Champions of Old Korvosa

The Grove Street Mortuary (Part 1)
Session 12

Oathday, 20 Desnus 4704

Not long after breakfast, the party geared up and made the short walk to the Grove Street Mortuary. Their research indicated that this building had been constructed on the site of the former Temple of Urgathoa. It was also the most likely candidate to be the location of the elusive safe house for the Cult of the Scythe Mother.

The mortuary was surrounded by an eight-foot-high wall of red bricks. The front gates were made of wrought iron. They were closed and locked. A brass sign hung on the gates: “Grove Street Mortuary. Est. 4685. Tirus Dreen, Prop. Our Family Helping Yours”. A rope with a wooden handle hung next to the gates, obviously attached to a large brass bell. The adventurers walked the outside perimiter of the walls, and found a small back gate that led into an alley. That gate appeared to be latched, but unlocked. Using his magic boots, Turgrox leapt to the top of the walls to survey the grounds. He reported that the main house was one-story and made of brick, with a slate roof. The front gates opened into a carriage house, and there was a smaller cottage or shed near the back gate. The grounds appeared to have once been lush formal gardens, but were now overgrown and poorly maintained. After considering entering through the back gate and sneaking into the main house, they decided to ring the bell and pretend to want to arrange a funeral.

Returning to the main gates, the party rang the bell. After a too-long moment, one of the doors of the carriage house opened, and out stepped a huge, fearsome-looking man. He stood over seven feet tall, but was lean and wiry, weighing perhaps only 200 pounds. His head was small, with goatlike features. He had black, beady eyes that were too small, an upturned nose, and a too-wide mouth full of huge square teeth. He had a mane of black, stringly, hair that dropped to the middle of his back. His clothes were mangy and disheveled, with the exception of a fine gray cloak that hung at his shoulders. He had an oversized farrier’s hammer in his left hand, but his right arm appeared to be withered and covered with scabs. He grunted at the party, “Yeah? What do you want?” The creature’s reek assailed the adventurers’ senses.

Darshan immediately recognized the doorman as an an ogrekin. “One of our dear friends has passed, and we would like you to prepare his body for the funeral,” lied the druid. The ogrekin stared at eack of the adventurers for a moment, then unlocked the gates. “Up the gravel path straight ahead. Talk to Mr. Haddy.” He watched the adventurers carefully as the filed past him, up the gravel path, and to the front door of the house. Turgrox tried the door, and it opened easily. The sound of jangling bells echoed off the marble floor through the vaulted cieling the large room beyond. Idyllic murals of sea, mountains, and forest decorated tge walls. On second look, however, the party notices the cobwebs around the chandelier and walls, and that the floor was marred by a layer of grime, indicating that it had not been swept or mopped in weeks.

After a few moments, one of the doors opened, and a halfling entered the room. He wore a dark suit, a gray cravate, and a a pair of pince-nez spectacles. He appeared slightly surprised at the party’s arrival, but quickly introduced himself as Mr. Haddy, and assumed the role of a mortician, offering condolences for the loss. Don took lead, explaining that a dear friend had passed in the night, and that they wanted to hold a funeral here, with public viewing of the body. The halfling led them through one of the doors to a cramped and cluttered office. While going through the business of organizing a funeral, Darshan noted that the halfling appeared to be distracted, and was rushing through the procedings.

Haddy.JPG
art by Christopher Stoll

Exchanging a glance with Zak, the barbarian asked if he could use the outhouse. The halfling shot him a quizzical glance and directed him to the side entrance. Zak feigned confusion, and Darshan said he’d help him find it, and they both left the office. Finding a set of stairs, the two descended to the basement, but they led to a locked heavy door. They went back upstairs, through the kitchen. Darshan noted that the pantry seemed to be stocked with enough food to feed a dozen men for weeks, which he thought suspicious. Another locked door led off the kitchen, but as Darshan tried it, he heard an old man’s voice from the other side say, “Yes?” Darshan asked if he would open the door, and the man replied, “Well, you know I can’t! Miss Firesta says I need to say in here for the day. I don’t have the key, anyway.”

“Miss Firesta?” asked Darshan.

“Yes! She’s such a nice girl. She takes care of everything for me these days.”

“I’m sorry,” asked Darshan, “who am I speaking with?”

“Why, I’m Tirus Dreen, the owner of this establishment. Of course, I’m semi-retired now. Miss Firesta runs things for the most part now.”

Darshan bade Dreen a good day, and went off with Zak to explore the rest of the house. This included a dusty, dis-organized coffin display room. A door from there led to an unused carpentry shop, which they didn’t enter. Another door led to a back storeroom, filled with various odds and ends, and the back door to the house. The storeroom also had a ramp that descended to the basement level. Zak noticed bloody footprints leading up from the basement, across the room, to the back door. Following the footprints outside, they led to the small outbuilding next to the property’s back gate. The outbuilding appeared to have once been a one-room cottage that had since been converted to a dog kennel, its door wide open. While the kennels held filthy straw filled with dog droppings, there were no dogs apparent. Darshan noticed a chain and lock lying on the ground next to the back gate of the property: the gate was latched but unlocked. The tracks indicated that the person who’d tracked blood through the house ran outside, released the dogs, unlocked the gate, and left without locking it behind him. Strange. The two returned to the house.

Meanwhile, Don and Turgrox continued to negotiate with Haddy over the fictitious funeral. Haddy fumbled through the scattered papers on the desk to find a ledger, which he started writing in. Looking at it upside-down, Don notived that the ledger had been meticulous until about four years ago, where the handwriting changed and the number of funerals dropped precipitously to barely one a month. When going over burial prices in the city cemetary, Turgrox noticed that the date of the price sheet was 3699— five years ago! They also both noticed that Haddy was growing increadingly distracted, and started to evade questions, asking them to come back later— after asking for a 20-ducat deposit.

Finally, Turgrox had enough. He took the coins, started to hand them to the halfling, but deliberately dropped them, “Oops! Sorry!” As Haddy bent over to pick them up, Turgrox lunged at him, getting the halfling into a half-Nelson, and putting a dagger to his throat! ‘’Look, there’s something fishy going on here, and you’re not leveling with us. Well, we’re not leveling with you, either. We’re not interested in booking a funeral. We’re looking for the Cult of the Scythe Mother. Ever heard of ‘em?’’ At that, the halfling seemed even more nervous. Turgrox told Don to tie the halfling’s hands, which he did. While Don worked the knots, Haddy regained his composure, narrowing his eyes and warning, “Gentlemen, you have made a grave error. Be careful what you seek.”

Turgrox then said, “Okay, Haddy, you’re going to give us a tour of this place.” He hauled the halfling to his feet and pushed him out of the office and back into the great hall. That’s when they met Zak and Darshan, who were both shocked to see that Don and Turgrox had held the halfling prisoner! While debating the merrits of this plan, Darshan noticed that the halfling had loosed his bonds, and had drawn a dagger! Before the druid could shout a warning, the halfling plunged his dagger into Turgrox’ back! The halfling tumbled out of the party’s way as they tried to cut him down, but it was Zak that struck him first. With a severe wound from Zak’s sword, the halfling retreated to the door and threw it open, shouting, “Chomper! We’re being attacked! In the house!” But Turgrox grabbed the halfling by the collar and punched him squarely in the back of the head, knocking him out. Darshan closed the door, but it needed a key to lock. As he fumbled through the halfling’s pockets, the door burst open, and the ogrekin from the carriage house brought his farrier’s hammer down upon Zak’s head. Another melee ensued, but after a moment, the ogrekin was lying on the foor. Darshan attended to the ogrekin’s and the halfling’s wounds, but they were both dead.

Deciding that they needed to explore the basement, they returned to the stairs that ended at the locked door. Turgrox picked the lock, and they entered an underground chamber. The north wall of this basement room had once been made of brick, but someone had broken through the wall, revealing a much older chamber beyond: A semicircular room dominated by a statue of Urgathoa! Before the statue stood a low altar made of stone, and in the center of the room was a bloodstained dining table with eight chairs.As interesting as the statue of the Pallid Princess seemed, the southern end of the room had an even more grisly display.The walls and floor of that area were covered in pooled and splattered blood. Seven corpses lay on the ground. Four appeared to be partly decayed and were hacked to pieces. Two were fresher, and wore the robes of a Scythe Mother cultist, and the last appeared to be of Varisian ancestry, and was dressed as a Sczarni street thug. After examining the scene, Darshan was pretty sure that the four decayed corpses probably had been zombies, and they killed the four humans. A corridor led off the room past the battle scene. This corridor was likewise covered with blood, and it ended in a heavy wooden door, barred from this side. Turgrox listened at it.

The distinct sound of groaning, punctuated with scratching and pounding on the door didn’t require the skills of a rogue to detect. While debating what to do, the sounds of banging grew more intense, and then the door burst open! A dozen zombies lurched toward the party!

To Be Continued… next week!

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The Toyshop of Terror
Session 11

Wealday, 19 Desnus 4704

Waking up to an overcast and rainy day, the party had a quick breakfast at the Stirge and Hammer and headed back to Racker’s Alley. By now, the Korvosan Guard and some volunteers were wrapping up disposal of the stinking pile of corpses. ‘A couple of them started shambling, but we put them down again before they could do any damage. We’re taking them to Gray, where we’ll be having a huge funeral pyre,’ said the sergeant.

Once the guard and their wagons of corpses left, the party checked out the area. The coblestones and brick walls were still stained with sticky fliuds, and the reek of death still hung in the air, but far less than the previous night. “At least the rain is washing some of it away,” remarked Darshan. The building appeared to be mostly used as a low-rent tenement building, with a single business at street level, which appeared to have been closed for weeks. An askew sign hung over the door, as one chain had broken. It read, “Giotorro’s Toys.”

The front window displayed a collection of dusty and sorry-looking playthings. Wooden marionettes with too-long limbs and too-wide eyes, lopsided plush horses pulling carts with not-quite-round wheels, and unbalanced tin kights holding unwieldy swords stared blankly through the grime-covered window. Behind the display, heavy curtains obscured the view of the shop interior. Turgrox checked the bulkhead they’d spotted the previous night: it was unlocked. Don cast detect undead while standing in the window, and after a moment, declared, “Hmm. There is at least one undead creature inside. Its force of unlife feels stronger than that of a zombie, but isn’t the abyss of blackness of a spectre. We should approach with caution!” Seeing no one in the street, Zak, Darshan, and Don still shielded Turgrox as he picked the lock of the front door. The door opened easily, and a small bell jingled merrily, in contrast to the scene within.

Thin shafts of feeble light shone through holes in the curtain and dimly illuminated the dusty and cobweb-filled shop. Shelves and tables held scores of dolls, dressed in various stereotypical costumes, many bearing tiny weapons typical to their style of dress: tattooed Shoanti dolls with tiny hammers; Ulfen vikings with swords and shields; Mwangi warriors with spears and knives. Crimson kites hung from the cieling, and a dollhouse in the shape of Castle Korvosa stood on a table. A door in the back was marked “private.” Turgrox threw open the curtains, letting in the overcast day’s feeble sunlight through the grimy window. Suspecting the undead creature would be in the back room, Zak wound through the shelves of second-rate toys. As he approached the door, he felt a sharp pain in his back. With a shout of pain, he spun and pulled a dart out of his back— it appeared to be a tiny replica of a savage’s hunting spear. He then noticed motion on the shelf of dolls: a poorly-proportioned foot-tall doll of a Mwangi warrior raised its tiny arm, readying another tiny spear!

Turgrox roared in pain from the spear of a similar animated doll, while Darshan and Don each felt a spear whiz by thier ears! With weapons drawn, the adventurers returned the attack. The dolls were tough to hit due to their size and agility, but they were very fragile when a weapon connected. After a few exchanges of blows, the four animated Mwangi dolls lay in broken pieces on the floor. Turgrox then stomped them all into shards.

The half-orc then listened at the back room door, and reported that he heard the sounds of woodworking and indistinguishable muttering on the other side. The door was unlocked, and he threw it open. The room was filled with grotesque half-formed dolls of various sorts, their dead glass eyes glittering int he fliokering candlelight. A figure sat on a stool, hunched over a workbench. It wore a tattered and bloodstained smock. At the sound of the door opening, the figure turned. The withered flesh of its face stretched over its skull, a mockery of the features of the living. It still wore a scraggly, brittle-looking goatee and wisps of hair.

It hissed, “We’re closed— and this room is private!”

Darshan replied, “Sorry for barging in here. What are you making?”

“Toys. For the children,” it hissed menacingly. It then sniffed the air. “Wait.” It stood. “You smell… DELICIOUS!” It then lunched at Darshan!

Darshan evaded the things claws, as Zak struck it with his sword. Turgrox managed to get behind it, and stabbed it in the back with his shortsword. It half-hissed, half-shrieked in pain. Don fired a pair of magic missiles from his wand, and Darshan slashed it with his sickle. It collapsed in a heap, and then its flesh crumbled into dessicated chunks and fell from its skeleton. Searching the room, the adventurers found an inlaid wooden coffer filled with coins, and a key in the shape of the holy symbol of Abadar with the number 639 engraved into it. Darshan identified it as a key to a safe deposit box at the Bank of Abadar.

After a brief stop at the Stirge and Hammer for lunch, the party returned to the University of Korvosa. Presenting their library pass, they contnued their research into the location of the former Temple of Urgathoa in Korvosa. After four hours of searching through volumes which mainly confirmed what they already knew, Don made a fascinating discovery: Tucked into a treatise on the influence of Dwarven masonry techinques on Korvosan architecture was an envelope marked with the royal seal of Queen Domina. The seal appeared to still be intact, although Turgrox mentioned that it isn’t all that hard to re-seal a letter. Opening it, the envelope contained a private royal decree toi a Col. Buros of the Korvosan Guard, dated 4679. It ordered the immediate arrest of all known members of the Cult of Urgathoa— and their immediate families. Specifically named in the arrest warrant was High Priestess Arazna and her family. After another hour of research, Darshan found the text they were looking for. Rifling through the tome, he found the site plans for the Temple of Urgathoa: the building site was to be on Grove Street, on Garrison Hill, in Old Korvosa— a mere five blocks from the Stirge and Hammer! A gloss in the margin of that text noted the destruction of the temple in 4681. Darshan knew the location— it was now the site of the Grove Street Mortuary!

By now, it was late, and the University library was closing for the night. The party decided to turn in for the night, and check out the mortuary first thing in the morning.

To be continued… Next week!

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Hungry Are the Dead
Session 10

Chapter Two: The Body Thieves

Moonday, 17 Desnus 4704

Still seeking leads on the safe house of the Cult of the Scythe Mother, the party figured that finding the location of the former temple of Urgathoa would be the best place to start. The priestess of Urgathoa they’d spoken with at the Pantheon of Many mentioned that Queen Domina had ordered its destruction some time ago, so the party split up to maximize their investigations.

Darshan met with some of his old Sczarni friends to find out what they knew, but none of them had any idea. “Cults? We don’t really mess with those.” He then checked with his ‘aunt’ Portia, but she didn’t have any information either. “I’ve only ever served the Guard under King Eodred’s rule. His mother Queen Domina died when I was still a girl.” Hanging out at the Stirge and Hammer while waiting for the rest of the party to return, he asked Vasaro if he knew of any action against the Cult of Urgathoa when he was in Sable Company. Surprisingly, he did! “Oh, I remember that! Nasty business. I was fresh out of the Academy. Queen Domina ordered the expulsion of everyone associated with the Church of Urgathoa in the city— and their families. It was the Order of the Nail who led the mission— we were just on aerial support. It was the middle of the night, in winter— the Hellknights kicked in doors and pulled people out of bed: men, women, children. At least a hundred people all total, as far as I can figure. They were loaded onto wagons, and brought to Castle Korvosa, for ‘processing.’ We were told that they were all going to be exiled to Nidal or Cheliax by ship over the next few days. But then i was reassigned to border patrol, and I never saw what happened to them.”

Zeldra had said a few things that indicated that the old temple might have been in West Dock in Midland, so Zak and Turgrox went over there to check it out. Carousing in bars, and talking with many old-timers, they were able to confirm a royal decree a while ago that outlawed worship of the Pallid Princess, but dno one could recall whether there was a temple, much less where it was located.

Don Decided to head back to Theumanexus College to do more research there. While there, he crossed paths with Extrarius, whom he hadn’t seen in a few weeks. Shortly into his research, he realized that this library didn’t have a whole lot on the subjects of local history or religion, but we was able to piece tothether a few relavent points:

1. Queen Domina issued a royal decree in 4679 banning the Cult of Urgathoa.
2. There was a reference to a plague that seemed frighteningly familiar in a thousand-year-old commentary on the full chronicles of Imperial Taldor’s Second Army of Exploration into the land of Belkzen in the year 506. The commentator mentioned that the chronicler noted that a group of tomb specialists had returned to the main camp sick from some kind of plague. Those that died from the plague rose again as zombies.
3. A book on architecture mentioned a dwarven architect named Brentha Grimjaw, and listed the Temple of Urgathoa in Korvosa as one of her designs, erected in 4672. There was an artist’s sketch of the building itself, although no background or adjacent buildings were included in the drawing. Don did not remember ever seeing a building that looked like that in Korvosa. The article mentioned that the plans for the building were on file at the University of Korvosa.

Comparing notes back at the Stirge and Hammer, the party decided that their best course of action would be to head over to the University of Korvosa the next morning. As they discussed it, Basila’s cough seemed to have worsened.

Toilday, 18 Desus 4704

After a brief breakfast at the Stirge and Hammer, the party set off across town to The Heights, where the University of Korvosa stood. Unlike the Academae, Korvosa’s world-famous wizard school, the University of Korvosa offered general non-magical education on a variety of subjects, inlcuding literature, medicine, law, and engineering. Heading over to the library, the party was stopped by a librarian before they could enter the stacks. “I’m sorry— the University library is reserved for students.” After explaining what they were looking for, the librarian suggested that they should speak to Head Librarian Estelle Banoy to request a stack pass. After waiting an hour for an appointment, the party managed to talk their way into a three-day stack pass, their position bolstered by a 50-gp donation to the library.

After about eight hours of research, the party found the following details:

1. Someone had deliberately obscured references to architect Grimjaw. Specifically, the plans for the Temple of Urgathoa were not where they should have been.
2. Don found a reference to decree from Queen Domina in 4681 ordering the razing of the Temple of Urgathoa. That reference did not include an address or otherwise indicate where it might be.
3. Darshan found a second-edition copy of the full Chronicle of the Second Army of Exploration. In it, he looked up Don’s reference to the plague unearthed in Belkzen 3500 years ago. The chronicle did not include much more detail, but there was a drawing of the tomb entrance where the plague had been released, and that drawing had legible Thassilonian runes. Don was able to translate: “Intruders beware of the curse of the Reaping Stone of Gastash.”

While somewhat burned out by a day of library research, everyone would have kept researching, had the library not closed for the night. The librarians asked everyone to leave.

Toilday, 18 Desus 4704, early evening

As the party returned to Old Korvosa, they happened upon a patrol of the Korvosan Guard. Leading the patrol was the party’s friend Captain Jeggare, who asked to have a word with them. “Glad I found you. We’re stretched awfully thin right now— people have started to die from this new sickness you warned me about. We’re distributing the antiplague medicine you secured from ”/characters/devargo-barvasi" class=“wiki-content-link”>Devargo Barvasi as best as we can, but there’s not enough to go around. The churches of Abadar, Sarenrae, Pharasma, Shelyn, and, gods help us, Asmodeus are assisting, but, again, people are getting sick faster than the healers can cure them. I’ve also heard some rumors that at least one of the teams running the body carts aren’t taking the corpses of the fallen all the way to Gray— instead they’re dumping them either in the river, or worse, an alley. We have reports I haven’t been able to follow up that corpses are piling up in Racker’s Alley in Bridgefront. If that’s happening, this plague is going to spread faster. Could you guys please check that our for me? Thanks!"

The high walls of the surrounding buildings threw the awkwwardly-bent Racker’s Alley into constant shadow— especially in the encroaching gloom of twilight. Although littered with garbage and filth, the refuse wasn’t the most stomach-churning trait of the rundown alleyway. Heaped against a bent wooden wall rose a pile of more than three dozen corpses, their faces blistered and flushed, dead eyes open and staring. The reek of death was overwhelming, accented by the buzzing of clouds of flies. Some of these corpses had lain here for days.

As the party approached, some of the corpses appeared to be moving— revealing themselves not to be corpses at all but four ghouls feasting on the carrion! The ghouls hissed angrily at the party, and one hissed, “Fresh meat! Get them!” The ghouls rushed to attack. Zak stood his ground, as as one ghoul rushed him, he swung his greatsword, separating the ghoul from its head. The rest fell on the party, rending at their flesh with scabrous, razor-sharp claws, and biting with mouths full of too-long canine teeth. As the party fought back, Turgrox was struck by a dagger coated in sticky red-black blood— the dagger hit him from unawares in the dark. Darshan spotted movement from a balcony overlooking the alley-turned-charnel house: A ghast, this one apparently female, was throwing daggers from the shadows! As Zak and Turgrox battled with the ghouls, Darshan and Don used their magic on the apparent leader of the ghouls, striking her with magic missiles and enchanged snowballs. As the last ghoul was about to fall, three of the corpses lurched to unlife and joined the frey. Zak broke off the attack and charged up the balcony stairs, but the ghast must have sensed danger, and retreated back into the building— a low-rent tenament. The rest of the party dispatched the zombies, as Zak gave chase to the ghoul leader. Chasing it through the tenement, Zak tripped over a cord stretched six inches above the top step of a flight of stairs, and he went crashing down. By the time he picked himself up, the ghast had left the building and disappeared down a manhole into the Vaults.

After defeating the ghouls and zombies, the party limped back to the Stirge and Hammer, alerting a patrol of Korvosan Guard that someone had been dumping corpses of plague victims in Rackers Alley, and someone needed to bury those bodies in consecrated ground as soon as possible, “or else vey bad things will happen.” While searching the alley, the party found that many of the corpses had been piled atop a metal bulkhead door that appaparently led into the building’s basement.

Smarting from the fight with the ghouls and zombies, once the scene was turned over to the Guard, the party returned to the Stirge and Hammer for some much-needed rest.

[To be continued…Next week!]

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In the Court of the Spider King
Session 9

Fireday, 14 Desnus 4704

The party all decided to lay low for the day to recover from the previous day’s fight. Of concern was Basila’s persistent cough: Darshan was privately convinced that she was still suffering from the plague. He administered some medicine to her in an effort to cure the illness.

Starday, 15 Desnus 4704

Feeling much better, the party resumed their investigations into the Cult of the Scythe Mother. While the cult had been using the burnt-out Ambrik House as a staging area for its attack on the Stirge and Hammer, that wasn’t the main safe house for the cult, and the letter they found didn’t offer much of a clue as to where to head next. The letter did, however, confirm that the attacks were planned, and that the cult was deliberately spreading a plague called the Reaping Sickness. Darshan decided to check in with Captain Jeggare to show her more proof of the dangers facing the city, and found her later that day. She said that she would take this to her superiors and would do her best to muster resources to head off a major plague outbreak.

Don remembered that there was a shrine to Urgathoa in the Pantheon of Many down in South Shore, and he suggested that it might be a good idea to talk with a priest of Urgathoa to see if he could learn anything about the Cult of the Scythe Mother. Zak offered to tag along as a bodyguard in case the meeting went poorly. Posing as dilletantes that expressed some level of interest in the faith, they met with Zeldra Rallick, the Urgathoan priestess in charge of the shrine. Zeldra was an enthusiastic evangelist of the Pallid Princess, and told Don and Zak that the church stressed that followers should live life to the fullest, and to indulge themselves with as many pleasures as can be experienced. “And once you have experienced all life has to offer, then you can ascend to a different form, and experience a whole new set of pleasures, for as long as you wish to!” Don showed her the holy symbol that the party had recovered from the Scythe Mother cultists. She was curious where they had found the symbol, and explained that it was the symbol of a splinter-cult that didn’t represent the true teachings of the Pallid Princess. “They also venerate Urgathoa, but they call her the Scythe Mother. They worship her as a reaper of souls, and care little for life. They believe that the highest form of life is undeath, and they seek to spread undeath through the world whether people want it or not.” When asked what she thought of their philosophy, a disgusted look crossed her face. “Undeath should be a choice made willingly. It isn’t for everyone. And you shouldn’t go down that path until you’re ready. There are too many pleasures that only the living can experience, and transitioning to undeath is a one-way journey. Besides, if everybody ascends to undeath, what would we feed on?” Don was both impressed and somewhat horrified by the priestess’ answer, but pressed on with questions about the history of the church of Urgathoa in Korvosa. “Well, this was before my time, but Queen Domina had outlawed worship of Urgathoa for a while. I heard a rumor that she chased all of the faithful out of town and demolished the old temple.” Unfortunately, she had no idea where that old temple had been. Zeldra then invited Don and Zak to a worship feast that Wealday evening, and the adventurers took their leave.

Meanwhile, Turgrox decided to do some investigations of his own. He went to The Heights to try to speak with someone from the Cerulean Society to see if anyone had any news about the attacks in Old Korvosa. He successfully talked the guards outside the guildhall into an audience with Yono Tortney, the Guildmaster’s chamberlain. A regal, balding man with a full white beard, Tortney invited Turgrox for a drink to “talk business.” He led Turgrox around the corner of the guildhall to a side door and stepped through. Turgrox found himself in a small, nondescript barroom. Aside from a barkeep, the room was empty. The half-orc happened to glance up, and noticed several murder holes in the ceiling… and that Tortney showed him to a seat that was directly below one. After a pint of average-quality ale, Turgrox told Tortney that he suspected that a cult had released a deadly plague in the city, and that would be very bad for business. He suggested that the Society should have its local gangs be on the lookout for cultists and suspicious activity. Tortney nodded, and asked if there was anything else. Turgrox then asked for a job. Tortney smiled at that, and replied, “We don’t know you yet. You have to work your way up into the Society. Why don’t you talk to the Spider King in Old Korvosa. I hear he’s always hiring men of your skill set.” At that, Tortney concluded the meeting and walked Turgrox out of the bar.

That evening, back at the Stirge and Hammer, the party met to compare notes. While plotting their next move, Captain Jeggare came in and joined them. “We may have a problem, and I think you guys are the right tool to fix it. Over the past three days, somebody has been quietly been buying up all of the anti-plague medicine available in the city. My sources tell me that the people doing the actual buying have all been members of the Spiders— a gang led by Devargo Barvasi , a.k.a. the Spider King.” Turgrox shot a glance at the rest of the party, but Portia didn’t seem to notice. “Now, Barvasi knows me and all of the guardsmen, and he won’t let us get anywhere near him. But you four— you’re unknowns, and you should be able to get an audience with him. The city is prepared to pay up to 3,000 gold ducats for the medicine. That’s still a fair profit for him, but not at the price-gouging rates he’ll be charging. We need you to meet with him and secure the release of the medicine.” Darshan was able to talk her into releasing a letter of credit for 4,000 ducats, plus an agreement that if the party can talk him down from there, they can keep the rest. “One other thing,” added Portia, “he probably won’t agree to meet just anyone who walks in. You’ll need to get his attention in some way by patronizing his businesses.”

Later that evening, the party found themselves on the dock to Eel’s End, with 500 ducats in hand, and a letter of credit still worth another 3500. “Let’s win big!” said Turgrox. Five ships of questionable seaworthiness were lashed to the pier and to each other. The ships were the Goldenhawk, now serving as a flophouse; the Twin Tigers, a gambling hall, the House of Clouds, a low-rent brothel, the Dragon’s Den, a drug parlor, and the largest ship of this fleet of vice, the Eel’s End herself. The latter ship didn’t have any additional signage that indicated its function; Turgrox surmised that it must be where the Spider King held court.

The party decided to board the Twin Tigers, and attempt to get the Spider King’s attention by either winning big or losing big. The games seemed to be mostly typical: A few tables of bounder, several open tables of towers, and several people crowd in around an odd version or roulette, called “ghoulette.” The latter piqued the party’s interest. In the center of a spinning wheel was the severed, but still animated, head of a ghoul Instead of numbers, the wheel was divided into red and black sections labeled: “Your Brains,” “Your Family,” Your Charisma," “Your Hygiene,” “Your Skill,” “Your Stuff,” “Your Body,” “Your Profession,” and “Your Race.” A green section was labeled, “Something Nice.” The croupier took bets on either a color (red or black), or a section of the wheel. Winning the color paid out two-to-one; winning the wedge paid eight-to-one. When the wheel stopped spinning, the head of the ghoul locked eyes with whoever was standing in front of it and proclaimed an appropriate insult. To one dandy with a fancy rapier at his side, the ghoul proclaimed (after landing on “Your Stuff”): “Nice sword! Do you let your pet rust monster play with it?” To a dwarf, it said after landing on “Your Race:” “Well, you can always tell a dwarf. You just can’t tell him much.” After landing on "Your Profession, " it said to a woman in a fancy dress: “On break from the House of Clouds? Gentlemen, she’ll be back there in an hour!” Turgrox played one round, but bet on the wrong color. The head landed on “Ypur Hygiene,” and asked him: “Do you raise swine or just smell that way?” When Darshan spun (and lost), it landed on “Something Nice,” and it said: “Hey! I’d like to help you out! The door is over there.”

Below deck were arenas for bloodsports: mostly imp vs. pseudodragon fights and games of knivesies. No one was particularly interested in playing those.

After playing (and losing) for a while, Darshan approached the pit boss, and said that he had a business proposal for the Spider King. The pit boss tod him that Mr. Barvasi was very busy and to come back tomorrow to make an appointment. Darshan slipped him five platinum coins, and the pit boss said, “Well, I’ll see what I can do.”

Half an hour later, the party was escorted aboard the Eel’s End, and brought to the aftcastle, into a room that was originally the captain’s quarters. The room was dark, and the walls were covered with thick spider webs. Scores of spiders the size of a man’s fist crawled the webs. About half a dozen Sczarni-looking people sat around a long table. Sitting on a gilded wooden chair overlooking the room was a wiry, gray-haired man in leather armor. He wore leather gloves with half-moon shaped blades that were folded back. Turgrox noted that the blades were coated with a green substance. Several spiders crawled on his arms and torso, and he held a housecat-sized spider in his hands, which he stroked absently as the party members walked in. A brass birdcage hung from a stand next to the throne, in which cowered a sad-looking pseudodragon. He didn’t stand as the party entered, but grinned, and said, “Well, boys, you piqued my interest. They tell me that you have a business proposal for me. I’m a busy man, so let’s hear it.”

Darshan explained that they had been tasked by the city to buy back the larghe stockpile of medicine that Barvasi had been buying up. At that, Barvasi laughed, picked up a metal rod and struck the birdcage several times. Addressing the cowering pseudodragon, he said, “Hey! The city wants to pay me to not make a profit! How generous of them!” He turned back to Darshan, and said that he’d be happy to sell them back for 10,000 gold ducats, in cash, “because, that’s what I’m looking at getting for it when people start getting sick.” After several rounds of negotiations, Darshan said that the city’s maximum offer was 3,000 gp. “Tell you what… let’s make this exciting,” replied the Spider King. “If one of you can beat our current knivesies champion, then I’ll accept your 3,000 ducat offer. But if she wins, then you take your offer back to your ‘Auntie’ Captain Portia Jeggare and tell her that I want 10,000. I know she’s good for it.” Darshan looked a bit shocked at the revelation that Bavarsi knew who he was. The Spider King smiled, and gesturing with the cat-sized spider he still held in his hands, he said, “Let’s just say I have ears and eyes everywhere in this city. So, who’s going to be your champion?” Zak stepped forward.

Bavarsi clapped, stood, and rapped the birdcage with the rod again. “Oh, this will be fun! It’s your funeral.” He then sent one of his men to fetch the knivesies champion. While they waited, Bavarsi reviewed the rules of knivesies. “Have you every played before? No? Well, that’s a pity. So here are the rules.” At that the rest of his men stood and cleared off everything from the table. “First, no weapons or armor. So, take off that hide shirt, my boy, and drop your sword and axes, and that razor you’re hiding in your boot.” Zak dropped his weapons, and started to doff his armor. At that, a burly-lookiing human woman strode in, wearing a tight-fitting sleeveless top and breeches. Her arms and shoulders were both heavily tattooted and well-scarred. “Ah, Zora. Welcome. You’ll be instructing this one in the art of knivesies, and I was just explaining the rules.” He continued, “Knivesies is a fight on tabletop. I will tie each of the contestants’ right wrists together. You each get a belt pouch. There’s one dagger,” and he pulled a dagger from a sheath, and with a flourish, stuck it forcefully into the center of the table. He then pulled out a handful of gold coins and dropped them around the table. “On the count of three, the game begins. The object of the game is to gather the most coins. The game is over when all of the coins on the table have been scooped up and deposited in each contestants’ belt pouch. Whoever has the most coins wins— the winner keeps half the total, the the rest are split between those who bet loor. on the winner. Oh yes, everyone can bet on who’s going to win— their bets are placed in the pile on the table, and then those who’ve bet stand on their contestant’s side of the table. The game also ends in two other ways. First, if any of the coins on the table fall onto the floor, the game is over. If someone deliberately kicks a coin off the table— judge’s discretion and I’m judging this match— that person loses. If one of the contestants falls off the table, that person loses. If one of the contestants blacks out or dies, that person loses. No outside help— if anyone interferes, then that side loses. Ohter than that, anything goes. Any questions?” Silence. “Okay, let’s start!”

Zak and Zora stood on the table, and Bavarsi tied their right wrists together with a leather cord. They seemed mismatched— Zak clearly had the size and strength advantage, but Zora seemed quicker, and had the experience of playing this game many times. Bavarsi counted down from three, and the fight was on. The contestants both lunged for the knife, and Zora was quicker. She slashed Zak in the arm after retrieving the weapon. Zak grabbed a few coins in the lunge for the knife, and then tried to sweep her legs out, but she anticipated his move and slashed him again. Zak tried to grab her knife and, but she managed to evade. At the same time, Zak managed to avoid getting slashed as they fought for several rounds. Finally, while beeding from several shallow slashes, Zak managed to knock her off balance, then punched her in the face with his left hand, momentarily stunning her. Finally, Zak managed to simultaneously trip and body-slam her, and she fell off the table.

Bavarsi slow-clapped, and said that it was a good fight. One of Bavarsi’s men tossed Zora a potion flask, and Darshan did the same to Zak. Now sitting next to each other next to the table, the two clanked vials and drank their potions of healing. Bavarsi cut the cord binding them, and agreed to sell back the medicine for 3,000 gold. As the party left, Bavarsi told Zak, “If you ever get sick of hanging out with those losers, let me know. I could use a guy like you.”

On the way back to the inn, Darshan observed that they had made a profit of almost 1,000 gold!

[To be continued… Next week!]

View
Ambrik House
Session 8

Oathday, 13 Desnus 4704, early afternoon

In the strange cellar filled with now-defeated undead monstrosities, Turgrox listened at the door to the east. Hearing no signs of cultists, he tried the door, bur found that it was locked. Using the exceptionally fine set of lockpicks he’d liberated from the wererat earler, he finessed the door open a crack and peered inside.

The room beyond was unlit: a workroom of some sort with a workbench of alchemy tools and two stone tables in the center. He thought he saw a body lying on each table. A stone stairway ascended to a landing and seemed to continue up behind a stone wall. He pulled the plague mask over his face and pushed the soor open wide. As he entered, the half-orc thought he spied movement on the landing. Pushing open the door, he motioned for the others to follow. Darshan’s lantern filled the room with lamplight.

Turgrox and Zak approached the landing, calling out, “Who’s there?” A female voice cried, “Oh no! More of them!” A young woman of Garundi ancestry stepped out from behind the wall, brandishing a broken table leg as a weapon. “Please, don’t hurt me!” she pleaded. Turgrox pulled off his mask, and said, “Hey, it’s OK. We’re not cultists. Who are you and why are you here?” The woman, still threatening with her table leg, said that she had been abducted by “a madman— who wore one of those masks!” and had been locked in this cellar for days.

Darshan and Don pelted her with questions, and her answers were a bit evasive. She said that she had been an apothecary and had been abducted while walking home from her shop. But she demured when asked where her shop was, and the date of her abduction. Don said, “We’ve been tracking death cultists who have killed a lot of people, and we found you in their hideout. I’m sure you be able to beat the charges.” “Charges?” “Yes,” Darshan continued, “for collaborating with criminals. These people are trying to spread a plage that will turn people into zombies.”

“A zombie uprising?” Her face turned into an evil grin. “Good!” At that her appearance shifted: Instead of a young Garundi woman in street clothes wielding a broken table leg, she suddenly became an animated skeleton in a black robe embroirdered with skulls. Her table leg became an iron-and-brass rod tipped with a brass skull. A floating, disembodied skeletal hand hovered near her shoulder. She cast a spell, and the floating hand suddenly crackled with electricity. She pointed at Turgrox, and the hand flew toward him, discharging the energy. Turgrox felt like he’d been struck by lightning and stumbled back. “Arise my children!” she shouted, and the two corpses on the tables shuddered to unlife, swinging themselves off ther tables. One of the zombies stood dangerously close to Don, and the other near Darshan.


art by Jacob Blackmon

Don pulled out his wand of magic missile and fired at the undead spellcaster. Zak charged her, slicing her with his greatsword. Darshan attacked the zombie near him with his magical sickle, cutting a decent-sized chunk out of it. Turgrox, shaking off the shock, ran up the stairs and rushed her, but she dodged the half-orc’s attempt at a body slam. Stepping back, she cast a spell at Turgrox, and a black ray of evil energy shot over his shoulder, missing hom. Both of the zombies tried to bite their targets, but only Don was bitten. “Watch out!” shouted Darshan, “Zombies don’t normally bite people!”

Darshan slashed at the zombie again, and it fell. Don cast a spell, and his hand glowed with blue necromantic energy. He approached the skeletal spellcaster and attempted to touch her, but she evaded. The undead wizard stepped out of the way of Zak’s blade and cast a spell. Turgrox and Zak both were filled with fear, and fled the room! Darshan then produced one of his wands, and used it to shoot a chunk of ice at the spellcaster. This managed to be her undoing, and she collapsed to the floor in a pile of bones. Zak and Turgrox ceased running and turned their attention to the remaining zombie, dispatching it. They all thanked their gods when the zombie didn’t explode!

With the hostiles all taken out, the party examined the room. The shelf contained alchemical equipment, equivalent to a traveling alchemy lab. The shelves above held various chemical reagents, along with two books: a spellbook, and a strange text called Serving Your Hunger. Also iTurgrox found four worn leather backpacks under one of the tables. All were water-soaked, and full of low-quality, mundane equipment. One of the backpacks contained a waterproof leather map case. Inside were two documents. One was a map of Old Korvosa. Five buildings were marked on the map with a red “X,” with one of those circled. Examining the map, Darshan determined that the circled location showed the Stirge and Hammer Inn. The others locations corresponded to Jeggare’s Jug, Exemplary Execrables, the Travelling Man, and the Sticky Mermaid— the other businesses targeted by attacks by the Cult of the Scythe Mother! The second document was a letter, and it was even more chilling. It read:

Sister Tirendra,
The time of our vengeance upon this city is at hand. Your cell’s target is an inn called the Stirge and Hammer. Bless all therein with the Reaping Sickness, so that the Scythe Mother can claim their bodies and souls. Return to the safe house afterward for the next phase of our plan. The city’s dead shall rise up and turn Korvosa into the Necropolis of the Pallid Princess.
— The Abbess of the Scythe

Turgrox ascended the stairs, and found himself at a landing behind a locked door. Faint sunlight seemed to come through the crack between the door and the floor. The lock proved no match for the half-orc and his lockpicks, and he cracked open the door and peered inside. The room beyond appeared to have once been a dining room. A warped table surrounded by wooden chairs dominated the room. The dusty remains of a brass chandelier lay smashed in the center of the table, covered with cobwebs. Much of the plaster cieling has long since collapsed, revealing blackened and scorched cieling timbers from a long-ago fire. Feeble sunlight streamed in from two south-facing windows that had been haphazardely boarded up. The floor was covered with a thick layer of dust, but Turgrox saw that several sets of footprints led from a door to the west to the doorway he stood in. He signaled the rest of the party, and they all filed in. Another door led north.

A moment after all four were in the room, the light appeared to dim. The scorched cieling suddenly glowed red, as if again on fire, and everyone smelled the stench of burnt flesh. Six ghostly child-sized hands descended from the cieling, each apparently engulfed in orange flames! One hand flew toward each member of the party at an unearthly speed; the other two flew toward the western door and passed through it! Zak, Darshan, and Turgrox managed to dodge the ghostly hands, but one passed through Don’s chest! He felt searing pain— as if a burning hand pressed against his flesh like a branding iron! At that, the room returned to normal. “I think this place is haunted!” noted Darshan.

Turgrox listened at the western door, and hearing nothing, opened it. Zak stepped through the doorway and beheld the building’s foyer. It smelled damp and musty, with long lines of yellow-brown mold streaking the walls. Three more boarded-up windows let in dim light from outside. On one wall, barely visible through a layer of mold and grime, was a faded mural. It depicted about two dozen smiling children standing around a smiling, heavy-set man with a full white beard. Faded gold letters above the mural spelled the words “Ambrik House Orphanage.” Zak also noted the same set of footprints led from the entryway, across the floor, and through door in which he stood. He noted that no footprints led back out.

He signaled the rest of the party to enter. As they searched the room, Zak thought he heard something— a child sobbing, then pleading, “No, please, not again! No…!” followed by a bloodcurdling scream! Shaken, he frantically looked around for the source of the screaming! Turgrox looked at him quizzically, and asked, “What? Do you hear something?” Apparently, none of the rest heard the screams. Darshan said, “Ambrik House? I’ve heard of it! It was an orphanage— the only one in Old Korvosa. There was a fire there about 25 years ago— all of the children and the headmaster died before the fire could be extinguished. The locals consider the place cursed and completely avoid it… It’s just about the only building in Bridgefront that’s stood vacant for more than a year!” They found nothing else of interest in the room, returned to the dining room, and took the other door.

They found themselves in the remains of a kitchen. A collapsed wooden table stood in the middle of the room. Cabinets lined the walls, but several had collapsed. A large fireplace and oven dominated the northern wall, but much of it had deteriorated. A single set of footprints int he dusty floor ran from a door leading outside to a staircase leading up. The footprints seemed small— like those of a halfling, or a child. While searching the room, the party heard a boy’s voice from outside: “Hey, Mister, can you help us?” Three boys, all aged about 10 years, stood on the half-collapsed veranda of the building. They said that they had dared their friend Nathan to climb up to the attic and shine a lantern out the window. But Nathan has been gone for more than two hours, and he isn’t answering when they call for him. The boys pleased with Zak to find Nathan and bring him back out. Having a soft spot for kids, both Zak and Turgrox agreed. They ascended the stairs.

The stairs led to a second-floor hallway. The walls, cieling, and floor were all heavily damaged by both fire and water— the latter likely due to rain and snow. Turgrox noticed that the child-sized footprints led down the hallway and followed. Unfortunately, the floorboards of that section of the hallway had been heavily damaged by fire and wet rot, that Turgrox broke through the floor and fell to the kitchen below! At the sound of the commotion, a ghostly figure floated through the wall! It appeared to be the silhouette of a man engulfed by flames! It reached out a ghostly hand which passed into Darshan’s chest. The Vudrani druid felt a strange combination of cold as his life-force drained into the ghost, and extreme heat as his clothes burst into flame! Darshan stepped back and tried to douse the flames. “Ack! Some kind of wraith!” Zak swung his greatsword at the apparition, but its blade appeared to pass through the ghostly creature without effect. Don cast a spell, and his hand glowed with an erie blue light. He touched the creature, and the energy discharged. The creature screeched and then fled back through a wall. Turgrox re-joined the party, and the group went into a room from which the wraith had emerged.

A thick drape of dust- and ash-covered cobwebs concealed most of the open doorway leading into a fire-ravaged room. Beyond the webs loomed a dark room littered with small charred items. Poking through the rubble revealed a scorched porcelain doll’s head, some charred building blocks, and an assortment of half-melted tin knights, but nothing of any value. Zak said, “This is really sad— this must have been the play room.”

The party headed back into the hallway, carefully stepping around the hole where Turgrox had fallen through the floor. At the end of the hallway, another stariway headed up, and a doorway opened up to a dark room. As the party debated which way to go, two more spectral forms floated through the walls and attacked! One was the same wraith that Don had scared away, but the other was different: it took the form of a heavy-set man with a full beard and burning red eyes. It also seemed to be engulfed in ghostly flames.

fire-wraith.JPG
art by Christopher Stoll

It reached toward Zak, passing its hand into the barbarian’s chest. Zak felt the chill of death, but at the same time intense heat— and then his clothes burst into flame! Darshan shouted, “Only magic will affect these things! Zak— use your oil of magic weapon!” Patting out the flames with one hand, he poured the oil on his greatsword. Don pulled out his wand of magic missile, firing two bolts of magical energy at it. Darshan retrieved his wand of smowball strike, and fired a magical snowball at it too. The snowball sputtered as it vaporoized, and the bearded wraith shrieked in anger. Turgrox raised his blades and attacked the other wraith, and was pleasantly surprised that both his magic weapons seemed to affect the spirit. It attempted to rach into Turgrox, but the half-orc evaded.

With a now-enchanted blade, Zak swung at the bearded wraith, striking true. It hissed in anger. Don and Darshan used their wands again, and the creature hissed in anger, but it did touch Don. The half-elf felt the cold touch of the grave plus white-hot flames.. The wraith also seemed to lose more substantiality. Turgrox attacked the other wraith, and managed to connect with his magiclal shortsword. He also successfully avoided being touched by it. Zak hit the thing again with his sword, and the undead shade shrieked its last, disappearing as its unearthly wail echoed from beyond. With the destruction of the bearded wraith, the party felt the building shudder slightly and heard the distant laughter of children. Darshan and Don fired their wands at the remaining wraith, and it also flicked out of existence. Darshan suggested that, perhaps, the ghosts of the lost children may be freed now.

After healing themselves, the party explored the dark room. The charred remains of a four-poster bed dominated this burnt-out room. As soon as he saw the bed, Turgrox saw it instantly change before his eyes, becoming a clean and restful-looking canopied bed. The half-orc became overcome with an urge to take a nap on the bed. Before his friends could stop him, he lay down on the charred and dusty bedframe and closed his eyes. Turgrox immeditately had an extremely vivid dream: He himself was Marden Ambrik, headmaster of the orphanage. As Ambrik, Turgrox saw fragmented yet vivid images of himself doing brutal, horrific, and unspeakable things with the children of the orphanage. Those visions vanished, and then he saw himself, as Ambrik, falling asleep in this very bed smoking a pipe, which fell from his hand can caught the bed on fire. He saw the fire engulf the room and the entire third floor of the orphanage. He woke up with a start. And then the remains of the bed actually burst into flame! The half-orc jumped out the bed, somewhat singed, and the party beat the flames until they were out.

Disturbed greatly by the visions, Turgrox forced himself to perform a throrough search of the room to get his mind back in the game. The party discovered a fire-damaged wooden coffer under the bed. Inside was an alabaster statuette of two succubi entwined in an erotic embrace. Turgrox also found a secret door in the wall leading to a small, windowless chamber. Inside the tiny room was a small wooden desk and chair, and a ratty straw mattress. From two hooks in the wall hung two sets of masterwork manacles. On the mattress lay a dessicated child-sized skeleton, still chained to one set of manacles. The skeleton showed no evidence that it had been wearing anything. Hung over the mattress was a brass symbol. Darshan identified it as that of Belial, Father of Whores, Archdevil of Betrayal and Lust. At that, Zak took down the symbol and destroyed it beneath his boot. On the desk was a book bound in black leather, and a set of iron keys. The keys fit the manacles. The book was a journal written in Infernal, penned by Ambrik. The journal contained 66 poems and dozens of prayers dedicated to Belial. Under the desk was a small chest containing coins, two potions, a magic scroll, and a strange blue-and-red sphere that seemed to hover an inch above the ground. The party collected these treasures and headed upstairs to the attic.

The attic level was almost completely destroyed by fire: Bare, charred wall studs and roof struts still stood, but most of the interior walls had completely decayed. A huge hole in the roof let in sunlight, although the shadows seemed deeper in contrast. Darshan saw a the body of a child curled up in the far corner. Zak reached the child first, and fely for a pulse— the child was thankfully still alive, and seemed to be asleep, but the former barber couldn’t rouse the child. At that, an errie voice whispered out, “Want to play?” A figure resembling a fire-blackened, emaciated child stepped out of the shadows. It wore a cloak of dusty cobwebs. Most disturbingly, where the child’s head should have been, floated about a half-dozen rat skulls! “Let’s play!” it whispered, and suddenly everyone heard eerie unintelligible whispering, sobbing, and snippets of children’s nursery rhymes. The thing lunged toward Zak, and bit him! Zak gasped in terror as he felt the air leave his lungs! Don identified the creature as an attic whisperer— an undead spirit that haunted children. He cast a spell and touched it with necromantic energy. The whisperer then fled across the attic and cowered. The rest of the party surrounded it and smashed it to pieces: Its body was made up of bits an pieces of broken furniture, bones, dust, and discarded children’s toys.

Turgrox made a quick sweep of the room, and found two human skeletons, both still dressed in gear appropriate to burgars. The age of the the skeletons and gear indicated that they had been there for two or three years. The party quickly looted the burglars’ equipment.

Zak picked up the unconscious child, and the party returned to the orphanage kitchen. The other children still gathered there were both glad to see their friend Nathan, but horrified that he wouldn’t wake up. Don said that Nathan had been attacked by a spirit, but that the boy should wake up in a few hours and be fine. The party let the children lead them to Nathan’s family’s flat in the Shingles above Bridgefront, and explained who they were and where they found him. The frightened parents thanked the party, and the four returned to the Stirge and Hammer.

Back at the inn, the party expressed frustration that they had run out of clues. They decided to turn in for the night, and head out the next morning to do some more research on what they’d already learned.

[To Be Continued… Next Week!]

View
From the Vaults to a Cellar
Session 7

Oathday, 13 Desnus 4704, late morning

After defeating the giant rats, the party continued to follow the cultists’ map through the Vaults beneath Old Korvosa. After following the mazelike complex of sewage-filled tunnels for another half hour, the party heard faint rumbling of machinery and swiftly-flowing water ahead. The primary sewer tunnel opened up into a large rectangular cistern, allowing the sewage to pool. A gigantic pumping apparatus rose like a column from floor to ceiling in the center of the pool. It was the apparent source of the mechanical sounds that reverberated through the chambers. Somewhat cleaner-looking water spilled into the cistern from a pipe in the ceiling fifteen feet above the surface of the pool of sewage. The sound of the waterfall plus the sounds of the pump filled the chamber with enough noise to make it hard to think.

Turgrox scouted into the room, looking for traps. While he didn’t find traps, he did notice two more giant rats hiding behind piles of refuse scattered over the walkway and maintenance platform— and they attacked! The half-orc landed a lucky blow on one, as the other leaped over the trash to attack him. Zak ran in to join the fight, followed cautiosly by [[:don-3|Don] and Darshan.While the four adventurers fought the rats, Zak heard the woosh and thunk of an arrow hitting its mark, immediately followed by the shock of impact and the pain of being shot. Spinning, the heroes saw a man holding a bow emerge from behind another trash pile— and that man had the head of a rat! Darshan shouted, “A wererat! Be careful— according to legend, only weapons made of polished silver can affect a wererat! Other weapons won’t affect them!”


(art by Andrew Hou)

Zak broke off the attack on the dog-sized rats and charged the wererat. It merely grinned, as it dropped its bow and drew a nasty-looking shortsword. Zak threw his whole weight behind the blow with his greatsword, and the wererat’s grin changed to a shocked expression of worry as its red blood spillled onto the stone platform. It returned the favor and stabbed Zak with its sword, then leaned in to bite him. Darshan shouted, “Don’t let it bite you! It can turn you into a wererat!” Fortunately, Zak was able to heed the advice. Don cast a spell at the wererat, and a ray of black energy shot across the chamber, striking the creature. It staggered back a moment, as if weakened. Meanwhile, Darshan turned his attention to the giant rats, striking one with his cudgel, knocking it to the ground.

The wererat hissed in frustration as Zak parried its blade and stepped out of the way of another bite. Don discharged two magic missiles from his wand, both of wich struck the wererat. Turgrox managed to circle behind the wererat and stab it in the back with his silver dagger. It cursed Turgrox in Varisian. Darshan cast a spell, and a blast of water shot at the wererat at hight pressure. Unfortunately for the party, the wererat managed to keep its footing, and didn’t end up in the pool of sewage.

Now seemingly desperate, the wererat attempted to fight defensively as it tried to put some distance between it and the adventurers. It managed to nick Turgrox, but the half-orc stabbed it again with his silver dagger, and the wererat squealed in pain, dropping to the floor. Zak swung his blade at the now-prone creature, and neatly severed its head from its shoulders.

Darshan determined that the wererat’s shortsword was magical. Turgrox claimed the weapon. The wererat also had a set of high-quality lockpicks, hinting at what the creature did for a living. The party then dumped the body of the wererat and the giant rats into the cistern while Darshan used his wand of cure light wounds to heal the wounds of those who were injured.

Pressing on, the party continued to follow the cultists’ map through the Vaults. Not far from the cistern, they noticed a three-foot-wide hole in the wall of the sewer channel— it appeared to be the entrance to a small cave that intersected the sewers. After a brief discussion, they decided to check it out. The tunnel was small enough that the adventurers had to crawl through a narrow, twisting stone tunnel. Turgrox led. After about twenty yards of crawling, the tunnel opened up into a kidney-shaped natural cavern, about fifteen feet long and ten feet wide, with a cieling bareley five feet high. The chamber was littered with odds and ends, refuse, and other junk… and then the party realized that the pile of fur at the far end of the chamber was alive: the largest rat anyone had ever seen! The rat was at least six feet long and probably weighted close to 300 pounds! It hissed a challenge, then approached the party. Fortunately for our heroes, the rat seemed to be extremely fat, and could barely move. Zak drew his greatsword and swung it in a horizontal arc, neatly bisecting the creature and killing it instantly! Searching through the refuse, Zak found an unlocked wooden chest, and Turgrox found an improbably matching pair of boots. Darshan cast detect magic, and relayed the information that the boots were magical, as were several objects in the chest. The chest contained some coins, a wand of snowball strike, and a few potions.

Pressing on, the party wound through the maze that is the Vaults for about another half-hour, when they came to the end of the map. A rusty iron ladder led up 25 feet to a manhole cover on the street. However, a recently-dug hole in the wall about eight feet up caught the party’s attention. Darshan thought that the map indicated that they should go down the tunnel.Turgrox investigated. The hole was roughly circular and about three feet wide, and looked like it had only been there for the past few months. Turgrox crawled down the rough-hewn passage, which went about 20 yards before opening up into a small room, about 10 feet in diameter, with a five foot ceiling supported by wooden beams. Another ladder was propped against the far wall, leading to another hole in the ceiling. Turgrox thought he saw a wooden trap door at the top of the passage. The rest of the party followed.

After climbing up the wooden ladder, Turgrox opened the door a crack and looked in: It appeared to be a dark storeroom filled with dusty and broken furniture. He gave the all-clear, and everyone else climbed up. The room was indeed a dusty storeroom, apparently in the basement of a building. The flloor was made of packed earth, two of the walls were the stone foundation of a building, and the other two walls were wooden. One door led south. The ceiling, barely six feet off the floor, was wooden, supported by what appeared to be floor joists. Turgrox made a quick search of the room and noticed that one desk drawer had a false bottom— in which was a dagger in a bejeweled sheath. The half-orc claimed that. Darshan cast detect magic, and told Turgrox that the blade was indeed magical.

Listening at the door, Turgrox thought he heard the sound of something moving around in the next room. Arranging themselves for battle, he threw open the door: and the party faced a ghastly sight! Four bare human skeletons stood in the room, each wearing rusty tatters of chainmail. Pinpoints of faint red light glowed in their fleshless eye sockets. The skulls turned on their spines as if to look at the party, and then they immediately attacked! Zak was ready for the attack, and slashed one with his greatsword. The pinpoints of light in its eyesockes blinked out, and the skeletion fell to the ground as a pile of bones. Don cast a spell, firing a ray of anti-necromantic energy at another. Several of its bones fell away, but it kept approaching. Turgrox stepped in and stabbed at one with his shortsword and new dagger. Unfortunately, his weapons seemd ineffective at a fleshless foe. Darshan activated his newly-acquired wand, and a hard-packed ball of ice and snow fired from the wand, knocking into the skeleton Don had damaged. It also fell to the ground in a pile of bones. The remaining skeletons clawed at Zak and Turgrox, ripping gashes in the flesh of both men. After another moment of fighting, however, the party destroyed the remaining skeletons.

This room was larger, and bare of furninsings. A singel door led east, and Zak opened it to take a look. The moment he opened the door, a necrotic fist slammed into the former barber’s face! A foot kicked the door open the rest of the way, and three decaying human corpses with milky-white eyes shambled into the room! They grunted and moaned incoherently as they approached the party. Fortunately for our heroes, the zombies were very slow-moving. Zak cleaved one in two, and Turgrox and Darshan cut down a second with their blades. Don summoned the power of the grave and hit one with his necromantic touch. The zombie’s face animated a bit as if it were alive— miming a look of fear! It stepped back from the party, as Zak cut that one down as well.

The next room was damp and humid. There was a well of apparently-fresh water in the northern corner, and several barrels of brown and stagnant water stood on the south wall. Zak noticed something behind one of the barrels, and he and Turgrox moved it aside to take a look. Behind a skewed stone in the wall was a dust- and cobweb-covered leather cloth— it had been an oilcloth, but was now brittle, and broke apart as Turgrox unwrapped it. Inside were six potion bottles— all labeled “Healing” in Common. Darshan cast detect magic, and verified that the labels were true.

With some sense of trepidation, the party eyed the door to the east.

[To be continued… next week!}

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Return to the Vaults
Session 6

Toilday, 11 Desnus 4704, after midnight

Darshan and Vasaro ran outside to check on Zak and the cult leader— Zak was still breathing, but the cultist was not. They dragged them back into the bar, and Vasaro locked the door, flipping the sign to “Closed.” Basila and Don helped Turgrox to his feet. Basila surveyed the damage to the barroom. “Well, aside from the blood, it doesn’t look that bad.” She paused, putting her hand to her head. “Ugh. I don’t feel so well. What was in that smoke bomb they threw?” Zak gave Vasaro a look of appreciation and said, “Wow! You know your way around a fight!” Wiping the blood off the scimitar, Vasaro replied, ‘Glad my old training from Sable Company came right back to me. You’re not bad in a fight yourself!’

Darshan and Turgrox searched the corpses of the dead cultists, turning up some useful gear and a few coins. One of the cultists has a very crude map, which Darshan recognized as possibly being of the Vaults. “Hmm. I can’t tell where it ends:only intersections are marked with no scaling. But it looks like it starts at a nearby alleyway. They must have used the sewers to travel undetected.” Turgrox found another troubling item: the cult leader had a second vial of the substance she’d thrown into the bar— and the vial exactly matched the one they’d recovered a few weeks earlier in the goblin lair. Don recalled that the goblin alchemist had told them that whatever had been in the vial turned one of its apprentices into a zombie! He shared that information quietly with Zak, Darshan, and Turgrox, so as not to alarm their hosts. Vasaro chimed in, “We really need to report this— disposing of four bodies and a dead goblin is going to raise a few questions.” Darshan left to find his “aunt” Portia Jeggare, captain of the Old Korvosa Regiment of the Korvosan Guard.

An hour later, Darshan found Captain Jeggare., looking worried. “The Stirge and Hammer, too? I have four other reports of similar attacks: The Sticky Mermaid, Jeggare’s Jug, the Travelling Man, and Exemplary Execrables. The attackers got away at the other sites. We’re treating this as a possible armed insurgency.” Darshan quietly explained the party’s fears about a possible plague being spread by these cultists, and Jeggare’s eyes widened in horror. “A plague?” she whispered, “Sarenrae save us! Look, if there’s going to be a plage outbreak, I’m going to need every one of my men on the streets to keep public order.” Darshan took that as permission to the party to launch its own investigation. Not long therafter, a body cart arrived to haul away the corpses. Guards took statements from everyone, and Vasaro sat down with one to fill out paperwork.

Wealday, 12 Desnus 4704

The next morning, everyone except Don woke up with a mild fever. Turgrox checked in with some friends in the underworld, but didn’t find any leads. Zak slept in. Darshan went out to buy more healing supplies— he suspected that antiplage would shortly become in short supply. After that, he went to the Bank of Abadar to speak with church officials there. Archbanker Tuttle was indisposed, but he was able to meet with the Ecclesiastical Librarian. Researching the name “The Scythe Mother” and the altered holy symbol of Urgathoa, Darshan made a disturbing discovery: a splinter cult that calls itself the Cult of the Scythe Mother. While the Church of Urgathoa does concern itself with spreading pestilence and supporting undeath, members generally have a great lust for life. In contrast to the main church, the Cult of the Scythe Mother has a unifying objective: to spread the “gift” of undeath to every living thing in the world!

Unwilling to open the vial of plague himself, Don decided to ask for some assistance from the Church of Sarenrae. He headed across town to The Heights to the main Temple of Sarenrae and asked for an audience with the High Priest. After answering a few questions, he was shown in to the office of Fahter Viorec Korvaski, High Priest of Sarenrae in Korvosa. Korvaski offered some tea, which Don accepted. Don noticed a faintly-glowing bejeweled scimitar hanging on the wall behind Korvaski’s desk— it was exquisitely decorated in Qadiran style, but was most certainly not purely decorative! Korvaski listened attentively to Don’s concerns. “If what you’re telling me is true— and I have no reason to doubt you— that a plague has been released in the city, the clergy who work out of the temple will be overwhelmed with treating the sick. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone I can send with you to chase down a hunch. However, the Church of the Dawnflower may have a few things you may find useful…” The priest walked to a cabinet and brought out a few wooden boxes and coffers. He gave Don four potions of cure light wounds, four vials of holy water, four doses of antiplague, and a potion of lesser restoration. Don thanked Father Korvaski for his generosity and took his leave. On the way back to Old Korvosa, Don paused before a gated mansion in The Heights, fighting mixed emotions. He removed a blank scroll, a pen, and some ink from his satchel, and penned a letter to Lord Panev Thorval, warning of a possible plague outbreak in the city. Don sealed the letter and pressed his signet ring into the soft red wax: the signet ring of House Thorval. Calling over a guard, he asked that the letter be delivered to Lord Thorval, and the guard agreed.

Meeting back at the Stirge and Hammer that evening, everyone shared what they’d learned and done for the day. (Don, however, decided not to mention his trek to his estranged family’s estate.) They decided that they would rest for one more night, and follow the cultists’ map of the Vaults in the morning. As they climbed the stairs to their rooms, Darshan heard Basila cough loudly several times. He went back downstairs and administerd to her another dose of antiplague.

Oathday, 13 Desnus 4704, morning

After a quick and no-nonsense breakfast at the inn, the four adventurers found the manhole entrance to the Vaults in an alleyway less than a block from the Stirge and Hammer. A rusty cast-iron ladder led 25 feet down into the fetid sewer lines. “At least it’s been raining: the extra water helps flush away some of the stench,” remarked Darshan. The ladder led to a 10-foot wide secondary sewer line. Following the map, they quickly found themselves in 15-foot main tunnel. The group followed the map’s twists and turns for about three quartes of an hour, until they noticed that a blockage in the sewer channel ahead was backing sewage onto the walkway.

Darshan was surprised to see the source of the blockage: the bloated corpse of 12-foot-long crocodile was stuck on a pipe, and debris had started to pile up behind it. As Zak and Turgrox approached to free the blockage, the half-orc noticed something moving in the debris pile. Suddenly, out of the crocodile’s rotting abdomen burst a 10-foot long green and yellow multilegged worm! It surveyed the party with black multifaceted eyes the size of dinner plates, and menacingly waved six tentacles that ringed its pincer-like jaws. It lashed at Zak and Turgrox with its tentacles, missing Zak, but catching Turgrox across the face. The half-orc felt a wave of lethargy come over him, but he quickly shrugged it off, stabbing at the vile beast with his sword and dagger. Enraged at the intrusion of a disgusting giant worm, Zak drew his greatsword and swung mightly at the beast, cutting across five of its body segments. Having no spells at hand that would affect such a creature, Don dug a flask of alchemist’s fire from his pack and lobbed it at the creature, but is throw was long and the vial plunked into the sewage downstream from the blockage. ‘’A carrion crawler!,’’ shouted Darshan, “Be careful— they paralyze their prey before they eat them!” Darshan quaffed a potion of spider climb, and walked up the tunnel wall, positioning himself above the beast.


(art by Rob Torno )

The creature continued to fight, lashing at Turgrox, Zak, and Darshan. All three were hit by the thing’s slime-covered tentacles. Zak and Darshan managed to resist the creature’s paralytic poison, but Turgrox felt his muscles begin to freeze up, and found that he could not move! Darsan smacked the creature with his cudgel, and Zak landed a second mighty blow: this time, slicing off at least ten of its legs! Stinking green fluid gushed from the creature’s side, but it pressed its attack. Don then drew a dagger and hurled it at the beast— and his aim was true. The dagger embedded itself into one of the creature’s huge eyes, and it collapsed, sliding off the dam of debris and washing downstream. Darshan cast detect magic just to see if there was any magical reason for this dead crocodile to be there. He didn’t find that answer, but he did notice a magic wand that was mixed in the debris. He managed to fish it out from the debris pile before it was washed away. Examining the wand, Darshan determined it to be a functional wand of magic missile, and gave it to Don.

After clearing the dam of debris, the party continued to follow the crude map of the sewers. About ten minutes later, they heard squeaking and chittering behind them, and realized that they were being overtaken by a swarm of sewer rats! Don turned and threw a flask of alchemist’s fire at them, and many of the rats exploded in flame. The rest of the rats pressed on, swarming over Don and Turgrox. After being doused with a second flask of alchemist’s fire, the rat swarm broke up and scurried away.

After another half hour of negotiating the sewers, the party came to a large sewage cistern, where four primary tunnels intersected. A stone bridge spanned the foul central pool of sewage. Rotting against the wall in a corner of the platform across the bridge was a five-foot tall, ten-foot wide pile of putrescent flesh crawling with maggots. Spying a decaying tentacle in the mess, Darshan reckoned that it was the remains of an otyugh, one of the many filth-eating creatures the city uses to keep its sewers free of debris. A rat the size of a mastiff feasted on the flesh of the dead monster, but as soon as the party entered the room, it turned its head toward the party. The rodent squealed loudly— a challenge?

That’s how Zak took it, and he charged the beast, drawing his greatsword. Unfortunately, as Zak ran past one of the intersecting tunnels, another giant rat leaped from the shadows, biting at his legs! Zak ignored the second rat and threw all of his weight in a mighty swing at the first one… which scurried out of the barbarian’s way at the last second. Zak’s greatsword slammed into the dead otyugh, sending a spray of decayed flesh and living maggots through the room. He also disturbed a colony of rats that had infested the dead monster, which swarmed out and over the former barber.

Turgrox drew his bow and fired at the giant rat. With a very luckly strike, the arrow felled the oversized rodent. Don decided it was time to try out his new wand, and discharged two magic missiles at the remaining rodent, killing it as well. Darshan then threw a flask of alchemist’s fire at the rats, striking the swarm dead center. Many of the rats burst into flame. Zak maneuvered out of the swarm of rodents, and slammed the flat of his greatsword at the colony, crushing several dozen. Between his blow and the flames, the rats scurried away in different directions.

While clenaing himself up, Zak noticed the strap of a leather backpack under the corpse of the otyugh. He pulled it out, and while the pack itself was decayed beyound use, inside were several items wrapped inside an intact oilskin: several flasks of holy water and alchemist’s fire, some silk rope, a coin purse with some money, a leather map case, and a quiver of arrows. Some of the arrows were tipped with silver arrowheads. Darshan cast detect magic, and realized that a handful of the arrows were enchanted! Inside the map case were two divine spell scrolls as well.

The party gathered these treasures while Zak finished cleaning his wepon, and they continued their way through the Vaults.

[To be continued… next week!]

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Mayhem at Midnight
Session 5

Chapter 1: Veil of the Scythe Mother

Toilday, 11 Desnus 4704, just before midnight

It was the rainy season in Korvosa. Steady rain had fallen since midafternoon on this brisk spring day. The weather produced a slow evening at the Stirge and Hammer, and the small crowd at the tavern thinned early. With few caravans or merchants braving the late spring muddy roads or stormy seas, few guests had booked rooms for the night either. Now just before midnight, only three regular customers sat in the taproom in the waning firelight; they were also the only overnight guests: the druid Darshan Oza, the barber-turned mercenary Zak Mumbles, and the half-orc wanderer Turgrox. In the inn’s stable-turned-brewery, the sorcerer and part-time alchemist Don toiled into the night completing a batch of alchemist’s fire in his makeshift alchemy lab. Vasaro the innkeeper was just about to lock up for the night, as the sounds of approaching travelers neared the door.

The look of hopeful expectation on Vasaro’s face at the prospect of a profitable night quickly turned to alarm as four people and a goblin burst through the door, all of them wearing the birdlike masks of a plague doctor ! All wore red-and-black robes that appeared fine at the shoulders, but tapered to rags at the bottom. Three of the men bore heavy scythes, while the other human and the goblin held sickles. One of the humans, obviously a woman even through the mask and robes, shouted, “For the glory of the Scythe Mother! Your deaths prove her might!” She then lobbed a glass vial into the middle of the barroom, which exploded in a burst of sickly yellow vapor that quickly filled the whole room. One of the men and the goblin advanced into the barroom, while the woman stood near the door, flanked by the two remaining men.

Surprised, Zak got to his feet, flicking out the blade of his war razor. Turgrox dove for cover behind the central fireplace, and got out his bow. Darshan prayed for the blessings of Abadar, and his allies felt the strength of the Keeper of the First Vault upon them, bolstering their courage. The innkeeper’s daughter Basila ducked behind the bar, and rose with a loaded heavy crossbow. And the inkeeper himself dropped a tray of tankards and pulled an orcish shield and scimiar off a nearby wall. “Get out of my bar!” he shouted.

The goblin giggled, and with a huge toothy grin cast a spell. A fan of flames shot from his fingertips, immolating Zak and Basila. Fortunately for Basila, she was mostly protected from the goblin’s magical flames by the bar. Zak slashed at the goblin, but the creature nimbly bounced out of the way. Turgrox fired an arrow at a cultist from behind the fireplace, and the arrow found its mark— a solid hit , as the cultist hadn’t noticed the half-orc’s position. The cultist shouted a warning to his fellows, and slashed a heavy scythe at Zak, who blocked the slash with his arms. Blood seeped from the slash. Hearing the commotion, Don burst into the room, standing next to Basila behind the bar. He cast a spell at the goblin, attempting to cloud its mind to distraction, but the goblin seemed to shake off the enchantment. She fired her crossbow at the cultists, but the bolt bounced harmlessly off the armor the cultists wore beneath their robes.

His cover blown, Turgrox dropped his bow and entered the fray, attempting to assist Darshan against the goblin. Darshan called the power of Abadar into his cudgel, which now glowed with a faint golden shimmer, and he stepped forward to strike at the goblin. Don cast a spell, and a crackling ray of black necromantic energy shot at the female cultist, draining away some of her strength. And Zak, realizing that this fight was more serious than a barroom brawl, dropped his razor and drew his greatsword, attempting to separate the cultist’s head from his shoulder. But the cultist parried the blow, as sparks lept from the clash of blades. The leader cast a spell, and a bolt of dark energy blasted Zak in the chest. He could feel some of his life-force ebb away, but he managed to resist most of the spell. The goblin cast another fan of flame, this time catching Darshan and Turgrox in the fire. Though singed, the two fought on. The goblin parried Turgrox’ dagger, but the half-orc’s shortsword broke through the goblin’s defenses. The goblin’s grin left its oblong face, and it shrieked in pain like a wounded animal. Vasaro stepped beside Zak and slashed the cultist across the face while the cultist’s blade was engaged. The cultist screamed in pain as blood flowed into his eyes. Parially blinded, he didn’t see Zak’s thrust, and felt his guts on fire as the former barber impaled the cultist through the belly. The cultist’s last act was to try to gather his spilling guts before falling to the floor.

The leader of the cultists sent her two guards into the battle to engage Vasaro, Darshan, and Zak. Seeing an opening, Turgrox somersaulted past the cultists’ blades, and positioned himself behind them. Finding himself suddently surrounded, another cultist fell to Darshan’s enchanted club followed by a stab in the back by Turgrox. The goblin lobbed a flask of alchemists fire at Don and Basila, but his aim was off, and the two defenders were spared the worst of the blast by the bar. Basila fired at the goblin, striking it in the chest. Don cast a spell causing necromantic energy to surround his hand. He leapt over the bar, and struck the goblin with his glowing hand, killing it. Seeing the tide of battle suddently turn against her, the cult leader held up her unholy symbol, shouting, “By the Scythe Mother, curse you all!” A barely perceptible shimmer of unholy energy radiated out of the cult leader’s unholy symbol, like ripples on a pond. Everyone in the room felt a sharp tug on their very souls, as their very life essence drained away— including her remaining guard. The guard then collapsed, leaving her alone against the heroes. Unfortunately for the heroes, Turgrox also fell to the spell.

Now heavily wounded and running on adrenaline alone, Zak pressed the attack, with Darshan and Vasaro both at his side. All three struck the cult leader, as Don closed and pressed his glowing hand against her shoulder. Still standing, although barely, the cultist called forth a malediction from the Scythe Mother again, and another wave of negative energy hit all who stood in the room. Barely able to stand, but still going, Darshan realized that Turgrox and Zak would die if she managed to call a third time, so he pressed the attack, striking her again with his glowing cudgel. As his vision tunneled to black, Zak summoned all of his remaining strength to make a final lunge at her— and his strike was true! His blade impaled the cult leader, and she stumbled backward through the doors of the inn onto the rain-soaked cobblestones outside. Zak collapsed forward, falling atop her.

The rain continued to fall, washing away the cultist’s blood as it poured onto the street.

[To be continued… next week!]

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The Goblin Guild (Part 3)
Session 4

Toilday, 27 Gozran 4704, late night

Disappointed that their prisoner had escaped, Darshan followed Ekkie’s tracks trhough the complex. They seemed to head back out into the sewers. The party decided to let her go, and pressed onward. One passageway led to a heavy oak door that was barred from the party’s side. “That kind of bar is to keep someting out!” exclaimed Turgrox. Looking at the door, the party saw goblin scrawling in lurid red paint. Several goblins seemed to be running away from a big square, that seemed to have a goblin inside it. Darshan exclaimed, ‘That seems to depict a gelatinous cube! Let’s not go in there!’

Heading deeper into the complex, the group found a room that appeared to be a goblin dog kennel, but with none of the foul beasts. Poking around the room, Turgrox disturbed a pile of straw, and out of it exploded dozens, if not hundreds, of rats! The rats swarmed over him, biting him through his armor. Turgrox staggered back into the hall, and the rest of the party threw flasks of alchemist’s fire they’d recovered from the alchemy lab. The alchemical fire did the trick, and what rats that didn’t burn scurried away.

Another door opened into another kennel, this one with two goblin dogs. The goblin dogs immediately started making a lot of noise: an unsettling cross between a bark and a ratlike squeak. Zak and Darshan quickly put the creatures down before their noise could alert anyone.

Turgrox crept ahead of the rest of the party to explore further. After following the wide corridor through some twists and turns, he saw that the passage opened up into a very large chamber, about 40 feet wide and 80 feet deep, lined with ornatelly-carved pillars that suppored a vaulted ceiling. Torches burned brightly on four of the pillars, illuminating most of the room. At the far end of the room stood a dias. Upon a throne on the dias sat a bugbear, who was apparently counting coins. She didn’t seem to notice Turgrox hiding in the darkness. Turgrox returned to report to the party.

The party decided to creep as close as possible to the room while avoiding detection. Turgrox would attempt to slink along the shadows between the wall and the row of columns. If he encountered trouble, or when he got behind the bugbear, he’d shout a signal and Zak would charge in full-tilt, while Darshan and Don would enter and use their spells on any other resistance that showed up.

As Turgrox crept around the third column, he was surprised by another goblin that was itself hiding in shadows! He was quick enough to parry the goblin’s blade, and the goblin was unable to say the same, but it still stood. Turgrox shouted the signal, and Zak charged in. The bugbear, however, was alerted and managed to stand ready with an impressive-looking horsechopper. As Zak ran toward the throne, he broke through some false flagstones, setting off a trap that was meant to entangle any attackers. This made him angry, and he flew into a rage. However, the barbarian was nimble enough to catch his footing before stepping in the pool of tarry goo below, and charged the bugbear. She managed to strike him with her horsechopper as he closed, but he still slashed her hard across the right arm with the blade of his greatsword.

Meanwhile, the goblin danced out of the way of Turgrox’ strikes while managing to nick the half-orc a few times. Don attempted to ensorcell the goblin into a state of passivity, but the goblin shook off the effects of the spell. Darshan, out of magic, circled around behind the goblin, striking at him with his oaken cudgel. At that time, another goblin appeared out of the shadows, firing arrows at the party fighting his friend.

The bugbear stepped off the dias to get enough room to strike Zak, and connected again, ripping a terrible gash across the former barber’s chest. While still conscious, Zak’s vision was starting to tunnel, and he to concentrate hard to keep fighting— which was good enough, as he landed a solid blow on the bugbear’s chest. In response, the bugbear thrust her horsechopper at Zak, striking him in the face, and he went down.

Don managed to ensorcell the goblin on another try, allowing Turgrox and Darshan to rush to their friend’s defense. The bugbear herself retreated down a side passageway, but shouted out, “I killed your friend, and I’ll kill you too! Leave now or face my wrath!” Despite the threat, the goblins saw that their leader had retreated, and they did the same, scurrying back out the main entrance.

Darshan used his wand of cure light wounds to bring Zak back around, while Turgrox and Don chased the bugbear down the corridor. She had positioned herself about twenty feet down the five-foot wide corridor, menacing with her horsechopper. It would be difficult indeed to get around her! Don cast a black magical ray at her, draining away some of her strength. Afraid of getting too close, Turgrox threw a dagger at her, which managed to stick in her armor. With Darshan’s ministrations, Zak came around. He quaffed a potion of cure light wounds, and Darshan expended another charge of his wand. Feeling much better, Zak ran down the corridor to engage the bugbear in hand-to-hand combat.

The bugbear struck Zak with her polearm again as he closed, but he shrugged off the wound and slashed her across the chest with his greatsword. Turgrox threw another dagger at her, and manged to graze her cheek. Don attempted to cloud her mind, but she retained her focus. As she stepped back to strike Zak with her horsechopper again, Zak struck her first, and the bugbear collapsed to the ground. Turgrox jumped in and cut her throat, and the leader of the Nightsoil Marauders was no more.

After stripping the bugbear’s corpse for valuables, the party searched the southern passage. It led to a lavishly-furnished bedroom, although the occupant did not treat the furniture particularly well. At the foot of the bed was a locked chest. Turgrox successfully picked the lock, but felt the sting of a jab in his hand when he unlocked it. A fiery pain shot through his arm, and he felt suddenly sick— poison! The poison coursed through his system, seriously weakening him. Darshan attempted to apply medicinal herbs to the wound, but he didn’t have the appropriate antidiote to this particular poison. After a few painful minutes, Turgrox stabilized, although he remained weakened.

Inside the chest was the collected treasure of the Nightsoil Marauders. The party collected the various coins, gems, jewelry, and valuable objects. Don cast detect magic and found a false bottom in the chest, which contained several potions. He also found a magical javelin hidden under the bed.

After checking out the remainder of the complex and finding it empty, the group returned to the Stirge and Hammer with their loot, satisfied that they had rid the city of another menace.

[The story will continue… next week!]

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The Goblin Guild (Part 2)
Session 3

Toilday, 27 Gozran 4704, late night

After defeating the three goblin sentries, the party rifled their pockets for change and dumped the goblin corpses into the sewer channel. Turgrox scouted ahead… and managed to trip a concealed pit trap, falling ten feet into a pile of disgusting rotting garbage. Or, at least he thought it was garbage until it rippled and lashed out at him with a tendril of goo! The half-orc quickly scrambled up out of the pit. Meanwhile, Don found a hand crank sticking out of the wall, and discerened it was a means of closing and locking the pit. Zak turned the crank and set the safety once Turgrox was safely with them.

The hallway was made of worked stone with ceramic tiles. Darshan identified the passages as construction older than the main sewer tunnels. “There are parts of the Vaults that were here before the city of Korvosa was built. This seems to be one of those areas,” he commented. Exploring the passage, the party found an abandoned barracks that seemed to house about a dozen goblins. A passage from that room led away from the lair and back into the sewers. Heading deeper into the complex, the party next found a chamber that seemed to be a thieves practice room filled with locks, humanoid dummies festooned with bells, and an obstacle course. Finding nothing of value, the party pressed on. Darshan asked Ekkie what was ahead, but she replied, “Not go farther than here. Versevosh not let us in. Right, Plarg?”

Hearing the guttural voices of goblins ahead, Turgrox warned the rest of the party to be quiet. He crept ahead in the shadows and observed a room that appeared to be some kind of alchemy lab. Two goblin apprentices toiled at workbenches while a third seemed to watch them listlessly. That room had partially collapsed, effectivly forming a split-level. Torchlight flickered from the upper chamber, but the half-orc couldn’t see what was up there. Reporting back to the rest of the party, they decided that bursting with surprise would be the best course of action.

Zak led the charge, running for the goblin overseer, swinging his greatsword in an arc above his head. While charging, Zak noticed that the goblin didn’t look so good— its eyes were milky white, it shambled more than walked, and its flesh seemed to be rotting. It groaned at Zak as the barbarian’s sword connected solidly in its midsection… and then it exploded in a burst of black blood, rotting eviscera, and putrescent vapors! Its guts pelted Zak with great force, and he got some of it in his mouth. (“Ugh! Yuck!”) But Zak managed not to get sick from the foulness.

The fight was on! The goblin apprentices flung flasks of alchemist’s fire at the party, and something on the upper ledge threw other explosives. Yet, between the combined forces of Zak’s greatsword, Turgrox’ light blades, Darshan’s cudgel, and Don’s spells, they party made short work of the goblins. They captured the goblin alchemist, who was knocked out in the fight. While waiting for the alchemist to come around, the party searched the lab. Don realized that the equipment in the lab was actually high in quality. “I’d guess that the goblins must have stolen… or extorted… this equipment from a local alchemist. It’s much highter quality than goblins could make!” Turgrox found some other treasure, and Darshan emptied the alchemist’s pockets. They turned up some strange things, including an unholy symbol of Urgathoa (a goddess rarely worshiped by goblins), a human-sized plague doctor’s mask, and a strange empty vial. After the alchemist came around, Zak and Turgrox questioned him. He identified himself as Yarak, the alchemist and healer of the Nightsoil Marauders. Turgrox questioned the goblin, frightening him into compliance. About the human-sized items, he replied, “They come from longshanks who came in here days and days ago. She wear scary bird-mask. We kill her and take her stuff. She very tasty!” When asked how he made the goblin zombie, Yarak replied, “Hmm! Bird-mask-longshanks have potion. Versevosh tell me to take potion and tell him and Inoklar what it is. So I give to apprentice to tell me what it is. Apprentice open potion, and it turn to steam and he breathes it, then gets sick. Very sick. In week, he dead, but he not stay dead- he get up and try to eat other goblins. I not able to make more of potion. But I say, ‘Why waste good zombie? I use to guard lab!’ Until you kill him again!” Turgrox then asked who these Versevosh and Inoklar people were. “Versevosh was warchanter for Houndgutter tribe, but he make song about chief that cheif not like. He have powerful magic he throw at longshanks. You better not mess with him! Inoklar leader of Night Soil Marauders. She is scary bugbear. Not like her much, but she very strong in battle.” Satisfied that the alchemist didn’t have anything more to tell them, Turgrox punched him out and left him tied up in the lab.

Continuing to explore the complex, the party found another abandoned barracks, and then a room with the sounds of both machinery and goblins talking. Turgrox scouted that room, and found it to be a sewage pumping station. Sewage drained into the room, and machinery pumped it into other pipes. Across a stone bridge over the sewage channel that bisected the room were three goblins: one riding a disgusting creature that resembled a mangy ratlike dog. The goblins didn’t seem to notice Turgrox, so the party decided to try to lure them closer. Darshan cast a spell that allowed him to speak with animals, so he called out in goblin dog, “Hey! Look at all this meat! There’s so much! I won’t be able to eat it all!” The rider appeared to have to work to keep his mount from trotting over, but he told the other goblins to go see who let a goblin dogs out and to get it back to the corrals. When the two goblins turned the corner, the party ambushed them, dropping them quickly. Seeing his comrades fall, the rider cast a spell making the area around the bridge slippery, and started taunting the party members with satiric comments. Darshan, Zak, and Turgrox then ran at the rider, jumping over the sewage channel, while Don hung back and cast spells. After missing a few times, Zak connected with a mighty blow that sent the goblin’s head flying across the room, bouncing off Turgrox’s leather breastplate, and rolling into the sewage channel. Darshan slew the goblin dog.

After rifling through the pockets and saddlebags of the fallen goblins, the party returned to retrieve Ekkie, whom they had left behind. But Ekkie wasn’t there! All they found was the sack they’s stashed her in and the ropes they’d bound her with.

[To Be Continued… Next Week!]

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