Xaraya realized had been taken from the shaman in a ritual of spiritual castration. They also realized that the pond had been artificially created by a small dam of rocks, and that this had caused the drying up of the fields and stream below. They removed the dam, and as the pool emptied, they discovered a skeleton of a young teen.

First, the party returned to the shaman. With her lock of hair returned, she seemed to gain in spiritual strength, and was able to speak. She revealed that the village was beset by a particularly evil and chaotic spirit, one that had carnal power, that had tortured her, taken her spirits and killed her fetch. The shaman was too weak to help, but begged the party to destroy the spirit.

The party girded their loins and set back for the village. There was no-one to be seen. The party first explored Fethal’s hut, where they found more obscene carvings and a blood-stained dagger stuck in the roof. Skye secured the dagger in her bag and the party searched the other huts. They found cowering woman after cowering woman, most of them pregnant. One of the women was the widow Grom had met the previous night, with her baby, but she looked much less attractive than she had. Questioning revealed they were all pregnant by the same male, but it was not Fethal or any other man the party knew of. The women were all terrified of “The Mistress” above all.

The decided to explore the Yelmalio temple next. As they filed over the bridge in the center of the village, Fethal and his men came out of the temple in battle formation, while Skye felt something moving in her bag. Skye looked, and found a tiny naked woman attempting to pull the dagger out of the bag. When Skye moved to pick up the woman, the tiny figure grew in size to twice the height of any of them. Grom swung his sword, hit the woman in the head, and, miraculously, she disappeared. (GM note: critical hits against unarmored, even if mystical opponents are extremely useful)

Fethal’s militia fired bows ineffectively. Xaraya responded using her new legendary ability of Deadeye – and skewered Fethal through the eye. Another healed him, but Xaraya promptly did it again! Others had been brought down by Skye’s missile fire and Grom was closing, looking like an Avatar of Humakt the God of Death. The rest of the militia fled, but Xaraya found Fethal was still alive and conscious, though dying. Fethal confessed that he had brought the curse upon the village by killing young girl by the pond in his youth. She had returned as a vengeful spirit, and had mastered him, and the rest of the town, killing the men who resisted and fathering a gaggle of children from hell, Varloz being the first. He then expired.

The party entered the temple, where they found a bound and gagged Homophilus, and a naked Leotychidas, crucified above the altar. Homophilus revealed that the Mistress had spent hours writhing with Leo, who was now exceptionally weak. They rescued their friends, and went to the Earth Temple. By careful interrogation of the crone, they were able to ascertain that she had a blessed shovel, which would put angry spirits to rest by proper burial. Using the shovel, they buried the skeleton they had found. The shaman said that she believed the spirit had departed.

The party was left with a village with no men and a host of pregnant women, likely carrying chaotic children inside them. They resolved to take the women to Horn Gate, where Skye believed the healers could remove the chaos inside them safely. As they left, they burned the cursed village and marched back to Ronegarth full of regret and sorrow at what had befallen the people of Black Rock.

A Brief Interlude on the Hero Plane
In which our heroes find a Wyter for Weis

Our heroes and the Templars returned to Ronegarth, to deliver the news that the broo who had poisoned the Vilinar had been dealt with, but there was no sign of their leader, the witch Muriah. The Duke took this news with equanimity, but was distressed by the news of what had happened to Weis. He took his leave of the party, saying he had much to think about.

Ronegarth had had some visitors in the party’s absence. First was Jodred, a Sword of Humakt from Pavis. He interviewed Grom, whose deeds he had heard of, and consecrated him as an Acolyte. He reminded the new trainee priest that he had promised to bring the way of the sword to the trolls of the Gundahaak clan. Grom promised to get round to it.

The other visitors were far stranger – dragonewts! The party saw a Tailed Priest, standing on one leg, singing, guarded by two watchful beaked dragonets with klanths drawn and ready, while half a dozen crested dragonewts walked round him in a circle, occasionally switching direction. Daine told them that the priest was called Silver Whispers Descending (“no, I don’t know what it means either”) and that they came looking for the “fierce females of Fort Rone.” Silver Whispers [SWD] had been standing like that for a day without moving.

Eventually, SWD stopped his song in mid-note and came over to the PCs. He looked at the women and said one of them was the one he had been dreaming about, but he was not sure which, as all humans looked alike to him. He grabbed each woman by the shoulders and let his dragon tongue flick all over their faces, something neither particularly appreciated. He sad that Xaraya is not the one but Skye was – a dragontouched woman, he said. At this point, Skye suddenly realized she had no fear of dragons and that she could understand some of what the other dragonewts were saying.

The priest continued by saying that he had seen Skye’s future and that she would be present at the Dragonrise. Unless she wasn’t. (Huh?) At this point a Crested Dragonewt tried to interrupt; SWD drew his klanth and beheaded him in one move. He asked, “Was that impatient? I must decide whether that was Right Action” and went back into his guarded trance.

Duke Raus then reappeared and said that he had been consulting with Daryli and Jodred, and they had come to the conclusion that Weis was such a sorry place because it lacked a Wyter. They had agreed that Grom should, if he were willing, perform a Heroquest, the Making of the Storm Tribe, to bring strength to the village and secure it a guardian spirit. As a Humakti, Grom was not ideal for the role of Orlanth, but with Xaraya and Skye supporting him in spirit, he might be able to finish the quest.

That night, a grand feast was held, a combination of wake for Lady Varna and a celebration for the victory over the broos. Lady Jezra had rather too much to drink and expressed affection to Grom, but he had eyes only for the unattainable Marcilla. After the feast, Grom stepped forward and everyone began the incantations to propel Grom and his companions on to the Hero Plane.

Daryli told Grom that there were three things to remember: No-one can make you do anything, violence is always an option and there is always another way. Grom would have to demonstrate understanding of each of these principles as he gathers the tribe. He also reminded Grom of the legend: Orlanth overcame the doubting wheel, then helped Yinkin against the Plant Tribe, freed Lhankor Knowing from the Stone Tribe, defeated Vadrus in a test of strength, gathered the tribe and made them listen to him, then led the tribe in battle against the Night Tribe, after which they all acknowledged him as King. With a final wish of good luck, Daryli faded from sight and Grom found himself on the Hero Plane once more.

Grom found himself standing before Ernalda, who looked uncannily like Marcilla, and the Earth Mother told Grom-as-Orlanth to form a tribe from his friends and relatives so that he could challenge the Emperor.

First Grom faced the Doubting Wheel. The wheel was being pushed by strange figures dressed in wooden masks. It told him he should not make a tribe and rolled towards him. Grom remembered that no one can make you do anything and found a net in his pocket that he used to ensnare the wheel, which shrunk down so far that Grom put it in his pocket and walked on.

Next, Grom found Yinkin the cat god fighting with the plant tribe over the hunting grounds. Grom explained his wish to bring together his friends and relations to make a tribe. Yinkin said he might come to the moot if Orlanth helps him against Rustling Vines. Grom remembered that violence is always an option and drew his sword. The Vines manifested themselves as an Aldryami warrior with a wicked-looking bow. Grom charged the elf and dispatched him quickly. The elf left behind a sharp “lancet” as the Aldryami spears are known, but Skye said she didn’t need it. Yinkin said he appreciated Grom’s efforts and might bring the Cat Clan to his moot, but he walks by himself and all places are alike to him, so he might not.

Grom traveled on and found the Knowing God, captured by the Stone Tribe (dwarves). He had been imprisoned in a cube of iron. The Stone Tribe looked warily on. Grom considered trying to bend the bars, but Xaraya reminded him that there was always another way. Inspiration came to Grom to sing a song no-one had heard before. The bars of iron disappeared. The Knowing God agreed to make the Marks-on-Barks Clan part of the tribe, as long as it had fierce warriors.

Next Grom found Orlanth’s wild brother Vadrus, beating the bushes, looking for Yinkin to fight. Grom asked Vadrus to attend the moot, but Vadrus told him to get out of his way. Grom recalled that no one can make you do anything and challenged Vadrus to tests of strength. Vadrus, it seemed, was of equal strength and skill to Grom, and although the challenge could have gone either way, Grom won. Vadrus agreed to come to the moot “as long as that blasted cat wasn’t there.”

Soon, Grom and Ernalda stood before the moot. There were many other chieftans there, such as Issaries, Chalana Arroy, Humakt, Vinga (Skye manifested as the Loyal Daughter), Elmal and others, but they were all squabbling. It appeared that Grom/Orlanth had given them contradictory promises.

Grom was tempted to beat sense into the quarreling gods, because violence is always an option, but he decided that there was always another way, and asked Ernalda for help. She brought forth the Tribal Regalia and adorned Grom with it. The gods stopped fighting and many of them bowed before the majestic figure of Grom-Orlanth, although Vadrus and others snorted.

At this point the Night Tribe attacked, accompanied by a great Hell Monster. Grom and Skye stood against it, with Xaraya adding magical support. They defeated the monster handily and it agreed to serve Grom however he wished.

This was the point where the Heroquest should have ended, but as Grom was born aloft by his tribe in celebration, a great dragon appeared. Somehow, the PCs knew that Silver Whispers Descending had entered the HeroQuest. The dragon looked at all 3 PCs, even the ones that weren’t really there, and they saw a fast montage of images:

A beautiful woman with leathery wings
A naked male vampire, with runes and grime all over its body
A wizard’s tower at night, with lightning behind it
Deep dark caverns, with a glistening forest of fungus
A black broo with a bear’s head, its fangs drooling
A small girl full of malice
A bubbling pile of chaos
The Lunar hero Vindrman Sol Veir, decapitating someone
The Lunar Coders, staring at them
The baby they found suddenly growing into a golden adult, a god
The Lunar governor of Pavis shouting at them
A gigantic cradle floating down a swollen river, bearing a gigantic baby
A severe winter, bringing snow and ice even to the plains of Prax
AWyrm’s Friend and a God Learner, staring at one another
A striking red-haired Orlanthi Queen (Grom recognized her as Kallyr Starbrow)
A ship rising up to the heavens
A vast Dragon’s head, rising up and breaking out of a hilltop, devouring a huge building

Shocked by this vision, the heroes returned to the feast at Ronegarth. Daryli soon announced that a spirit was present, and wished to bargain with its conquerors. Xaraya undertook the negotiations, and the spirit agreed to protect the village of Weis, serving as its guardian. The spirit showed signs of terrible spiritual wounds in the past, and Xaraya felt she recognized it, but could not say how.

GM note: the heroquest was taken bodily from King of Dragon Pass. I worked out other options for success and failure for each section, but curiously the PCs took the route that leads to success in the computer game in virtually every case!

Muriah and the Mistress, Part I
In which our heroes hunt down the foul broo that have been poisoning the Vilnar river

Returning Lady Jezra to Ronegarth, our heroes discovered that further tragedy had befallen the Duke in their absence. The Duchess Varna had died suddenly of her illness and Marcilla was back from Horn Gate to stop it from spreading further. As Skye, Grom and Xaraya filed in to the Duke’s parlor to pay their respects, they found it draped in black. Also present were three Sun County Templars, including their old friend Leotychidas. It transpired that the High Priest of the Sun Dome Temple, Gaumata the Strange had been sent a vision, about two twisted children that threatened to defile the Zola Fel valley. Gaumata was convinced that one of these children was active in the Vilinar area of Weis Cut and had sent Leotychidas to warn Duke Raus. Too late.

The Duke was not sure what to do about the Sun County delegation, but told the party that his scouts had found signs of Broos operating in the Vilinar headwaters and was certain they had something to do with it. Leo said that Gaumata was sure that one of the children was active in that area, the other in the remote village of Black Rock, and offered to help the party if they would also help him investigate the Black Rock area. The party agreed. Leo introduced his companions, Homophilius (“It doesn’t mean what you think!”), a young scholarly type, and a grizzled old scout called Cleombrotus. The group paused only to consult with Daine and Marcilla. Daine was ill himself, and suggested a likely area for the investigations to concentrate on, while Marcilla gave the party medicinal herbs and treated linen gloves with which to handle Broo remains.

The party first paused at Weis, where one-armed Tarnak had ridden without stopping off at Ronegarth. The village was rank with the smell of rotting corpses and all the doors were shut except one belonging to an old woman. She told Xaraya that Tarnak had shut himself up in his hut and had not been seen out since his return. At her most conciliatory, Xaraya persuaded Tarnak to open up and let her in. Tarnak told her that he was now merely half a man, and had no chance of winning Jezra. Xaraya proved so soothing in her response that Tarnak looked at her with a look in his eyes that suggested he might no longer regard Jezra as the object of his affections. He said that Xaraya was his only hope now and he looked forward to her return.

In scouting out the headwaters, the party’s scouts quickly found broo tracks leading to the cave from which the river flowed. The party discovered that the Vilinar had two sources, one warm and one cold, which caused steam to rise where they met, obscuring vision. They entered the caves stealthily to find two broos on guard, one of which proved to be somewhat of a handful, especially because he seemed able to reflect magic. Eventually, sheer numbers brought them down, and Xaraya gleefully pocketed the crystal the tough one carried.

The party did not feel like wading up either stream, so they found a tunnel leading off the entrance cave and followed that. A crude pit trap was avoided, and the party came to a bridge over the warm branchthat was covered in green slime. A broo stood atop the bridge, but fled as the party approached – the broos were now warned! The party took care to cross the bridge so that no-one slipped into the stream below and then inched forward carefully, anticipating ambush.

Our heroes soon came to a larger cavern, where the light of a fire flickered at one end, and which was filled with natural stone pillars of varying sizes. Leo and the Templars took one wall, inching round with spears and shields ready, while Grom with sword and board took another wall. Skye and Xaraya stood ready with their bows to lend support. Three broos sprang from behind a pillar to attack the Templars. As Grom tried to outflank them, he found himself in combat with a strange broo who moved extremely quickly and had a confusing appearance such that even weaponmaster Grom found it difficult to hit.

Trusting that Grom could handle himself, Skye and Xaraya aided the Templars. Homophilius and Cleombrotus suffered for lack of armor, but the broos were dealt with eventually. The fast broo disengaged and ran when its comrades fell. A search of the cavern found a long timber plank and a trapped chest. Skye disarmed the trap and the chest was found to contain some vials of an unidentified substance and a jeweled dagger. Leo advised his colleagues to stay behind to tend to their wounds, and the party inched down another tunnel, again expecting an ambush.

The party came to a high cliff over the cold branch of the Vilinar. There were three ropes hanging from the cave roof, one secured on the party’s side, one secured on the other side and one being held by the strange broo, who was regarding them cautiously. It was flanked by two broos with bows. Skye and Xaraya raised their bows and began firing. The two missile users were easily dealt with, despite one being extremely strong and the other having one massive leg. Each of them went down with a leg wound, as it happened, before being finished off. The swift broo’s confusing nature made it difficult for them to hit, but the two women were no slouches with their bows. The broo returned fire with magic, causing Leo to dissolve into a fit of sneezing. The others shrugged off further magical attack and the broo, now with a couple of arrows sticking out of its hide, took the fateful decision to swing back across, trusting to its chaotic abilities. Grom swung his shield at the beast as it sailed through the air and caused it to miss its footing. It slipped, but clung to the cliff such that it could have regained its footing, had not Grom managed an athletic move that knocked the broo down off its tenuous hold, and the fiercest adversary the party had yet faced fell into the stream below.

The party returned to the previous cavern and got hold of the timber plank, using that to cross the stream, rather than relying on the slippery ropes. The sandy tunnel widened into another larger cavern, which proved to be empty. The party inched further forward until they came to a chamber with a rock floor, rather than sand. It was occupied by a fearsome-looking broo clad in black plate armor, covered with chaos and death runes, bearing a massive sword that glowed with the Bladesharp enchantment and a black shield. The fight was a long one, with Grom at one point landing a mighty critical hit to the chest that would have killed any other opponent, but which the broo shrugged off as a minor wound. Skye and Leo contributed with their spears, and Xaraya managed a few good hits with her bow, but the broo started dealing mighty blows itself. Eventually, another blow inflicted a wound to the chest, and the broo was forced to try to use magic to heal itself. The party concentrated their attention to the chest and eventually brought the fearsome beast down.

The creature wore a valuable medallion studded with rubies around its neck and a key, and further investigation found more items of interest: the chest that matched the key, made of fine camphorwood, a set of phials that reeked of disease, presumably to be added to the river water, a set of manuscripts written in Auld Wyrmish, and a portentous letter. A chimney led out of the chamber upwards to the cliffs above, easily climbable to someone with some skill, it seemed.

Battered but triumphant, the party picked up their wounded and limped out of the caves. On the banks of the river as it left the cave, Xaraya found freshly-made broo tracks. Their fast foe had survived the fall, it seemed. They led to a cliff, which the broo had apparently climbed. Given its speed, the broo was presumably long gone by now.

The party staggered into Weis, where the wise woman informed them that Muriah was an unfortunate girl whose family, twenty years ago, was dying of disease and who had been denied aid by the villagers for fear that she too carried the plague. Her parents died, and Muriah had returned to the village to tell everyone that a day would come when all the doors of the village would be shut by Death, and then disappeared. Xaraya avoided Tarnak’s attentions.

The letter read:

To Muriah the Blessed,

It appears you have a sister in Sun County. Someone else wronged as you were. I fear she may not be easy to approach, but I believe she will recognize a kindred spirit.

Despite your best efforts at Rabbit Hat, things have gone awry there. Pumpkinhead was slain and his altar purified. We believe his slaughterers also did away with Polybius, for we never heard the expected announcement from him, and work is progressing to rebuild the settlement. Nevertheless, GG’s plans continue unabated. The Waiting Mouth and the Changer dwell unnoticed yet.

Things progress well here, however. Our exploration of the caverns is proving most effective. We owe the discovery of your sister to the Talon’s kin.

Finally, the Great Vampire has made itself known to us, as GG said it would. It shall ensure we conquer the valley and befoul the River.

I look forward to your return. In your absence, I shall deal with Qad as you suggest.


Jezra's Rescue
In which our heroes lose and then regain the daughter of the duke

After the Heroquest to restore Darnbar Chaosknower to life, Marcilla the White Healer suggested to Xaraya, Grom and Skye that they come with her and Darnbar to Horn Gate to see if the Sisterhood could attempt to cure Darnbar of the Unlife Sickness. The Duke’s wife, Varna, was unwell, and Lady Jezra asked to accompany the group to see if she could purchase some herbs that she believed would cure her mother.

The journey to Horn Gate was interrupted by another encounter with the Morokanth, in this case Visishwaw Windclaw, a follower of Storm Bull and his gang. After an initial period of feeling each other out, Grom earned the Morokanth’s respect and Visishwaw offered Grom some Kvass, which Grom had to turn down owing to his geas. Visishwaw found it odd that a god would require a worshipper not to drink, and took this as a sign of Humakt’s weakness compared with the Bull. They spent the night camped on the plains, sharing the watch duties with the Morokanth.

The party found Horn Gate still controlled by the Sables. Xaraya bristled at this, but Marcilla asked her not to cause trouble. They delivered Darnbar to the Hospital and Jezra purchased her herbs. Not wishing to stay where the Sables ruled, the party set off back for Raus Fort via Weis Cut, aiming to overnight at Weis Village.

Arriving at Weis, they discovered the old Headman had died and been replaced by the arrogant young “Mayor,” Tarkan, who proceeded to attempt to flirt with Lady Jezra, ignoring the PCs. Jezra rebuffed him bluntly and demanded a hut to herself. Tarkan offered the hut of the old headman and set his “best men” to guard it.

The PCs were awakened by a might ruckus in the middle of the night. They heard Lady Jezra scream, but by the time they had gathered their weapons they found Jezra’s guards dead and the lady screaming for help from a distance on the back of a mighty riding beast of some sort, with others flanking her.

Xaraya loosed an arrow and hit one of the beasts in the leg. It slowed and the party was able to catch up. Its rider was an ugly sort, looking like a three way cross between a man, a troll and a pig. He put up a fight, but was slain by Xaraya’s arrow. The beast, a giant hog of some sort with enormous tusks, kept attempting to charge, but was brought down by Grom.

By this time, the rest of the beasts were out of sight and Xaraya lost the trail when they crossed the Weis river. The party knew they had no choice but to report the loss of his daughter to the Duke. Tarkan came with them. Daine informed the party that the beasts were Tuskers and their riders Aramites, or Tusk Riders, holed up in an ancient stone tower to the southwest, and they had already received a ransom note from them. The Duke was thunderous in his anger and ordered the players to kill these Tusk Riders who were defying his authority. Daine told the PCs after the Duke had left that they had better bring back Lady Jezra as well, although the Duke would not admit that this was more important to him. He suggested the party take Tarkan along, as his skills in hiding, sneaking and climbing would probably come in handy.

On the way to the tower, the party surprised a patrolling Tusk Rider and his beast. The rider was young and inexperienced and put up much less of a fight than his mount. The party made it to the tower without further incident, only to find it impregnable. An attempt at a frontal approach was answered by arrows fired from window slits. Tarkan suggested going round the back and climbing the tower, which proved to be much more weathered and craggy than it looked. It was very old indeed.

Tarkan and Xaraya made it to the top. While they were pulling up Skye and Grom, they discovered that what they thought were two statues were actually two gargoyles, one of which ripped off Tarkan’s right arm. A hard fight ensued, which the party won without further loss. Xaraya treated Tarkan’s wound so he would not die, but the man simply sat and cried, holding his severed arm. A quick search of the roof revealed a secret niche, where they found a valuable-looking necklace.

The party found the way down and made their way into the filthy tower. They quickly found, surprised and dealt with a pair of Tusk Riders who had fired arrows at them earlier, the searched what appeared to be the main floor of the tower, discovering a disgusting altar as well as the quarters for half a dozen riders. They could not find the remaining two riders, nor Lady Jezra.

The party decided to go down another floor. The worked out that the next floor was the ground floor and, judging by the smell and the noise, the stable. Attempting to proceed stealthily, Skye triggered a trap and fell about thirty feet, fully armored, into a deep pool of water. Heroically, Grom immediately jumped in to rescue the Vingan. It appeared he had forgotten two things – first that Skye, blessed by the nymph Kinope, was an excellent swimmer and second, that he was not and also more heavily armored than Skye! Skye ended up saving her would-be rescuer, dragging him eventually to the shore. Xaraya followed and was able to make it to the shore as well.

As the PCs stood there dripping in the wet and darkness, they heard some shuffling and creaking from around them. A skeleton lunged at them out of the darkness. Grom was delighted at a chance to destroy undead and drew his sword. The skeleton proved to be no match, going down at one blow from Grom’s sword. Grom followed the noise and dispatched six skeletons in all. Eventually the PCs found a source of light and to reveal a natural cavern surrounding the pool, with six graves from which the skeletons had emerged. A search uncovered some burial goods, including some silver and copper and an iron spear head.

It also transpired that there were steps leading up from the cavern. Despite his prowess against the skeletons, Grom was still suffering from nearly drowning, so Xaraya took point. The steps led to a sliding trap door, which Xaraya inched open. Peeking upwards, she found herself looking up at the legs of a Tusk Rider who appeared to be wearing only a bloody apron. He was taking something from a stone structure above the trapdoor. A few yards away, Xaraya could see Lady Jezra chained against the wall, her clothing in some disarray, but screaming blue murder at her captors, using words Xaraya had never heard before. An armored Tusk Rider stood grimacing at her.

Xaraya reached for her only stabbing weapon, an arrow, and jabbed it upwards between the legs of the Tusk Rider in the apron, dealing him a fearsome wound to the abdomen. He staggered backwards, allowing Xaraya to move the trap door further aside and climb out. The other Rider drew a wicked looking sword and cast a spell. Grom was able to make it out of the stairs before both riders attacked. Xaraya was able to take the torturer down with her battleaxe but Grom had a stiffer time with the Riders’ leader, who appeared magically protected. Eventually Skye was able to make it up the stairs too and joined the fight. With some appropriate use of magic and a few lucky blows, not to mention vocal encouragement from Lady Jezra, the Rider fell. The key to Jezra’s chains were quickly located and the Duke’s daughter released. After a few choice words about how long it had taken for the PCs to rescue her and a swift kick or two at her late tormenters, Lady Jezra demanded to be returned to Ronegarth NOW.

The party made their way up from the torture chamber to the stable, which was filled with four cantankerous Tuskers. The party decided simply to open the door and shoo the Tuskers out, there being no farmland for them to ruin in the vicinity. They then retrieved Tarkan from the roof, still sobbing, especially about what Jezra would think of him now. Jezra indeed looked disgusted at Tarkan’s new state, and remained aloof from everyone on the way back to Ronegarth.

Resurrection Heroquest
In which our heroes become gods, for a while anyway

When last seen, Xaraya, Grom and Skye had agreed to aid Marcilla, High Healer of the White Sisterhood, in a Heroquest to bring Darnbar Chaosknower back to life. The PCs escorted Marcilla to Horn Gate, stopping off at Ronegarth, where they picked up Lady Jezra, who was intent on visiting the White Sisters to get some herbs to help treat her mother, who had fallen quite ill.

They reached Horn Gate without incident, and Xaraya was able to restrain herself from confronting the Sables. At the hospital, Marcilla gathered her sisters and explained the legend to her helpers. During the Gods War, Lhankor Mhy went missing. Chalanna Arroy was worried at this, and asked Humakt, Issaries and Vinga to help find the Knowing God. Each was unwilling, but the Goddess persuaded them. They overcame obstacles on the way to the land of the dead, where they found Tien about to decapitate Lhankor Mhy. Humakt defeated him and drove him off. Chalanna Arroy healed Lhankor Mhy, Issaries told him where he was, Vinga gave him a pair of walking boots and Humakt gave him a sword to defend himself. In return, the Knowing God gave each of them a reward. Then the gods returned to their homes.

Xaraya agreed to play the role of Issaries, while Skye and Humakt of course agreed to play the roles of their patrons. Marcilla explained HeroQuesting for the PCs’ benefit, and emphasized that if the PCs veered too far from the ritual, very bad things could happen and if they did so on purpose then they would commit the sin of God Learning. She stressed that if they failed at their tasks, they would likely fall out of the God Plane, with possibly bad results. If they died on the God Plane, however, they would almost certainly be lost there forever. In the earlier parts of the legend, when they are being recruited, they would have to play the parts of disinterest well. If they simply agreed to go along, they would have failed and would fade as the legend goes on. If they played their part too well, however, they would not accompany CA on her quest and would fall out of the HQ. The PCs gulped and agreed to these conditions.

The sisterhood began their prayers and the questers found themselves on the God Plane, each heroforming into the gods they represented. First Marcilla approached Xaraya, who as Issaries was engaged in a market. Xaraya successfully resisted Marcilla’s first two attempts to persuade her/him to come with her, when Marcilla argued that she/he must help her friend, and that without knowledge the market goods would be worthless, but agreed to come when Marcilla said that Issaries’ customers were falling in numbers, for they did not realize they needed his goods.

Next, the gods approached Vinga, who was playing with Yinkin. CA failed to get Vinga’s attention until she sent Yinkin away, but was glad to see Vinga did not follow. Then CA explained she needed someone who could climb far over hill and dale to find Lhankor Mhy, and the goddess agreed to go with them.

Then the gods approached Humakt, who was locked in combat with a Zombie god. Grom defeated the Zombie easily and realized his sword was now enchanted against zombies. Marcilla asked him to come with her, but he said he had other zombies to dispatch. So Marcilla showed him affection, and Grom was eager to help her, realizing his emotions for the beautiful healer.

The gods then came to a great scarp, which the legend said Vinga climbed and then pulled up her friends, with some undefined help from the other gods. Skye climbed the cliff with difficulty, but then was at a loss as to how to pull her friends up as she failed in exerting herself. Xaraya/Issaries shot an arrow up attached to a rope, and with the two ropes the questers were able to continue.

The legend then said that Issaries guided the gods across the River Styx towards Havan Gor, judge of the dead. Xaraya did not know the secrets of Issaries’ travel in the underworld, and so was left to her own devices. She managed to bring the gods to the dark river, where again she shot an arrow tied to a rope, which enabled them to cross over.

At last the gods found Lhankor Mhy, unconscious and with a garrote around his throat, put there by the headhunting Chaos god Tien. The god was a headless monster, and Grom/Humakt challenged him. Grom won swiftly, setting the monster to flight.

The questers could now see that Lhankhor Mhy was Darnbar, suffering from a grievous head wound. Marcilla healed him and he opened his eyes. He asked where he was, and Xaraya told him. In return, the god gave her a magical map that could tell her where she was at any time, if she could read it.

Next, the god said he needed boots to make his way back to the God Plane. At this point Skye realized she had forgotten to bring a pair that would fit him. She faded out of the Heroquest.

Finally, Lhankor Mhy asked for a sword. Grom realized that he, like Skye, had forgotten to bring the item, but he had the sword at his side. Reluctantly, he turned over his newly-enchanted sword. In return, the god told him the secret of Defending Knowledge.

The gods started back to their homes, although Lhankor Mhy did so with difficulty because he had no boots and Vinga the pathfinder was not there. The questers woke up back at the hospital. Darnbar was breathing and would live, but Marcilla said that because the myth was not wholly successful, he had not found his way back easy. Ever after, she lamented, Darnbar would be subject to the Relife Sickness, and would be a shadow of his former self.

Nevertheless, the quest had succeeded in its main objective, and the party celebrated with the sisterhood that night. Grom found himself unable to take his eyes off Marcilla all evening.

Rabbit Hat Farm II
In which our heroes discover the evil beneath their new lands

Duke Raus took the news of possible chaotic activity, more than just broos, in his lands at Rabbit Hat with little humor. He instructed the PCs to clean out the place, and to aid them sent with them Dranbar Chaosknower, a Lhankor Mhyte expert in chaos lore, Gorkin Rockbone, a Flintnail rock dwarf whose experiences as a pestle (don’t ask) had scarred him for life, and the beautiful Marcilla, a High Healer of the White Lady. The party set off for Rabbit Hat with some trepidation and wondering whether Subodai’s chaos-killing skills might have protected him. On the way, Grom noted that Marcilla would occasionally speak to a butterfly that flitted around her, and the dwarf would occasionally talk about not letting his secret out.

Marcilla quickly confirmed that the farmstead had suffered the depredations of worshipers of Malia, the mistress of disease. She cleansed the well and the headman’s house, which Darnbar noted had also been converted into a shrine to Primal Chaos itself. The party then prepared itself to examine the tunnel they had found earlier.

Gorkin muttered and fussed his way to arranging a pulley system to allow for a safe descent down the tunnel (including a tea break during which he muttered away while eating a can of unappetizing Dwarf Food™). As the party descended, Dranbar examined the tunnel walls, declaring them to have been chewed out of the rock by a Krarshtkid, an awful beast sacred to the Devouring Mother, Krarsht.

The party proceeded with caution down the tunnel, finally coming to a wider cave dominated by a wide, murky pool. On the lip of this pool, Xaraya was distressed to find the headless body of Subodai. Marcilla declared that his head had been bitten clean off. As the party carefully explored the cave, Gorkin slipped and fell in the pool, from which he had to be rescued. At this stage, the first mutterings of “damn, dirty dwarf” was heard among the party. Skye too slipped in to the pool.

The pool turned into a stream, which the party discovered had been dammed and diverted down another Krarshtkid-built tunnel. The party noticed a pile of tarnished silver coins, which they decided not to touch at this stage [GM note – and forgot to come back to], as they proceeded down the new tunnel.

It turned out that the stream entered a hole in the center of a spherical cave, from which several other tunnel radiated out. The party explored one of them, at the end of which was a dead end and two bodies, locked together in their death struggle: a Sun County patrol commander and a chaos-spawned Krarshtkid. Dranbar explained that the gooey strands holding them together were Pratzim, a glue-like webbing extruded by the monsters.

Returning to the spherical chamber, the party heard an ominous sound, as if of something huge slithering towards them from the pool cavern. At the same time, a Krarshtkid emerged from one of the other tunnels, its six limbs propelling it up the tunnel at a frightening rate. It spat Pratzim, covering Gorkin and Skye in the gooey mess. Shortly afterwards, a nightmare loomed into view as a gigantic shelled squid-monster appeared from the tunnel to the pool, its eyes frantic and its maw screaming as if for blood. Grom engaged the Krarshtkid while Xaraya leveled her bow at the beast, Marcilla attempted to free their trapped comrades and Darnbar watched the other tunnel in case of another nasty surprise.

The fight was hard. Xaraya used her skill to shoot the beast repeatedly in the head, while Grom and the others fared less well. The Krarshtkid’s tongue, they discovered, bore acid that dissolved their weapons and armor and there seemed to be no end of Pratzim. Eventually, just as it looked like Gorkin, Skye and Grom were all doomed to suffocate in the goop, Marcilla called on the power of her goddess and the Pratzim dissolved to water. Grom and his fellows wasted no time in carving up the Krarshtkid before turning to the squid-beast, which had inflicted severe damage on Xaraya even while taking arrows, multimissiles and speedarts to the head. The beast fell, and the party pulled it to the hole and dropped it down, giving them once again a way back. Marcilla worked her magic on the wounded and the party pulled itself together again.

Moving down the remaining tunnel, the party noticed a hole in the roof. The party once again resolved to explore that later and continued on, keeping a wary eye to their rear. The tunnel ended in a much larger chamber, expanding well beyond the limits of their magical light. The chamber appeared to be a large cube, about 20 meters on each side. In the center of the room was a weird structure; a circular pit surrounded a raised altar of some sort, which appeared to depict a waiting maw. Covering the pit, however, was what appeared to be a net made of human hair. As the party examined this monstrosity, they were surprised again. Simultaneously, a thrown web of Pratzim engulfed Skye and a Krarshtkid descended from the darkness to attack Grom.

Again, the fight was difficult. Grom and Xaraya made short work of the Krarshtkid, although receiving injuries that Marcilla was quick to tend to, but even Gorkin’s Earthsense was unable to locate who had flung the Pratzim. A crossbow bolt then came out of the darkness, skewering Dranbar in the head, killing him stone dead. The healer wailed, for she had lost access to her immediate resurrection ability when she had called on her goddess earlier. Gorkin worked out that their undetectable assailant was located on a ledge 10 meters up the west wall of the cube. The attacker then flung out a net over Skye, and began to drag her towards the ledge. At Xaraya’s urging, Gorkin pulled out his secret weapons, a Pistole and what he called a grenade. Meanwhile, the Krarshtkid had been healed magically and attacked Grom and Xaraya again. Despairing, Marcilla once again rescued the party by dismissing the magical protections of the enemy. A hideous, cowled individual with a crossbow was revealed. Gorkin tossed his grenade and, following the explosion, the stunned enemy tried over the edge of the ledge and fell to his death. The Krarshtkid followed its master into oblivion soon after. Skye was freed from the net and the Pratzim with some difficulty.

The body was confirmed to be human, if mutilated, with an amulet bearing the chaos rune round his neck, along with a sharp tin razor. The party decided to set fire to the net, in case the pit contained another Krarshtkid. In one corner of the chamber, the party found a series of empty crates, stenciled with a Moon Rune and the legend, “Office of the Commissary of Despatch, Furthest (Duty Paid in Full).”

Gorkin arranged a series of pitons to allow the party to climb up to the ledge. There they discovered a small, portable shrine in the shape of the mouth of Krarsht, made of porcelain. In its central orifice sat a severed human appendage, barely recognizable. Following the ledge around, the party came to other side of the hole they had noticed earlier, with a rope ladder ready to be dropped down it. Further on, they found the tunnel blocked by a large oaken door, thankfully unlocked. Inside was their enemy’s quarters. Ransacking it, they found a crate of weevil-infested hardtack biscuits, a crate of the hazia drug, assorted nails, and a complete 12 volume set of the books of Elephantis, a famous work of Pelorian pornography.

Having found nothing more of interest, the party gathered up Dranbar’s body and made their way warily back to the surface, Gorkin carefully noting spots where the caves could be collapsed. As they made their way back to Ronegarth, a weeping Marcilla asked the party if they would aid her on a Heroquest to restore Darnbar’s soul. The battered party agreed without question.

Rabbit Hat Farm I
In which a bear with a pumpkin head causes some trouble

As part of the deal that took them from Pavis to Ronegarth, Duke Raus gave the PCs a land grant. Rabbit Hat was the name of the walled settlement and farmlands that made up the grant, and the PCs expressed an interest in visiting their lands. Daine, however, had some news for them.

Far from being a fully working holding, Rabbit Hat was currently, Daine presumed, unpopulated. The settlement had been attacked out of nowhere by Bison Riders from the Wastes. The few survivors fled to Sun County on hearing that broos had been seen in the area after the nomads had departed. As a result, the settlement was presumed ruined. Daine added that the Duke’s title to Rabbit Hat was also a matter of legal dispute with the Count of Sun County, although the case had lain on Sor-Eel’s desk in Pavis for years and was unlikely to be decided soon. Because of the likely presence of unquiet spirits, the shaman Stars-Not-Night was prevailed upon to accompany the party, as was a Storm Bull follower, Subodai the Uncouth, in case the broos were still around. Finally, a young Orlanthi mercenary, Oderic, also accompanied the group.

Having set out early in the morning, it took the party much of the day to make it to the outskirts of Rabbit Hat, on the east side of the Zola Fel, near the wastes, just south of Sun County. Their initial scan of the area suggested no inhabitants, but they decided to be careful, approaching southwest from the Beastfold, examining the sheep carcasses and making note of those that appeared to have suffered the ravages of brookind. They came to the settlement’s wall and followed it round to the gate. They entered the village and quickly scouted it, making note of the ruined adobe buildings, the cut down palm trees and the well almost surely defiled by broos. They secured the watchtower and assessed the scene. Nothing living could be detected. All that remained were corpses, a totem of some description to the southeast and a broken-down scarecrow in the rotting fields with their clogged irrigation ditches.

Two buildings remained intact. The first, the granaries, appeared inviolate, so the party was glad to have found a potential source of food should they need it. The second was marked on their map as the headman’s house and the party approached it warily, cautious of broos or worse. The main room was indeed full of offal and dung, tell-tale signs of broo activity. Corpses, evidently of militiamen, had been stuffed unceremoniously into the fireplace, with spears, helms and shields strewn around the place. Subodai detected chaos from an otherwise unremarkable stone in the corner of the room and from the next room.

As the party approached the other room of the house, they noticed the rotting bodies of two adults and a child. Entering the room prepared for a broo ambush, Grom found himself attacked by an angry spirit. He retreated from the assault and Oderic and Skye also found themselves victims of spirit attacks. The ghosts appeared to be those of the bodies in the other room – a mature adult male, an older, overweight man and a young girl. The party retreated further into the settlement’s main yard to enable themselves best to react to this unexpected attack. Grom soon found himself possessed and attacking Oderic, who himself was then possessed. Xaraya was able to cast a spirit screen spell and Stars-Not-Night handily defeated the third spirit while Skye and Subodai attempted to fight off their possessed friends. Skye remembered that Zorak Zoran himself had given her a use of the Free Ghost spell, so she was able to cast that on Grom, to the relief of the young girl’s spirit. Stars-Not-Night’s fetch then defeated the spirit possessing Oderic, freeing him. The party breathed a sigh of relief and regrouped. Searching the house again, the party somewhat luckily found a bag of hidden treasure, including an impressively jeweled golden circlet, wrapped in a skin that Subodai said was chaotic, and a ledger written in Firespeech. The party cremated the bodies of the victims of the broos and made a note to bring a priest to cleanse the house and well. By this time, some in the party were coughing or otherwise feeling slightly feverish.

The party then decided to explore the fields to the southeast and as they surveyed the area by the wall, they discovered a deep, tunnel-like hole that Subodai said stank of chaos. Presuming this to be the broo lair, Subodai was all for heading down the hole now, but he could also sense chaos to the east and south. Checking to the east, the party found, near the scarecrow, a bison carcass with a millstone around its neck that had been carved with the message “Pray Malia or Blood Die Small Cut.” Grom and Subodai felt even more unwell.

At this point, Subodai froze in place. The party could do nothing to move him. Skye followed soon after. The party began to look around for what could be causing this. Stars-Not-Night seized up. The remaining party members realized that the scarecrow had moved from the position they had last noticed it at, although it was still and seemingly harmless right now. Xaraya and Oderic leveled their bows at it and Grom moved over to hack it to bits. He took a mighty swing at it and landed a blow strong enough to cripple any human or broo disguised as a scarecrow, but all that happened was the scarecrow leaned to the side a little. He then felt a claw rip at him, although the scarecrow had not moved. Xaraya let loose an arrow that flew through the scarecrow’s arm, then froze. Grom aimed a blow at the scarecrow’s legs and toppled it, then froze too, just as another invisible claw ripped him. Oderic started retreating, aiming arrows as he went at the scarecrow’s head. Eventually, one of them shattered the pumpkin head of the scarecrow and all the other party members unfroze. Oderic realized that the scarecrow, which had looked as it had just toppled over, was in fact in a crawling position, looking at him. [GM note – TPK only just averted!]

The unnerved, unsettled party decided to take their leave of Rabbit Hat now and seek help for their wounds and their increasingly obvious maladies. Subodai refused to go and headed down the hole to kill chaos. The others decided to head to the Sun County village of Wyoth nearby. By this time it was night, and the party found Wyoth’s gate closed. Grom called for the nightwatchman, who asked what they wanted. Grom explained that they had come from Rabbit Hat, which they had found ravaged by broos and infested with disease. The nightwatchman called the headman, who told them in no uncertain terms to stay away from his village!

By this time it was pitch black and the party debated what to do. Skye and Xaraya suggested that they should try to make their way back downriver to Ronegarth now. Xaraya even discovered the appropriate trees to make a raft, but then realized no-one had the skills to pilot it. Skye, the impetuous Vingan, refused to give in, and set off on the raft while the others made camp for the night.

Skye soon found herself in trouble. Her raft ran aground on a swampy island, and she heard the sound of a Giant Toad. Before she could see it and arm herself, its tongue hit her on the head and knocked her out…

Xaraya, Grom, Stars-Not-Night and Oderic struggled back to Ronegarth the next day and were dismayed not to find Skye there already. Luckily, the beautiful High Healer Marcilla was there. She fussed over Grom, clasping him to her astounding bosom and curing him of the Creeping Chills and the Bleeding Disease in the process.

Meanwhile, Skye woke up in a damp stone cell. After a while, a newtling guard and an old newtling shaman entered. The shaman spoke: “You in Five Eyes. I Croaker, shaman. My Traskar find you, bring you here. Where you from, you have ransom?” Skye explained that she was an associate of Duke Raus of Rone, who would pay her ransom but would exact vengeance should anything happen to her. Croaker laughed and said he would send to Ronegarth, and release her back there on payment of the ransom.

Back in Ronegarth, the Duke expressed concern about the presence of chaos in Rabbit Hat, saying that the scarecrow was certainly a Jack O’Bear, and the tunnel entrance suggested something worse beneath the ground. As Subodai had not returned, the Duke said that he would send to Pavis for a sage knowledgeable in the lore of chaos and a dwarf who could help them in the tunnels. About this time, the ransom demand from Five Eyes arrived, which the Duke agreed to pay against his debt to the PCs. Grom and Xaraya decided to go to Pavis while waiting for their friend to be freed. While there, they arranged for the forging of armaments for the people of Weis, which would be delivered in a couple of months. As they made their way back with a Lhankor Mhy sage and a muttering Flintnail dwarf, Skye was being rafted back to Ronegarth. Soon the party would be on its way back to Rabbit Hat…

In which our heroes high-tail it out of Pavis in very stately fashion

When we left our heroes, they were arranging for an auction of the priceless Bonesung Armor they had retrieved from the Big Rubble. Let’s just say the auction didn’t go as planned. Rather than selling it to a friendly cult, the players found themselves caught in a bidding war between Sor-Eel the Short, Count of Prax, Lunar Governor of New Pavis, and Duke Raus of Rone, Lunar Governor of the god-forsaken Grantlands in the Zola Fel valley to the south of Pavis. Eventually, Duke Raus won out and the PCs found themselves the target of Sor-Eel’s redirected anger. The PCs were also somewhat miffed to discover that Duke Raus’ winning bid was guaranteed but not yet actually manifest in cash. The Issaries priesthood said they would hold on to the armor pending delivery of the cash. Also part of the deal was a grant of land, the settlement known as Rabbit Hat.

The Governor’s mood was not improved when a Moon Boat hove in to view on the horizon soon afterwards. Rumors spread throughout the city that Sor-Eel had been replaced as Governor and the boat contained his replacement. That night, the PCs dined at Gimpy’s, where Krogar introduced them to Griselda and Wolfhead, and after a few tense moments between Xaraya and Griselda, the latter pronounced the party as worthy. As the PCs left the tavern, however, they were set upon by three savage Sable Rider nomads, seemingly directed by a fourth, unseen assailant. Unarmored, the party took some severe wounds while dispatching their attackers, and they stumbled back in to Gimpy’s for healing. Krogar and his friends provided it, while Wolfhead went out to examine the bodies. They discovered notes implicating Lunar intelligence and GimGim the Grim.

Krogar suggested that our heroes should get out of the city for a while. The Chalanna Arroy priestess they had rescued from the trolls needed to be taken to her sisters in the hospital at Horn Gate to recover from her ordeal, and had been offered a place on Duke Raus’ barge the next day as he was traveling down to his new fortress, Raus Fort, or Ronegarth as he called it. Krogar’s messengers swiftly secured passage for the PCs on the barge as Charvina’s companions and as the new holders of the Rabbit Hat grant.

The next day, the PCs met up with Charvina at the Chalanna Arroy temple and accompanied her to Duke Raus’ townhome, where the Duke, his family and retainers joined them. Before going down to the river, however, they went to see the Moon Boat dock on the Pavis temple. Sor-Eel was also there, looking distinctly unamused. The Moon Boat discharged its passengers: an imposing general of some sort, a beautiful though mature noblewoman, a bald-headed sage, a fierce, tattooed criminal of some sort and a demure girl clad in the raiment of the Northern nomads. The Governor looked at once relieved and yet upset, while GimGim the Grim, who had been shadowing Sor-Eel, disappeared as soon as he saw the newcomers. The noblewoman smiled at Duke Raus, who responded with an extremely deep bow.

On the trip downriver in the Duke’s barge, the PCs became familiar with the Duke’s right-hand man, Daine, a former Scimitar of the Lunar war-god Yanafal Tarnils. He impressed the PCs with his honesty and common sense, and especially with the no-nonsense way he dealt with the attempts by Sun County officials to extract some form of tax for using the river. Grom was intrigued by the Duke’s attractive daughter, Jezra, but also nonplussed at her rudeness to him. All down the river, the PCs also noticed newtlings staring at the barge with what seemed more than basic curiosity.

Ronegarth itself proved less than advertised. A stone tower, a wooden palisade and a bunch of tents did not a capital make, the PCs thought. They were happy to stay there that night, however, before setting out across the plains the next day. Daine accompanied them, saying he had to purchase some more slaves for construction work. Xaraya and Grom both expressed disquiet at this, but Daine did not understand their objections.

An uneventful trip across the chaparral followed the next day, and the party arrived at Horn Gate without incident. Daine explained that this was an unusual oasis. The downtrodden folk of the oasis, blond and blue-eyed as they were, poor souls, grew dates and other desert fruit for their sustenance but were always subject to whichever nomad tribe had moved in to exploit them. At the moment, this was the hated, pro-Lunar Sable people, much to Xaraya’s disgust. There were two things that made the oasis unusual, however. First, there were ruins from the First Age here. At one point, Waha! himself had erected giant horns that surrounded a gate to subterranean ruins. Those horns had long-gone, but the gate to the underworld was still there, guarded by a cult of Amazon warriors, the Daughters of Azundati, who protected the gate but not the people. They also guarded a white-stone hospital, a temple to Chalanna Arroy, occupied by priestesses who could not stomach the Lunar occupation of Pavis.

The PCs delivered their charge to the White Sisters. They were delighted to see Charvina, whom they had thought dead. The PCs met Matron Mother Arquanel, an impossibly aged crone, only four feet tall, who nevertheless had Heroquested many times and her two other High Healers, Sister Aelbertha, plump and jolly, and Sister Marcilla, raven-haired and the most beautiful woman anyone in the party had ever seen. The Sisterhood put on a feast to celebrate their sister’s return, and during the feast the seemingly senile Arquanel reached moments of lucidity where she pledged her aid to the PCs should they seek to fulfill their destiny and overthrow the Lunars.

The next day, while Daine stayed to purchase some slaves from the Sables, the PCs set out to explore some more of the land. In the plains, they met their first Morokanth, the slaver Kareel Keenclaw, with his train of herd men (unintelligent humans), and slave trollkin and baboons. The PCs were appalled by the idea of herd men, which Kareel referred to as his cattle. The PCs scraped together all the monies they had and bought not just the slaves, but also the herd. Kareel kept a couple to eat and headed off towards Horn Gate to purchase some more slaves with his new riches.

The PCs did not find it easy to keep their new coffle under control, but they found a couple of trollkin they could rely on, given a promise of freedom. With their aid, they moved the gang towards the defile known as Weis Cut. In the caves at the head of the cut, they encountered the Men-And-A-Half, the Agimori, and their leader Chaku Ironspear. Chaku was amazed but impressed at the PCs rescuing the Herd Men, and explained that some of his people had been enslaved by the Morokanth and turned into animals. After long discussion over kvass and roasted meats, Chaku agreed to have his shamans awaken the Herd Men to intelligence in return for favors to be bestowed later and for influence with Duke Raus.

The next day, the PCs and their trollkin and baboons entered the squalid hamlet of Weis, a people even more downtrodden than the oasis folk, and their cocky Mayor, Tarnak, who expressed interest that Lady Jezra had returned to Ronegarth. A few hours later, they reached Fort Raus, where they freed the trollkin, who agreed to work hard for their benefactors and help build the settlement at night, allowing for 24-hour long construction. They then freed the baboons, who scattered in every direction.

After another night’s sleep, the PCs decided to head out to Rabbit Hat to review their new property. Daine, however, said he had to brief them first…

The Trouble With Trolls Part II/III
In which our heroes encounter dwarven secrets, tough trolls, and take a trip to Hell

At the Kyger Litor stronghold, the night was disturbed by a massive wagon guarded by Rubble Trackers. The dwarves unloaded crates and barrels. Gragkizzie, leader of the dwarves, said that they were secret weapons and had Garrath employ an Oath spell to ensure the PCs would not reveal any of these secrets to outsiders. The dwarves were going to use these weapons on the trolls: a Disorder Keg, a Wonderbuss and two Pistoles. The PCs expressed some skepticism to their value.

The next morning the PCs, their Dwarf allies, Leotychidas, Stars Like Night, Njall and two of his followers gathered at the “back door” of the temple where the Dwarf assault had stalled previously. The dwarves threw down rocks and made noises to alert the trolls to their presence, hopefully gathering the trolls to a close defensive formation. Gragkizzie then lit what she called “fuse” to the Disorder Keg, a barrel the size of an average human, and rolled it down the stairs. Witha cry of “Fire in the trolls!” the assault party took cover. An explosion ripped back up the stairs and Gragkizzie and her followers Runi and Harc grabbed their secret weapons and charged down the stairs.

The sight that greeted the party was of a troll mob in disarray. Several trollkin were dead or severely wounded, with dark trolls also clearly wounded. A pair of Great Trolls and the Death Lord Magrak, however, appeared to have escaped serious injury. Gragkizzie leveled her Wonderbuss at a dark troll… and saw it blow up in her hands. Runi and Harc missed with their pistoles. Thinking, never send a dwarf to do a man’s work, the PCs and their allies charged in.

At this point Magrak yelled out, “Enloslikk! Cowards! Satakkash varkur uz! Fight like a troll! Satakkar garno! Single combat! Zu satakk mar! Your best man! Satakkar garno! Single combat!” Njall stepped forward, but Grom indicated that he had a Humakti geas never to turn down a challenge to single combat, and moved to face the Death Lord, whose favored weapon was a vicious looking Ball and Chain. As he passed by, Xaraya surreptitiously cast Protection I on Grom. This proved crucial.

Grom cast Bladesharp III, giving Magrak a chance to hit, and he landed a blow on the head which would have wounded Grom were it not for the Protection spell. Magrak parried Grom’s next blow, and then cast a Beserk spell, filling him with the fury of his dark god. There followed a mighty duel, where three times Grom came close to receiving grievous wounds that would have left him in serious trouble, but Xaraya’s Protection spell saved him. In return, Grom concentrated on Magrak’s abdomen, and eventually felled him. But Magrak’s beserk fury kept him going, and even after Grom had reduced much of his anatomy to a bloody pulp, he still frothed with bloodlust. When Grom succeeded in completely incapacitating the Death Lord, a Great Troll threw a slingshot at him, and battle was joined between the party and the treacherous trolls.

A long and hard battle saw the party completely victorious, but not without serious wounds to Xaraya and Njall. The party needed to use most of its healing magic to patch itself up, and found itself severely drained of magic points.

Consulting with Garrath’s party via mindlink, they discovered that the battle in the main temple had bogged down to an exchange of missile fire and magic, with the temple’s undead guardians proving difficult to cut through. Garrath confirmed that Keratagg Gan was not there, and that the PCs’ party should seek to find him, for if he fell then their troll allies might be able to persuade the temple to surrender.

Searching the troll barracks, the PCs found numerous treasures. They also found that Magrak was a surprisingly literate Death Lord and was studying 4 books he had rescued from the Rubble, including a Life of Pavis and a volume entitled “Secrets of the Garden.” Moving forward cautiously, the PCs found what was probably Magrak’s office, including a large map of the Rubble annotated in Darktongue, which seemed to detail a 300 year-long campaign against Chaos, but with surprisingly few recent notations. By this time, they had been joined by Dharrgag, the Karrg’s Son, who allowed Grom to take the map temporarily, but warned that it was Clan property.

In the next room, a disused cellar, the dwarves quickly located a secret door which opened on to stairs leading down. As they were heading down, cautiously, in battle formation, a small trollkin appeared to emerge from the stone, incongruously dressed in a red pallium. She gestured to the PCs to follow her. Looking around, the PCs realized everyone else in the party had frozen in place. The trollkin opened her robe to form what could only be called a portal, which the PCs stepped through.

They found themselves in a rough-hewn tunnel, in which they could see without any discernable sources of light. Following the trollkin, they soon found themselves approaching a small cave, in which a female troll was the only occupant, weighed down with many chains. She asked the PCs, “Do you know who I am?” and eventually Xaraya twigged she was the Queen of the Gunddahaak Clan. The successful answer seemed to dissolve some of the heaviest chains, but she remained firmly shackled to the ground. She revealed that she had not been captured by a rival clan, as everyone supposed, but imprisoned by Keratagg Gan. She asked the PCs to take word of her imprisonment to her mother, Kyger Litor, which the PCs agreed to do. To serve as a token of good faith, the Queen, Gretaslagg, asked Grom to take a tooth from her mouth. Grom was brave enough to do so, and wrenched the tusk from her maw.

The trollkin appeared again, and led the PCs on. This time they came to a huge cave, filled with firespouts and dark pools. In the center of the cave, working dark magics, was a terrifying creature, half troll woman and half spider. Behind her was a massive reptilian snout, the size of a palace. Skye recognized the troll creature as Cragspider the Fire Witch, and the snout obviously belonged to her ally, the Black Dragon.

Cragspider turned her attention to the PCs, and asked if they wished to be tested by Fire or Mind. Xaraya answered first, choosing Mind. She soon found her mind invaded by a powerful magic presence, clawing at her thoughts and memories. The assault caused he magical pain, but she was able to gather herself and expel the presence from her mind. Skye too chose the test of Mind, and was able to resist Cragspider’s mental claws quickly. Grom also chose the test of Mind, but when Cragspider saw the tusk he bore, she relented. The troll hero addressed the party, saying “You represent an aggrieved party. The crime is terrible. You must plead for your Queen before her mother. She will tell you what to do. Be ware, however, for she is likely to ask much of you. If you wish, you may leave this place now.” The party kept faith with their quest, and moved on.

Heading onwards, the trollkin guided the PCs into a cave where it somehow magically morphed into a gigantic, six-breasted female troll, suckling a variety of dark/mistress/great troll children that she somehow cradled in her giant arms. The PCs realized they were in the presence of the goddess Kyger Litor. A huge troll – Karrg – stood guard before her. Pools of water surrounded the PCs.

Grom managed to attract the goddess’ attention, and on seeing the tusk, she told the PCs that her daughter had been dishonored by Keratagg Gan, but that he was a servant of Zorak Zoran, who was not hers to command. She had Cragspider test the PCs because she would need emissaries of exceptional bravery and willpower to go deep into Hell and tell Zorak Zoran that his servant has forsaken him. They have passed that test, but she had further questions to ask of each PC.

To Grom, she said, “You are the servant of Humakt, and there is mutual hatred between him and Zorak Zoran. You are aware that many trolls in Sartar worship Humakt. Will you honor the Queen of Gunddahaak by bringing the word of Humakt to the tribe when you become an Acolyte of the god? The cult of Zorak Zoran will take time to rebuild and the tribe will need warriors.” Grom agreed, and the goddess asked him to drink from a pool. On quaffing the water, Grom realized he had integrated the Darkness Rune and gained the ability to speak Darktongue fluently.

To Xaraya, she said “Little one, you have lost your faith. Why is it so?” They discussed the reasons for Xaraya forsaking her original faith and her desire to learn powerful magics that could help destroy the Lunars. Kyger Litor asked Xaraya to drink from another pool and when she had finished she found that she had a tattered, ancient, fragment of a book in her hands, written in Darktongue, which she could now read. It was part of the Book of Arkat. The goddess told her to “seek the Kingtroll.”

To Skye, she said, “Sweet daughter of Pavis, you have walked in darkness before now. You follow a foreign goddess. Tell me, do you love Vinga or Pavis more?” Skye thought deeply and said that she preferred the Loyal Daughter more. The goddess nodded and asked Skye to promise to visit her son, Pikat Yaraboom, then reached out a claw and drew a Man Rune on her forehead.

Kyger Litor then told the PCs that they would be venturing deep into Hell and offered the help of her son Karrg, who seemed unhappy at the suggestion. Accompanied by the Demigod and the trollkin, they moved on.

The path led down, and the darkness became tangible and the heat greater. On the way, Skye attempted to engage Karrg in conversation. The demigod looked at her as if she was something he had found on the underside of his boot, turned and left them.

The trollkin led them down a side tunnel, and they came before an immensely obese troll matron, whom they realized was Xiola Umbar. She thanked Xaraya for returning her holy object and reached out to bless her. Xaraya realized she was now under Xiola Umbar’s protection and had also been blessed with fecundity.

Pressing on, the trollkin led the PCs down a series of increasingly dark and menacing tunnels. Things also got hotter. Fireholes could be seen. Noises began, which eventually Grom realized were screams. The screams, moans and other expressions of pain got louder and louder. Finally, the PCs entered a cave dominated by a huge troll-shape made of darkness and fire. This was Zorak Zoran, god of hate and vengeance, fear and violence. Shades danced around him, as did salamanders.

The god noticed the PCs and a wave of fear swept out from him. Skye and Xaraya stood their ground, but Grom was overcome by fear, dropped his possessions, turned and ran. Zorak Zoran then grabbed Xaraya and would have eaten her had he not realized she was under his sister’s protection. The god then asked Xaraya, “What do you hate?” She answered that she hated the Lunars, and the wave of hate that emanated from the god indicated he agreed. Xaraya understood he hated the Red Moon for violating the rule of darkness at night that Zorak Zoran had fought for during the Great Compromise.

With an air of extreme menace, the god asked them what they had come for. Together, Xaraya and Skye explained Keratagg Gan’s betrayal and its consequences. The god cursed the name of his priest in extreme terms and called up a spirit of hate and rage, the fabled Hell Roar. He tempered his hate towards the women, and they realized this was his form of blessing. Xaraya gained knowledge of the Firearrow spell, whilst Skye realized Zorak Zoran had granted her a use of the Command Ghost spell. The god commanded them to go, so they picked up Grom’s possessions, and a strange ivory object that resembled a massive snake fang, found Grom cowering in a side tunnel, and followed the trollkin away. After a short distance, enough for Grom to recover, the trollkin opened her cloak to form a portal, through which the PCs left. They found themselves back on the staircase, and as the trollkin disappeared, time started again.

Coming to the bottom of the stairs, tunnels led south and north. Skye attempted to scout southwards, but tripped and fell. A large Great Troll charged towards her, but missile fire, Grom and Leotychidas felled the troll. On its body they found a large lead key. Progressing further, the party found a prison. In it, they found a cowardly Lunar agent called Erastes Fulmen, whom the party decided to leave locked up until they had dealt with Keratagg Gan, four elves and a sickly dryad, with whom Leotychidas could haltingly communicate, and a naked Chalanna Arroy priestess, Charvaina, who had been reduced to skin and bones. All wore slave collars, which the party broke. Grom clad Charvaina in his cloak, and the priestess used what she could of her skills to tend to the dryad. They found a couple of bows to arm the healthier of the elves.

Turning north, the party advanced in battle formation and came across a room that could only be described as a chapel. Its floor, walls and vaulted ceiling were decorated with scenes of soaring spires and swooping dragons. The floor was made of a mosaic that depicted a ring of twelve dragons, each holding another’s tail in its mouth. Human faces were associated with each dragon, and Skye recognized Obduran the Flyer, Lorenkarten the Mile and Isgangdrang the Storm, members of the Eternal Dragon Ring of the EWF.

More importantly, however, was a trollish mob, with about twenty dark trolls, four dark trolls and Keratagg Gan all in battle formation. Most had cast fireblade. Two large shades were advancing towards the party, while the black smoke spirit with hammers for hands hovered above them. Keratagg Gan laughed.

At this point, the party saw the darkness and smoke leach from the shades and spirit, while the fire from the fireblades was also drawn towards a mass in the centre of the vaulted ceiling. The shades and spirit ceased to be and the fire left the weapons completely as the mass formed into the creature the PCs recognized as Hell Roar. Speaking in Darktongue, Hell Roar yelled, “Traitor! Faithless! Weakling! You have forsaken your calling! You toy with chaos and replace hate with greed! You shall come to hell not as a servant, but as a slave!” It picked up Keratagg Gan and literally ripped his soul from his body. As the corpse fell to the ground, Dharrgag the Karrg’s Son called out to the trolls to lay down their arms or be cursed by Zorak Zoran. All spells the enemy trolls had cast fizzled and, overcome by fear, they all complied.

While the others were ensuring the trolls were firm in their intent to surrender, the dwarves checked the room and found a secret door. Behind, they found Keratagg Gan’s real office. It contained a variety of documents in Darktongue that indicated that Gan’s plan to take over the clan, then the entirety of the Stronglands, has been underway for a while. There were indications that Gan had been dealing with a mysterious adviser, known only by the codename of Runeface. At this point, the PCs noticed the red-robed trollkin, who indicated a section of the office wall before disappearing. Searching they found a secret door. Behind it they discovered Queen Gretaslagg, heavily chained and wearing a slave collar. On being freed, she swore undying gratitude to the PCs and demanded the heads of Keratagg Gan and Magrak (which were later delivered). Xaraya contacted Garrath and relayed the events to him. Dharrgag went to convey the truth to the remaining defiant forces in the temple.

Exploring further, the PCs found Gan’s bedchamber, which also contained various items of very expensive human female clothing, leading Xaraya to speculate that Runeface might be a human woman with odd tastes. Beyond, they found Keratagg Gan’s hoard of treasure, which contained a small fortune in coin and various magical items, including an iron Humakti helmet that Grom was very keen to lay claim to.

The Queen invited the assault parties, even the dwarves and elves, to a celebration that she presided over with the heads of Keratagg Gan and Magrak adorning her throne. In the riotous celebration, Xaraya was challenged to drink an entire cup of Powzie! Amazingly, she survived all ten sips, with progressive loss of faculties. By the end, she was dancing on the tables without any idea what she was doing, and would have succumbed to Garrath’s amorous advances had not Skye seen in her a sister in trouble and blocked Sharpsword’s intentions.

The next day, nursing hangovers, the assault party returned to the Flintnail Temple. Gragkizzie agreed to use the Flintnail tunnels to move most of the PC’s share of the loot into New Pavis, where it could be picked up without attracting the Lunars’ attention. However, there remained the question of what to do with Erastes Fulmen, whose story could not seem to stay straight. The PCs agreed to take him in via the People’s Gate themselves.

Fulmen was clearly known to the gate guards, who seemed to snigger at the PCs for being associated with him. The last story they had got from Erastes was that he was working for Jotaran Longsword, Constable of Pavis, and the PCs decided to accompany him to Jotaran’s office to check out this story. On the way, however, they encountered a Lunar patrol that took charge of Erastes. The PCs followed the patrol and were surprised to see it take him to the Silk and Plume instead of any of the administrative buildings.

After picking up their loot from the Flintnail temple and a quick trip to the Knowledge Temple, where at last they could afford identification services, Grom decided that they should finally arrange the auction of the Bonesung Armor…

The Trouble With Trolls Part I
In which our heroes run into trouble in troll tunnels

The combined force attacking the Temple of Zorak Zoran had been joined by two others, ‘Bob’, a sneak thief born and bred in Pavis, hired as a scout, and Embla, an enormously tall (6’11”) and glamorous merchant woman, hired to use her detection magic to find the gems the temples had had stolen from them.

With Garrath Sharpsword’s force occupied by about 10 Great Trolls in the main entryway and the Flintnail Rubble Tracker dwarf force having run into heavy opposition coming down the back door, it was up to Xaraya’s force to press on into the temple alone. The shaman Stars Like Night went discorporate, while Bob advanced stealthily down the hall, taking advantage of his Dark Sight ability. About 50m down, Bob was lucky to notice two holes, one of either side of the hall. Theorizing these might be spy holes, Bob jabbed his dagger through one of the holes with great force. It just happened (01 on the roll) that a troll was just “looking” through the hole at that point and the dagger went through the hole and the gap in his helmet into his ear and brain, killing him instantly. Bob hurried back up the passage as trolls broke through the wall on either side, rounded a corner and concealed himself against the wall.

Xaraya heard the commotion and ordered the force to prepare missile weapons. As the trolls rounded the corner they stepped into a hail of fire, which took several of them down at once. Bob used surprise to come from behind and stab a one troll in the head, taking him down too. The trolls did not have a chance to stop their charge and switch weapons before they were all down, dead or dying. This was despite Embla snagging her staff sling on the tunnel wall and having to pick up her fallen weapon.

The force advanced cautiously to the watch posts, to discover two small tunnels running parallel to the main one (which was easily big enough to let Great Trolls walk down). Learning that Garrath had dealt with the Great Trolls but was going to the aid of the dwarves, Xaraya’s force conferred on strategy. Stars Like Night had returned to tell them that a large force of trolls was gathered in a chamber at the end of the tunnel to meet them, while another force was fortifying the temple chamber itself, beyond. Xaraya decided to scout out one side tunnel with a torch, while Bob advanced down the other with his dark sight.

Xaraya’s torch attracted troll attention. A trollkin and dark troll came up the tunnel. At this point, Xaraya decided to try diplomacy and announced in halting Darktongue that they were supporters of the true Queen. Despite some language difficulties, it seemed that the trolls were sympathetic, for they did not attack, but disappeared back into the darkness.

Meanwhile, Bob had discovered that the force in the main chamber was about 13 strong – a Death Lord, two Great Trolls, 4 Dark Trolls and half a dozen trollkin, gathered in two lines of battle (trollkin in front). Embla was deputed to sneak down the second tunnel and use her confusion magic if necessary, while Grom led half the force forward to try diplomacy again.

This time it was the party that was met by a hail of missiles, which for the most part bounced off their armor. Embla immediately Confused a Great Troll, much to the distress of the Death Lord, who fired off a Fear spell at Leotychidas, whose shield still burned with his Lantern spell. In a great loss for the party, the Fearshock stopped Leo’s heart, and only timely first aid from Skye saved him. But this meant that their only immediate light source was out, with his shield providing untargeted light. The party’s missile users fired back, and Njall the Wind Lord loosed a Lightning spell. Once again they had great success, and the Death Lord was hit by the full force of the lightning. Grom and others started forward, but were saved by Solibar noticing a pit they would have fallen into if they’d continued. The party’s missile force continued to have great success and Njall’s second and last Lightning spell crisped the Death Lord such that half the remaining trolls that could stand broke and ran. Bob’s attempt to launch and impromptu fire bomb failed, and as he moved in to finish off the second Great Troll, he slipped and was knocked out by a blow to the head by the troll’s massive maul. Grom jumped over the pit and saved him by finishing off the troll.

By this point, Garrath had revealed that he and the dwarves were withdrawing back to the Strongpoint. Although Xaraya’s force had probably succeeded better than had been hoped (taking out over 20 trolls and trollkin, including a Death Lord) for just two severe injuries, the loss of their hands-free light source suggested that discretion should be the better part of valor, and they gathered up Leo and Bob to take them back to the Strongpoint.

Exiting the temple via the sewers, the force was met by a Kyger Litor trollkin who told them to come to the Kyger Litor stronghold, where Garrath revealed he had lost 4 men and the Dwarves 6. They would be reinforced by Dharrgagg, a Karrg’s Son and some of his bravest fighters. A war council sent out Stars Like Night and some trollish spirits, which concluded that there were three areas the trolls were guarding: their barracks by the “back door,” the Temple itself and a mysterious area deeper in the temple that seemed to be guarded by spirits only. Embla was able to use her skills to draw what sounded like a remarkably accurate map of the temple, and the War Council decided on a two-pronged attack this time. Xaraya’s friends, the dwarves and some trolls would lead the attack on the back door, while Garrath would lead the attack on the temple, where the fighting was likely to be heaviest.


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