These are seven mummies, located in seven different places. They are technically undead, since they aren’t actually completely dead nor yet entirely alive, but they aren’t active, being pretty much in a state of suspended animation.
They were placed in their protective hiding places by the lich Vecna before his disappearance. Why? Nobody really knows. Anyway, Vecna is no more (except in bits and pieces). OR IS HE?
Eyeless wants them for purposes of his own, purposes which he has no intention of sharing with flunkies, minions or peons. The Brides were each mummified along with a section of the Rod of Seven parts, which is perhaps in itself reason enough to want to gather them together, but Eyeless' motivations are seldom what might seem obvious.
Eyeless, through extensive and painstaking effort, now knows of the general locations of all seven of the Brides, but apart from the first (in his posession) he does not know their precise positions. That's where Our Heroes come in.
Eyeless will provide the team with the first part of the Rod to lead them to the second (and so on), but will warn them that they are not, under any circumstances, to attempt to join any of the parts together.
He will also provide them with transport: the loan of a Flying Carpet large enough to carry six people.
Finally, he will grant them the use of a Portable Hole, in which to carry the Brides when they are retrieved.
Recompense for the mission is to be substantial.
For each Bride successfully recovered, each surviving party member will receive 5,000gp. If and when all seven Brides are in Eyeless’ posession, the party, as a whole, will be given a bonus of a Ring of Three Wishes and a full set of Gainful Librams.
It has been about eight months since the Ziggurat Job. The sun is still immobile in the sky, shrouded by a net of vaporous black tendrils, and the land is in permanent semi-darkness, like deep twilight. The moon is still free and moving, and only that provides any change in the gloom. Vegetation is sickening and dying everywhere, it has become increasingly cold, and wide-spread famine is imminent.
Our Heroes have been mostly idle, apart from various small and insignificant jobs: a spot of debt collection here and there, mostly.
Over the past week or so, Skrær has seen an influx of wizardly types, along with their wizardly retinues of greater or lesser ostentation, passing through town and up the road towards Eyeless' manse. A few have returned and left the town, but most have not been seen again.
Wthout warning, the house on Bucket Lane received a visit by Parrot, Eyeless' factotum, bringing the team the news of a new job in the offing. He gave the party the details of the mission (see above) and delivered into their care the Flying Carpet, the Portable Hole, and a small wooden casket containing the first section of the Rod of Seven Parts, along with instructions in their uses.
After a brief bout of equipping with essentials (such as as many healing potions as they could afford) the team climbed on to the carpet with Novi at the helm and took off, following the direction indicated by the Rod: straight out and roughly south-southwest across the Ædrismere. Even Novi, the most capable pilot among the team was unable to achieve much altitude above the water because of the general elevation of the surrounding land, and once across the lake they were forced to follow a meandering course flying between the hills, over the dark, forested valleys below.
After about four hours of flight, during which they spied several peculiar flying creatures out in the gloom, they found themselves above a river which they decided to follow, its course being roughly in the direction they wanted to go.
It was shortly after this that the first disaster of the day occurred: a wyvern dropped out of a bluff beside the river and began dive-bombing the carpet, zooming past and whipping out with its poisonous tail stinger. It managed to hit Sharn several times, though without penetrating sufficiently to poison her, and Novi decided to make a landing, aiming for a river meadow up ahead.
Before she could manage that, Ul'rak, in an excess of enthusiasm and fumble-fingeredness, flung his extremely valuable magical flail away, and then in his attempt to save it, also flung himself away and over the edge! He fell about thirty feet before hitting a tree-limb and bouncing the rest of the way to the ground. He did not (quite) die at this time.
Sharn and Novi between them managed to drive off the wyvern, and then landed to find and tend to the deeply stunned Ul'rak. He and Sharn looked high and low.... actually, just low... for the flail, but could not find it anywhere, even after hours of searching. They'd pretty much given it up for lost (though Sharn was still searching in the river, in case it had fallen in the water), when Novi had the bright idea of using one of her scrolls of Wizard Eye to search the tree-tops, thinking that being a chain-flail, it would be quite likely to have caught and wrapped itself around a branch. Success!
Rejoicing was dampened slightly when Novi reported that her Wizard Eye also saw a small swarm of fairies clustered around the flail. They have not had good reports of fairies, and feared having their ears turned into donkey's ears, or worse...
Nevetheless, they couldn't leave the flail, and after a terrible exhibition of non-climbing from Ul'rak, Novi again used her magic to good effect by Levitating hand-over-hand up the tree to where the flail was entangled. The fairies scattered as she appeared, without turning her into anything unnatural, and she was able to disentangle it and bring it back down.
After a brief rest and meal, they took off again, still following the course of the river, that being the easiest path for Novi to plot. A couple of hours into their second flight, the river turned due south and passed into a deep ravine, far too high for Novi to be able to coax the carpet over. Having no other options but to go forward or go back, they went on.
Naturally, they were attacked again. Of course they were. This time by a flock of four Mobats. And so occurred the second disaster of the day.
The flock came in screaming, causing Sharn to cower with her hands over her ears, and Novi attempted to accelerate away from them while Ul'rak tried to fight them off... with farcical results. He swung his mighty flail, and once again he fumbled, this time the flail whipped around and he smacked himself in the back of his own head, stunning himself.
Novi's plan to fly away from the swarm was foiled as they battened on Sharn and Ul'rak (Novi being invisible, thanks to her magical ring), so she abandoned the "running away" plan, and instead cast a Sleep spell, hoping at least to reduce the number of enemies they had to cope with. Alas, the dice had other ideas, and the only victims of the spell turned out to be... Sharn and Ul'rak of course. It was inevitable, really.
Fortunately, the GM forgot the bit about Sleeping victims being able to be killed automatically, so Novi was able to drive off the flock before either Sharn or Ul'rak were eaten, so at least there's that.
All in all, the first day of the mission could have gone better.
The team carried on down-river, and after about half an hour's flight, in the dim light of the half-moon, spied below them an elderly man in chain mail holding what appeared to be a lantern and waving at them. He turned out to be Grimslade, a human cleric, whose boat had struck on rocks in the rapids of the ravine and been battered to bits, leaving him stranded with no way off the rocks, and his "lantern" proved to be a glowing mace.
He was initially taken aback by the fierce and brutal appearance of Sharn and Ul'rak, but was reassured by Novi and happily accepted a lift southwards.
Since they'd been on the go pretty much without a rest for hours, they decided, once they cleared the southern mouth of the ravine, to find somewhere to rest, and started looking for a water-meadow or similar to set down on. The first one proved to be unpleasantly boggy, the second seemed salubrious except for the unpleasantly skull-heavy fetishes hanging from the trees and the drums coming from the hills to the west.
The carpet was becoming fractious at having flown so long without a rest, so rather than fly further down-river, they convinced it to just do a short hop across the water so that they could camp under cover of the trees. And just in time too; they'd just got settled and fire started against the freezing cold, when a party of Wild Elves appeared on the meadow they'd just vacated — they could not tell at that distance (about 80 yards) if it was a hunting or war party. There were eight of them, five on the river bank peering across towards where Our Heroes were encamped, and the other three examining the ground where they'd originally landed.
Sharn was on watch, and the only one awake at that point. One of the elves, sharper-eyed than the others, caught a glimpse of her in the gloom, and the party at the river-bank opened fire with their long bows. A couple of arrows grazed Sharn as she took cover, and she yelled to waken the rest of the group. She stepped out to return fire with her own bow, slightly wounding one elf even at such long range in the dark, but in return was hit by three more arrows, one of which punched right through her left arm!
Novi, deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, cast Invisibility 10' Radius, and got everyone on to the carpet to get the hell out of Dodge. The carpet proved obstreperous, but was eventually convinced to cooperate. The elves, firing blind, still managed to send an arrow alarmingly close between the Good Guys as they made a dash for it down the river, but nobody else was hurt.
About half an hour of flying later, Novi set down on a long, thin island, lightly wooded and made up of large boulders at its northern end. Sharn had been feeling worse and worse, and by that time was completely paralysed — apparently the elf arrow had been poisoned, but fortunately it seemed the elves had been a hunting party, as the poison was mainly paralytic, not instantly lethal. Nevertheless, Sharn was in a parlous state, and Grimslade was kept busy with healing magic trying to stay ahead of the damage the poison was doing to her body.
While everyone else rested, they did a brief exploration of the island — not a difficult task, as it was only about thirty feet wide and maybe a couple of hundred feet long. On its highest point they found a cairn, fairly obviously a grave, with fetishes like corn-dollies hanging from the branches of the trees all round. There was some discussion as to whether or not a bit of archaeology might be in order. Opinions differed; eventually Grimslade started lifting rocks, but desisted when he noticed the corn-dollies all starting to vibrate violently. He replaced the rocks he'd moved, and they became quiescent again.
Throughout their stay, a group of very timid, but curious, creatures came up out of the water to observe them. They were sleek-furred humanoids, quite seal-like but with arms and hands, and huge liquid eyes; Novi wondered if they might be selkies. They were keen to watch the goings-on on the island, but as soon as they sensed they were themselves observed they plopped back into the river. They returned on several occasions. Ul'rak was dissuaded from trying to eat one.
After about six hours, Sharn's paralysis began to ease, and the party made ready to get under way again. All but one: the carpet steadfastly refused to move until it had had a decent rest, so they were stuck on the island for another whole day. There were worse places to be; they were pretty safe from intruders, and they had plenty of food, so they resigned themselves to getting a bit more rest.
The following day the carpet was in a much better mood, and they flew off again southwards, having re-checked their bearing with the Rod segment.
About four hours took them out away from the river and forested hills, out over the desert of the Curséd Land. They were flying over huge craters and broken, glassy rocks; from time to time they noticed pockets of weird pulpy fungus-like vegetation clustered in the bottoms of some of the craters. In these, and in some others as well, there showed an unsettling, sickly glow.
Up ahead on their bearing, they saw a range of bare, rocky hills or mounds. Embedded in the peak of one, directly on their course, jutted what appeared to be a huge elongated metallic egg.
They decided to rest a bit before investigating any more closely, and set down on a concealed and defensible spot on the outer slope of one of the massive craters. The ground underfoot is hard and jagged. Some distance to the west — it's difficult to say exactly how far in the gloom — they can see the red glow and smoke of a volcano.
After a few hours rest, the team, with the grudging acquiescence of the carpet, flew off again. They'd taken a confirmation bearing with the Rod segment, which pointed directly at the metal egg, so they flew off at a tangent to it to get a triangulatory bearing which confirmed their supposition that their target was indeed in there somewhere.
They flew fairly low towards the egg, passing over a group of raggedly-robed humanoids — about a dozen of them — accompanied by a huge spider-like creature, about the size of a pony, with a small howdah on its back.
The team's first instinct was to land and ambush and slaughter them, because why not? Right? However, being so low, they were clearly visible to the party below, who appeared to be somewhat agitated at their presence. Our Heroes regretfully decided that, without surprise, an ambush might not be an easy slaughter after all, so they carried on their merry aerial way instead.
As they neared the broken and craggy hillside, they noticed a flurry of movement at a couple of places, and heard a blaring, repetitive BLARRRP! BLARRRP! BLARRRP!, clearly an alarm. They were unable to make out any detail of the movement in the gloom. All was revealed when they got within a hundred metres or so, when with a series of resonant SPWONGGGGGs, ballista bolts passed around, and in one case directly between them. Fortunately nobody was hit, but they decided to beat a hasty retreat and Novi got everyone invisible again with her Very Useful Invisibility 10' Radius spell.
They landed uphill from one of the ballista emplacements, and formulated a Cunning Plan: ATTACK! Yep, it's that old chestnut, the Frontal Attack Against Unknown Odds, so beloved of adventuring parties everywhere.
They clambered downhill, sending little showers of sharp, glassy rocks leaping and bounding before them, until they reached a point where they could see the heads of eight hooded figures peering up towards them, chittering at each other in a shrill bird-like language that none of the party could understand. Grimslade prepared a rock, on which he planned to cast a Silence spell, to aid in their stealthy and furtive.... well, charge really.
And charge they did. In characteristic Keystone Kops fashion, Sharn then immediately tripped over the parapet as she swung ineffectually at somebody's head, and hurled herself down into the pit, bouncing off the ballista on the way down. Naturally, she was then completely visible to the twenty or so morlocks down there, who immediately dogpiled her and started to kick the crap out of her.
The others had a little more success on the upper parapet, but Novi decided that the odds in the pit itself were a bit high, so shouting a warning to Sharn she prepared her Fireball scroll as Grimslade tossed his Silenced stone into the midst of the morlocks. Sharn leapt free, over the front parapet, just before Novi's unexpectedly potent Fireball exploded, perfectly soundlessly, with a bright, bright flash of light.
They jumped own into the pit, now illuminated by a vigorously burning ballista, and found leading into the hillside, the broken end of a once finely-made passageway, ending in an oval metal door with a cicular handle in its centre.
Sharn threw herself on to the wheel and got the door open, only to find behind it an arched 12’ passageway absolutely stuffed full of morlocks. They appeared to be somewhat stunned to see her. Our Heroes were taken only slightly aback, with the exception of Ul'rak, who was vigilantly maintaing vigilance toward the back, and was completely unaware of the massing enemy.
It was only at this point that I remembered the rule about fighters getting multiple attacks against creatures of less than 1 HD, so the team suddenly became a lot more effective in combat.
Sharn started the party by slaughtering all the morlocks within reach, as did Ul'rak once he got up with the play, and then Novi cast Sleep on the area and cleared the way of conscious morlocks. They stepped through the door, only to find even more morlocks waiting for them. They set to slaughterin', and slaughter they did, with gusto. Grimslade brought up the rear, applying Cure spells as required, and finishing off the unconscious morlocks.
I had forgotten that Grimslade, being human, couldn't see squat in the dark. Let's say that enough light leaked through from the burning ballista to let him do his work. Yes, let's say that.
At one point, Novi attempted another Fireball down the passage, (above, it must be said, the alarmed protestations of her team-mates, who had an irrational fear of immolation). To her puzzlement and dismay, the little spark of flame went sailing down the passage, above the heads of the morlock throng.... and then just went out.
Eventually the morlocks had had enough, and attempted to flee, with our gore-drenched threshing machines following up behind them. All of a sudden the rout stopped, and the morlocks all, as a body, turned back to the attack with suddenly unsettlingly blank expression.
It would have done them no good against the mighty thews of our favourite band of Massacrin' Machines, except for the arrival of their net-cannon teams. Everyone except Sharn was entangled in quick succession, and things would have looked bleak indeed if not for Novi's quick-thinking activation of her Ring of Force: she risked expending four charges simultaneously to erect a Wall of Force between the struggling netted party and the main mass of morlocks, and then cast a Stinking Cloud in amongst them to occupy them while the Good Guys made their ignominious escape, those who had managed to struggle free dragging the others.
Escape they did, but alas, it transpired that Ul'rak had died from his wounds, and from the strangulation of the net. Sharn was inconsolable at the death of her brother, and insisted on getting back to town as soon as possible to have him brought back to life, until they worked out how much that was going to cost. So, then she decided to just nick all his stuff off his rapidly-coooling corpse, while being a bit sad. They stuffed the cadaver into the Portable Hole until they could get a space to decide properly what to do with it.
They are now back out in the desert, licking their wounds and mourning their dead, and pondering the truth of that old saying, Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.
Flying back out over the rugged badlands, now sans 25% of their strength after the death of Ul'Rak, the team were at a bit of a loss as to just what to do next.
They took a confirmation bearing with the Rod segment, which proved interesting: the direction to the second Rod segment no longer passed straight through the Egg! Another bearing a little later showed a larger variance, indicating that the Rod segment was on the move. Were the morlocks moving it? What was going on?
They decided to investigate.
Novi stepped up their speed of flight, with surprisingly little complaint from the carpet, and using the Rod segment as a direction-finder, homed in on Segment #2. It was fortunate that they were invisible, as their path took them directly over a large group of very angry-looking morlocks, moving as quickly as their little legs could carry them, and accompanied by two of the spider-beast palanquins.
Our heroes thought at first that the morlocks were carrying the Rod segment with them, but Segment #1 pointed further ahead, and they soon came upon a diminutive humanoid scampering as quickly across the sharp, frost-covered desert rubble as fast as his little legs could carry him. It was pretty clear that he wouldn't be able to stay ahead of the morlocks for much longer, and it was also pretty clear, by the behaviour of Rod Segment #1 that he was in poChapter of #2.
Naturally, the team's first instinct was to land, kill him, and swipe the segment. Of course. However, after a short discussion, Novi elected to attempt an invisible barn-swallow: with deft control, she swooped down just in front of him and they waited for him to run directly on to the carpet, whereupon Sharn grabbed him up (thus becoming visible again) and they flew off again with the morlocks none the wiser.
Their prisoner turned out to be a halfling, Oswald Tenpenny, who had been hired by one of Eyeless' colleagues, Tim the Enchanter, to steal a march on Our Guys and get the rod segment before them for a princely 1,000gp reward — which he had succeeded in doing, just making it out of the Egg ahead of a swarm of morlocks infuriated at the desecration of their Holy of Holies. he would never have made it out at all, if not for the sudden and inexplicable diversion of a great number of the morlocks to an alarm elsewhere.
Tim the Enchanter (sometimes known disparagingly, by his colleagues, as Tim the Dim) hadn't given Oswald any instructions about the mummy at all, except that the rod segment was inside her wrappings, so the halfling was unaware of the full scope of Our Heroes' mission, nor the extent of their pay, for that matter. Sharn, deciding against a summary execution, started trying to recruit him into the expedition.
Since the only member of the party visible at this time was Sharn, a half-orc, Tenpenny was somewhat suspicious and wary, and other voices coming out of nowhere failed to appease his caution in any way. Still, eventually he began to come around, especially when he found out he'd be in line for five times the cash offered by Tim.
Novi cast about for somewhere to set down for a time where everyone could recover from the debacle back at the Egg, and found a promisingly defensible spot on the slopes of a mound, from the peak of which jutted the remains of another great Egg that appeared to have been violently torn apart from within. The potential campsite proved slightly less than ideal when they spotted a colony of huge centipedes scurrying about in it, but Sharn just got out her bow and.... shot an arrow straight through the carpet, breaking the bowstring in the process.
The carpet expressed profound displeasure at this sort of behaviour, but refrained from going as far as dumping everybody off. Novi attempted to cast a stinking cloud down into the hollow which fizzled due to interference from the ambient magical disruption, so Tenpenny, grandly and with a great flourish, proved his claim to be a Mighty Wizard by bringing out his Wand of Wonder and casting.... by golly, a stinking cloud! A fortunate coincidence which pleased him mightily.
They landed once the cloud had disippated and killed the disabled centipedes without any trouble, and settled down to pull themselves back together, and to discuss what to do with the corpse of Ul'Rak. In the end, they buried most of him beneath a cairn, and Sharn took some of his finger-bones and plaited them into her hair.
Alas, the centipedes proved not to be the last of their immediate troubles. The team were woken abruptly by a rumbling, clattering from beneath, and leaped up to the shrieks, suddenly cut off, of Grimslade (on watch) being bitten entirely in half by an Ankheg (due to administrative necessity*).
* I hate running NPCs, so Grimslade was doomed, really. Poor old Grimslade.
The ankheg was dealt with fairly quickly, but not before dousing Novi with a jet of high-pressure digestive acids that left her badly burned, and her clothes in ragged rotten tatters.
That was the last bad turn for a couple of days, which allowed Our Heroes time to recover a bit and make a plan to get back into the Egg for the mummy of the Bride. Our new hero, Oswalt, was a boon here, as he'd already been in and out, and though he had been following a magical location stone and his actual knowledge of the layout of the complex being only fragmentary, even that little bit was better than no information at all.
Novi used her second-to-last scroll of Invisibility 10' Radius to invisibleize everyone. There was an alarming, though brief period immediately after she'd finished reading the scroll when everyone was outlined by færie fire, and even after that faded, since everyone affected by the spell could see each other, nobody was quite sure whether they'd actually been made invisible or not. Eventually somebody noticed that none of them were casting any moon-shadows, so comforted, they floated off back towards the Egg, and the back entrance originally used by Tenpenny.
No activity could be discerned outside, and the entrance tunnel was just a black hole in the gloom. Flying closer, close enough to get their infravision into play, they could make out barricades that had been thrown up, with a mass of vigilant-looking hooded morlocks peering over them. The tunnel was high enough that they could easily float straight over the top of them, but there were two potential obstacles: Tenpenny had warned them that the morlocks made good use of other senses than their eyes (which they hardly use at all), and hanging from the ceiling of the tunnel were the dangling lures of glow-worms.
We ended at this point, as I hadn't actually mapped out the interior of the complex yet. I wasn't expecting to be running my game that evening, but a cancellation by a player meant that our alternative campaign game couldn't really go ahead.
The team decided to brave it, and with everyone lying as flat on the carpet as they could, Novi steered a path between the morlocks' heads and the glow-worm webs.
Everything appeared to be going smoothly — the morlocks didn't seem to be alarmed, and they'd manage to avoid all but the smallest disturbance of the glow-worms. They drifted carefully over the barricade and down to the back of the entrance vestibule where they found — curses! A metal pressure door, like the one they'd encountered upstairs, and closed.
Just about then, Tenpenny noticed signs of agitation amongst the morlocks. Several of them were prodding at the air above them with their spears, others appeared to be sniffing the air, and one was reaching for a chain hanging from the ceiling: perhaps an alarm!
Without hesitation, he aimed his Wand of Wonder at the morlock and spoke the command word.
Immediately there appeared above the morlock a teensy tiny little whale, which seemed to get rapidly larger, as if it were falling towards them. With a deafening SPLORCH! it arrived, entirely filling the passage behind the party, and crushing both the morlocks and itself in the constriction of the tunnel walls. Forced from its gullet by the sudden pressure, came shooting out a middle-aged human man, along with a small jolly-boat. Both of them tumbled across the floor and fetched up against the end wall, the boat falling into pieces under the impact.
He picked himself up, clearly somewhat dazed, and brushed himself down, attempting to clean himself of various slimes and whale-innards.
I had not, at this time, put my displeasure at the illogic and stupidity of the idea of infravision into practice, so all the rest of the party could still see him.
I have since done away with infravision, and substituted good night-vision instead.
With the whale now blocking the tunnel mouth, the space behind was now absolutely pitch black (and quite aromatic, to boot), so he could not see a thing, even though Tenpenny was now visible through having attacked the morlocks. He was therefore somewhat surprised, startled, alarmed and taken aback when Tenpenny's voice came out of the air above him.
He quickly gathered his wits and introduced himself: the Reverend Doctor Erasmus Horace Shipton the Third. Groping about himself, he found his staff and kit, while the rest of the party (still invisible, though that made no difference to the Doctor) introduced themselves.
The door was much too small to fly the carpet through, so Novi landed it, rolled it up and stuffed it into her Bag of Holding, much to the displeasure of the carpet which really really hates being cooped up in there.
Sharn tried the door-wheel and found it unlocked, so pushed open the door and leaped through, ready to lay waste to the waiting morlock hordes. Alas, there were no waiting morlock hordes. What there was, was an irregularly shaped hallway with a door on either side of them, and another in the far wall. The door to their right was ajar, to the left closed. Under Tenpenny's directions, they made straight for the far doorway, over which hung several layers of weighted leather curtains.
Novi pushed through the curtains and immediately felt a weird plucking and stinging sensation all over her body, and her vision shattered into an incomprehensible kaleidoscopic jumble. She staggered back out into the hallway, where the others could see that she had sprouted new eyes all over her face and scalp, and on her hands, and possibly elsewhere not visible to the casual observer. It took them aback a bit, but she did eventually get better.
Once her sight had returned to normal, looking about the chamber, Novi found what appeared to be a secret door. They managed to get it open, and behind it found the dusty remnants of an ancient Elvish arsenal. Most of the racks were empty, but they did find several of the fabled Elvish Flame Lances — whether they were functional or not, or how to operate them, none of them knew, but they tossed them all into the Portable Hole on the off-chance that they might be able to make use of them, or at least sell them as curios.
All of the faffing about woke the off-duty morlock crew, who came boiling out of their dormitory. Novi slugged down her Potion of Superheroism, and between she and Sharn they mowed the unfortunate morlocks down like gore-filled wheat before the combine harvester. "That was easy" they thought. Everyone was now visible, and Novi's Shield Ring provided just enough light that everyone could see, dimly.
Therefore, they all got the full horror of the sight that came through the other door: riding in a cradle on the back of one the hideous giant spider-creatures they'd seen before was a grotesque cyclopean baby-like horror with a massively swollen cranium, an open fontanelle through which they could the pulsing of its brain. Weeping sores covered its pallid, moist body.
A wave of indescribably malevolence washed over the party. Tenpenny went into a fœtal, gibbering state of fear, and Sharn went shrieking through the curtains and away.
The Doctor cast down his staff — a Staff of the Python — and commanded it to attack; it began its transformation into a huge boa constrictor and began to wriggle towards the creature. Novi willed her Ring to produce a Wall of Force to protect them all, but alas, though the wall came up briefly the Ring ran out of charges and the wall disappeared again, leaving the hallway in pitch blackness.
From the morlock brain-mutant baby-thing came waves of brain-crushing agony, leaving everyone with bleeding noses and ears. The python wrapped itself around the spider-thing and started crushing it; the spider-thing retaliated by sinking its huge poison-dripping fangs into it. The Doctor commanded it to turn back into a staff, in the hope that that would neutralize the poison... maybe? Fingers crossed.
Novi activated the Shield function of her ring, which required no charges, and by that light Magic Missiled the brain-mutant into oblivion. Released from the brain-baby's domination, the spider thing immediately took off for its lair, carrying the inert body in its cradle.
The party girded their loins and pushed their way through the curtains again. Once again, everyone experienced the eery plucking and stinging sensation, but this time the only person affected was the Doctor, all of whose hair immediately began to grow at breaknech pace until he appeared to be nothing more than a mass of hair in a suit.
They found themselves on a metal-mesh gantry, leading across an abyss below, and looming over them a massive, smooth, irridescent metal cylinder. An eldritch glow emanated from a mass of tubes in the bottom of the cylinder.
Sharn eventually came running back, closely pursued by an angry mob of morlocks which were then all brutally murdered with the party's usual morlock-murdering efficiency.
I honestly had not foreseen this emminently sensible decision. So, all the work I did populating that complex will have to be massaged into a subtlely different form and be re-used somewhere else.
Oswalt had told them that the mummy chamber was right at the top of this metal cylinder, so rather than fighting their way right through the whole complex, and dodging traps and perils galore, they just unrolled the carpet, jumped on to it, and floated straight up beside the cylinder until they go to the appropriate level.
Waiting for them there were two more of the brain-mutants on their spider-critter steeds, but everybody was surprised into immobility by seeing each other — all except Oswalt Tenpenny, who calmly and skilfully put arrows though each of their bonces and killed them where they sat, gobsmacked. Easy-peasy.
They floated the carpet through the opening in the side of the cylinder and found themselves in a round room, its walls covered in screens, tell-tales, standby lights, and all manner of ancient magic. Around the circumference were evenly-spaced niches, about two thirds of which were filled by glossy white humanoid figures, obviously artificial, and of superlative workmanship. In another of the niches, away from any of the white mannequins, stood the mummy they'd come for, now in some disarray as somebody had obviously been interfering with its wrappings in the recent past.
They nabbed the mummy and popped it gently into the Portable Hole, and started looking for a way out.
I don't recall exactly how Tenpenny got up to the gap, but I'm sure it was achieved perfectly according to the rules of the game and the character's capabilities within those rules, and that it wasn't just glossed over so that we could finish up the session.
Looking up outside the cylinder (now obviously the egg-shape they had seen poking out the toppe of the butte) they could see that the lips of the shaft had, over the centuries, crumbled and eroded, and in one place they could see starlight peeping through a narrow gap where part of the rim had crumbled away. It was far too small for the carpet to get through, but Tenpenny would be able to squeeze through. So, being careful to keep the Portable Hole and Bag of Holding well separate, everyone except Tenpenny clambered into the Hole and he carried them all out.
So, now they are all back on the furiously-grumbling carpet, flying back northwards towards Eyeless so that they can deliver the first part of their job, get some cash, and restock for the next part.
Things occurred over two sessions, which the GM was too lazy to write down in a timely fashion, and does so now in a pathetically abbreviated fashion:
Coriolanus Pragmaticus has a discreet little shop in the better part of town, and has been in business there as long as anyone can remember. He is obviously not human, but is not a member of any of the usual species to be found in Skrær. His skin is a silvery, icy blue with a pearlescent sheen, his ears and nose both sharply pointed, and his eyes like those of a goat, but bright, piercing blue. He has no hair on his head at all, except for a neat, pointed goatee.
From things he let drop in conversation, it would appear that he is a trans-dimensional traveller.
Things are not improving in the world at large. There are huge numbers of beggars flooding into the city, refugees from the surrounding countryside whose food stores have run out.
It is becoming commonplace to see corpses on the streets, dead of cold, malnutrition, or violence, and sometimes a combination of all three. Thievery of all sorts is rampant, and openly carrying food on the street is an invitation to be mugged or mobbed.
The price of food and drink has skyrocketed. Some taverns are still open, but fewer all the time as their stocks run out and cannot be replaced.
Having taken offence at something Sharn said to him, and affronted at only getting two and a half times what he'd expected for the job he'd contracted with Tim the Enchanter instead of the five times he felt he'd been promised to change sides, Tenpenny stormed off out of Pragmaticus' shop and into the snowy dark. That turned out not to have been his best decision.
The first he knew that anything was wrong was when he felt the garrotte about his throat, and a voice hissing in his ear "Master Timoleon wishes to express his profound disappointment..." And then a knife in the back to finish the job.
The rest of the team, having hardly noticed his departure, on their way back home found a small crowd clustered around his corpse, which had been hung up on a fence-post with a placard hung around his neck that just read "HE DISAPPOINTED ME", signed with a T-rune. They took him down and found that his chest had been opened and his heart removed, so no (relatively) cheap Raise Dead for the unfortunate Oswald Tenpenny.
His replacement was not long in arriving at the house on Bucket Lane, this time a multi-talented half-elf called Nazim Delonthon.
A few days after the appearance of Nazim, the team headed back to Pragmaticus' shop, from where they and their new undersea conveyance were to be transported by whatever means Eyeless had arranged. They all crammed themselves into the machine and waited. After a short time, they felt something crash on to the top of the device, rocking it back and forth with its weight
Peering up and out through the front windows, they could see the neck and head of a dragonish-looking creature, but one definitely not in the best of health. Strips of its hide were hanging off, and patches of bare bone and gristle could be clearly discerned. It sat there doing nothing much, while Our Heroes got out their Rod section and began dowsing to determine in which direction to go.
Andrew was unable to make the game, so the Reverend Erasmus was an inactive NPC for the evening.
Having got a bearing, Novi (at the controls) extended the Apparatus' claws to signal the creature to take off, which it did without grace or style. The mechanism swayed alarmingly as it was dragged through the air, making everyone slightly queasy, but especially the Reverend Doctor who was utterly stricken with motion-sickness and unable to make any useful contribution at all, unable even to keep down the frequent sips of Mother Shipton's Elixir he tried to settle his rebellious innards.
The machine was carried higher and higher, across the Great Lakes and over the Pass of Fnordonia and across the frozen coastline out to sea, with Novi indicating direction by pointing with the Apparatus' nippers. The zombie-dragon flew fast, but even so they were in the air, swaying and lurching, for over eight hours before their periodic check of the Rod segment indicated that they should be starting to descend.
Ahead and below, they could discern lights on the surface of the icy sea. An unfortunate fumble over the controls sent them into a steep dive which almost had them crashing into one of the small fleet of ships below — the source of the lights — but they recovered in time to make a graceless, but non-fatal, splash-down. Whether they had been seen by the fleet as they passed over it they could not tell.
They let the Device sink to the sea floor, got a bearing with the Rod Segment, and by the light of their antenna-lamps started scuttling off in the indicated direction. After some while, they could dimly make out what looked like an undersea hill or tumulus of coral-encrusted shipwrecks, but of more immediate concern they could see advancing on them from all sides what looked like hundreds of ambulant drowned corpses! And to make matters worse, a gigantic octopus descended on them from the coral and threw the whole Apparatus around before being driven off by having a couple of its tentacles severed by the machine's powerful nippers.
They started to hear the horrific creatures clambering over their conveyance, hammering ineffectually on its sides and roof, but more dangerously they could be heard scrambling up through the moon-pool in the rear chamber into the interior. Sharn and Nazim went through to the back to clear them out, a difficult task as Sharn found that she had to literally chop them into pieces to render them harmless, and even then the parts would still writhe and squirm around their feet. Both Sharn and Nazim, at one time or another, were badly knocked around by the incredible blows meted out by the undead creatures, but Nazim found out, quite by accident, that his Healing Staff would destroy them almost with a touch!
Yep, sure enough, it's another reconaissance-free frontal attack with absolutely no clue about what they have to deal with. Is anybody surprised? I know I'm not.
Meanwhile, Novi kept at the controls and walked the Apparatus up to the shipwreck pile, ignoring the waterlogged corpses climbing all over her viewports. She started the device chewing its way into the coral-encrusted detritus, its nippers making easy meat of the rottentimbers and brittle coral, but raising great clouds of mud and filth that took visibility down to nothing at all.
The decay was basically treated as premature aging, with the appropriate characteristic changes for advanced decrepitude. Strictly speaking, they shouldn't have got any wisdom increase as one normally would for getting older, but it was easier just to read the stat changes straight off the list rather than pick and choose.
What nobody had noticed, until it became glaringly obvious, was that the whole coral labyrinth was surrounded by some kind of Aura of Decay, which attacked their Device, their clothing and equipment, and most importantly, themselves. Novi and Nazim suffered the least, barely noticing the effect due to their Elvish genes, but Erasmus (human) felt it strongly, and worst hit of all was Sharn (half-orc).
Eventually, Novi was convinced to get out of the area, and they headed off towards land, the tip of the peninsula of the Druids' Tongue, where they walked the Device up on to the rocky coast and concealed it as best they could.
This was Steve's new character, a thief.
This was Steve's even newer character, a wizard (still nameless).
Many things occurred, but were not recorded by the slack GM in a timely fashion.
Our heroes eventually made it to Elysium via a curious endless Escher-like stairway, steep, uneven and treacherous, down which they climbed for days and days.
Under normal circumstances, one of the most perilous things a D&D character can attempt is climbing (or swimming) in anything other than optimal conditions. However, as soon as it becomes necessary for someone to slip and fall to advance the story a bit, suddenly everyone climbs like goddam Spiderman.
By leaving the steps (i.e. by stepping off into the abyss) they accidentally discovered that they would be teleported into the presence of an emaciated and raggedly robed and hooded guardian who transported them to the section of the infinite corridors on whose walls are the planar portals. The guardian didn't tell them precisely which portal was the one they wanted, but each portal was labelled on its frame by nauseously twisty and squirmy (obviously magical) writing, which they deciphered with a simple Read Magic spell.
Regrettably, though they themselves passed through the portal without issues, their clothes and gear remained behind, lying on the floor by the portal. Problematic.
In Elysium they found themselves severely out of place — they were effectively planar outsiders with no right to be where they were, like undead on the Prime Material plane. Burned by daylight, unable to tolerate any food or drink, and a general psychic itching feeling of alienation... it was very unpleasant for them.
They eventually stumbled upon a group of the inhabitants of Elysium, having a starlit picnic. They recoiled in horror at the shambling abominations full of Wrongness that loomed up at them out of the darkness, but after they got over their initial fear and disgust and learned who Our heroes were and what they were trying to do, they put aside their repulsion (as far as they were able) and did their best to help. Neutral Good and all that, you see.
The Good People took them to the garden where the apples grew, hiding them from the Great Ones (angels, effectively) who would instantly have cast them out of Elysium, back to where they belong. They got their apples, and Erasmus and Sharn ate one each, returning immediately to a state of youthful vigour from their decrepit state of decay. They took one apple to spare to protect them from the Aura of Decay, and the the Good Folk summoned a Great One to send them back.
There followed a period of confusion which I don't recall with any accuracy, in which they had to get their stuff back and return to their proper time, since, as they deduced, as they were walking down the steps they were also walking back in time. In any case, it was managed.
They flew the carpet back to where they'd left the Apparatus at the tip of the Druids' Tongue, and had an encounter with a doppelganger assassin who managed to get Sharn and Erasmus enwombed in Crystal Eggs before being revealed and killed by Novi.
Novi and Thingummy (Steve's latest character, whose name I have already forgotten) have the Eggs, and can see the tiny foetal figures of Sharn and Erasmus floating peacefully in them when they peer in, but they don't know how to get them out. They could ask the doppelganger, but it's dead.
They found the place where the doppelganger stashed Erasmus' stuff, but have not yet found Sharn's, nor the doppelganger's base camp.
Sigh. I really should get my act together. This entry covers, in (very) brief, quite a few sessions that I failed to record properly, and now I have to strain my memory to remember what went on.
Our heroes eventually were reunited when they got brave enough to try smashing one of the eggs, I forget which one, to see what effect it would have on its inhabitant. Which, it turns out, was just to release them, return them to their normal size, and wake them up. They still have three vacant eggs, but are unsure of precisely how to use them.
They went back to the Coral Labyrinth, and found that the influence of the Apple kept the drowned zombies at bay. Somebody noticed that one of them was wearing a great helm that emitted a constant stream of bubbles from one eye-slit, and hypthesized that it might be a Helm of Underwater Action (which it was), which would be a useful thing to have since all their underwater mobility relied on relatively short-lived potions. Using some of their Potions of Water Breathing, they snagged the zombie with a grapnel and dragged it in past the influence of the Apple, and chopped it to bits. They found that one of the eye-windows was cracked (hence the bubble stream) but that the Helm otherwise worked fairly well, apart from having the water lapping at just below nostril-level.
The krakenish monster was, in fact, an undead Dioctopus of the largest size (Malevolent & Benign, p.27)
For reasons that I don't fully understand, they decided to send Sharn into the Coral Labyrinth alone, with the Apple, and the fragment of the Rod for guidance, presumably to single-handedly vanquish the gigantic kraken-like creature that they knew lurked within.
She did not prevail.
In fact, she was eaten in one bite, along with the Helm, the Rod section, and the Apple.
The rest of the team eventually noticed that she was overdue, and decided to follow her in as far as they could in the Apparatus, relying on their dwindling supply of potions to get them the rest of the way when it got too tight for their machine. Doom and gloom prevailed, but they realised that without the Rod section to guide them on to the next, their quest was over in utter failure anyway.
They noticed, as they walked in towards the labyrinth that all the hundreds of zombies that had been barring their way previously were now completely inert and drifting, the way that drowned bodies are supposed to be. "Huh," they said.
They got a good long way in to the labyrinth before they got slightly stuck, and Novi and Erasmus swam on from there, leaving the cowardly wizard behind to "guard" the Apparatus. They found the krakenish thing curled up on itself, very clearly dead, and the rift to the Negative Material Plane healed over. So, as it turned out, Sharn had not died pointlessly and stupidly after all, but had actually sacrificed herself heroically, getting the Apple into the belly of the beast where it could do the most good. Hoorah for Sharn! (Still dead though).
The undecayed loot they managed to get away with before they had to run for it was:
They cut the thing open — a messy business that severly reduced their visibility — and retrieved the Rod section and what parts of Sharn were left un-chewed, the Helm-covered head, fortunately, being one. They used the Rod to guide them to the mummy case (and did a spot of looting of what was left undecayed of the mounds of treasure in the Krakenoid's lair) and then had to swim for it to run away from some guardians they inadvertently released.
They got away, though somehow they also managed to collapse the chamber behind them, I don't quite remember how.
Using Novi's lodestone for guidance, they swam the Apparatus back across the gulf until they made landfall (or icefall, really) somewhere on the coast south of Clancappaill.
There they found an unsettling scene: the forests had been felled right back from the coast, and along the coastline as far as they could see in the freezing mists were huge wicker-men, filled with frozen corpses, quite a few of which were not staying quite as still as one might reasonably expect corpses to. They decided to get back into the water, but having lost their bearings in the mist, they blundered about a bit and ran smack into an ice-giant, a very short-tempered ice-giant, which laid about their precious (and delicate) Apparatus with its club and tipped it over on to its back.
Novi climbed out and made very short work of it with a remarkable series of critical hits (hoorah for Novi!), whereupon they made it back to the water and started swimming the Apparatus up the coast towards Clancappaill, where they planned to see if they could get in contact with Eyeless.
They made it up to the mouth of the River Donn, now almost completely iced over except for about a hundred yards in the middle, and leaving Phineous in the Apparatus (as usual) Novi and Erasmus flew off over the Lower City towards the Old City, carved and built into the cliffs and crags of the bluffs overlooking the river and gulf.
The upper city is where the Old Families have always lived. They are a venal and perverse bunch, with a particularly unsalubrious reputation for scheming and treachery, but they have a tradition of magicality and Our Heroes hoped that, being employees of Eyeless, and he being powerful amongst that community, might be able to get in and out without being tortured to death in some fetishistic sex dungeon, or being turned into something..... unnatural.
The Lower City appeared pretty much deserted, though they did see occasional frozen figures shambling here and there. The walls and gates of the Upper City were manned though, and many many more of the frozen zombies were clustered at the foot of the walls.
They flew straight over the walls on their Flying Carpet, which instantly turned into Just A Carpet, and they fell about sixty feet, fortunately into fairly deep snow which allowed them to survive, though somewhat battered.
They were taken into "protective" custody by troops of one of the Families, the Krävbörné.
By frequently and vehemently using the name of Eyeless as a shield, they managed to get in contact with him (or rather, with Parrot, his factor) via an ancient and very creepy necromancerish type who kept trying to get them to sell him just the teensiest bit of their souls, a deal they refused just as politely and inoffensively as they possibly could. They traded his communication services for one of their magical doo-dads, I forget which one, and Parrot told them to sit tight and wait to be picked up.
This means that the world has been frozen and dark now for three generations, so for those few survivors who are stll around above ground it's no longer unusual, but just the way things are. There will still be humans alive who remember when there was daylight, but not many, and getting to be fewer all the time.
It was at this point that they discovered that they were some sixty years overdue. They had, it seemed, been out of time a bit longer than they'd thought.
They were released without, as far as they could tell, being harmed (apart from the bruising from their fall). They even got to keep their (Eyeless's) flying carpet.
Meanwhile, back in the Apparatus, Phineous had discovered something alarming: there was freezing water sloshing around under the floorboards, and starting to well up through the cracks. Clearly the rough treatment at the hands of the ice-giant had sprung a leak somewhere.
So, he climbed the Apparatus up out of the water on to the ice shelf, and waited for the others to get back. Which they did.
Some hours later they were picked up by something, not gently, and carried off southwards back to Eyeless' manse, getting steadily more and more air-sick as they went.
Everybody now has a Ring of Warmth, which should help to keep them from instantly freezing to death when they step out of the Apparatus to go for a pee.
Parrot made them comfortable at the Manse, and the party released the ranger Taxon from her crystal prison.
Novi and Phineous took the opportunity to update their spell books a bit, and they made arrangements to get some scrolls from Eyeless as part of their ongoing wages. There are indications that Eyeless is not entirely happy with the speed of progress in their quest, but he hasn't (as yet) turned anybody into a newt.
The next Mummy (and Rod section) is located in the Sliabhraon Nadhrach, the mountains to the west of the Coinnenmere. The Coinnenmere, coincidentally, is the location of Boarlesions, the preeminent centre of wizardry in the Northern world, and where Eyeless is about to attend a convocation. He says (through Parrot) that he will transport everybody with him when he goes.
Regrettably, as well as Boarlesions, the home monastery of the Sword Brethren is also there, and they are not a pleasant bunch to deal with at the best of times, and especially if you're maybe just a tiny bit of a magic-user yourself. They do enjoy a good burning alive.
Our heroes are warned (through Parrot) not to let any of the Wizards know what they are up to when they're on the Wizards' Isle. He did not specify why.
The party engaged the Gnomish artificers of Boarlesions to make for them an ice-drill, to be fitted to the top of the Apparatus. They've also made and fitted a hatch-cover for the moon-pool, and jazzed up Erasmus' travelling folding pulpit.
Their plan is to swim the Apparatus across the lake under the ice, and thus escape detection by the Sword Brethren, and then drill up through the ice and fly up as far as they can into the mountains on the Carpet.
On their way back from the Gnomes' manufactory, Novi and Taxon were lured into a Shop Mimic with delicious mind-altering smells. Neither Erasmus nor Phineous immediately noticed that they were no longer with them, and when they finally did notice, they were nowhere to be seen.
The boys managed to backtrack to the place and found them in the process of being masticated and digested. There ensued an unfortunate Friendly Fire(ball) incident that very nearly killed Taxon, and did destroy her Ring of Warmth among other things. It did drive off the Mimic though, so at least there's that.
Taxon replaced her melted Ring of Warmth, by means of spending vast amounts of the party's funds. Phineous admits no sort of responsibilty for the debacle.
The team got across the lake, navigating by dead-reckoning using Erasmus' cunningly conceived navigation system. Regrettably, the reckoning turned out to have been dead rather too long; his calculations were out by almost a third. Nevertheless, they did eventually end up more or less in the general area of where they wanted to be.
They tunneled up through the ice with the ice-drill (the passage wide enough for a person, but not to get the Apparatus through), and were immediately attacked by a band of ice-fishermen who were under the impression that they were a raiding party of Kuo-toa, or "Gogglers" as they called them. The misunderstanding was sorted out without any fatalities, and the fishermen took the party back to the remains of their village.
The village had once been fairly sizeable, but the population is now reduced to just a few families, all gathered together in the old chief's hall, huddling together for warmth. It's pretty clear that they're probably not going to survive very much longer.
Being good and noble and true, the party distributed food and Erasmus cured various pneumonias and what-not, making wholesale converts to the worship of Mother Shipton. The fisher-folk agreed to keep an eye on the place where the Apparatus had been left, though of course they won't really be able to tell if any mischief goes on under the ice.
Charity performed, Our Heroes flew off up into the mountains, as high as Novi could convince the carpet to go. Following the Rod section, they were led to the foot of an enormously high scarp, at the foot of which they took shelter in a shallow cave, just deep enough to provide some cover from the falling snow.
Shortly after setting up camp, there arose a sudden and unnatural blizzard. Taxon the ranger is unsettled.
With the rest of the party trying to get some rest so that they could recover spells and what-not, Taxon the All-Seeing, Taxon the Alert, Taxon the Never-Suprised remained on guard.
It hardly needs saying that she was, therefore, caught completely unawares, fom behind, by a searing icy pain around her heart as an Ice Doll casually reached into her back and poked her right in the blood-pumper. Fortunately she didn't pass out from the pain, and the rest of the party woke up (eventually) to her squealing and fought off the Ice Doll, smashing it into a swirling vortex of razor-sharp ice shards that coalesced back into its blue-glowing humanoid form in just a few moments.
Erasmus had the idea to blow the Horn of Goodness, which did indeed keep the thing at bay, but the sound of the horn and its resulting bubble of ineffable Goodness began attracting more of the things of all sizes, which hung floating just outside its perimeter in the dark, swirling blizzard.
As the time of its effect was due to elapse, he blew the horn again — and again, more and more of things emerged into view, unable to pass through the barrier, and also trapping Our Heroes, who would certainly perish if they tried to escape through them. Worse was to come though, when a mournful hooting was heard, and emerging from the snow-filled darkness came a massive pair of Mara, troll-women, who sniffed and pawed at the Bubble of Good but were unable to penetrate it.
Arrows and a crossbow bolt were shot at one of them; they either skipped off the creature's black-green jade-like hide, or smashed into a thousand pieces with the impact. The Mara found the whole thing rather puzzling. They are, for all their massive strength and inexorable persistence, remarkably stupid creatures after all.
The position was clearly untenable, and some plan had to be formulated to get away. Novi distracted the Mara with an Invisible Servant carrying some stinky old clothes and a Continually Lighted rock (the Mara having very weak eyesight, but an exceptional sense of smell) — they chased after the puppet, down the scree slope, and continued to follow the glowing roack as it bounced away down the mountain-side and into the bare sticks of the dead forests below, but it did not keep them busy for very long and they were soon back. The Ice Dolls remained.
Erasmus formed the plan of using the Horn to create a Tunnel of Goodness from the cave mouth to a point where they could perhaps start climbing up the cliff-face, but that was abandoned when, on its umpteenth blast over the previous 24 hours, the Horn gave a false note and they foound that it was beginning to form a crack from its mouth. This discovery gave the question of escape added urgency, as it meant that they might not be able to rely on the Horn's protection for much longer.
Erasmus decided to let Mother Shipton tell him what to do, so he cast a Divination spell, which was answered: he was told "You must go up to go down, at the antlers locked"
Though the team had pretty thoroughly investigated the back of the shallow cave for any possible exit, this encouraged them to try investigating the ceiling. It didn't take too long before Taxon found some ancient-looking cave-paintings, protected from the elements above and to one side of the entrance — one of which depicted two stags fighting. Above that, she found a crack, wide enough for somebody to chimney up. And there was much rejoicing, since the last of the Horn of Goodness' barriers was pretty much ready to expire, and they didn't want to risking sounding it again unless there was no other alternative.
Somebody (Erasmus, I think) went up to investigate, and to see if it was a navigable exit. It was a difficult climb in places, but with the aid of his Gloves of Swimming and Climbing he made it up and found that after a very tight, claustrophobic squeeze at the end, it eventually debouched out on to the cliff face. Novi and Phineous, it turned out, were the worst climbers in the history of the world, and ended up being fairly ignominiously hoisted and dragged up most of the way by rope slings.
The only way up from the exit was, if anything, even worse than the chimneying to get there in the first place. The team would have to climb up and across a sheer rock face, slippery with ice, and exposed to the full blast of the blizzard.
Fortunately, it was a fairly short climb to the remains of what must once have been a stair that zig-zagged up the face of the scarp, though it was almost entirely gone now, leaving only the sockets that once housed the supports for the steps, and the very occasional and treacherous few steps in ones or twos. Novi and Phineous were just so much dead weight on a passage such as this, and Taxon and Erasmus had to portage them like so much terrified baggage.
Surprisingly, they all made it to the top of the old stairway, where they foound an iron door set into the face of the cliff, with just enough of a doorstep that everyone could stand there, teetering over a sheer drop of hundreds of feet on to the rocks below. The door had no handle or lock that could be seen, but it was clear from its construction that it opened outwards. Of course it opened outwards. This posed a bit of a problem.
Phineous, conveniently, had a Chime of Opening with which to open the door — we gloss over exactly how he managed to get it out and manipulate it while basically dangling from a piece of string. Nobody could be standing on the doorstep when the Chime rang, or else they'd just be swept over the edge when the door opened. So Taxon climbed up on to the lintel and braced herself there with Novi, ready to swing acrobatically down into the opening when the door opened. The Chime was chimed, the door shrieked open, and Taxon dropped gymnastically and expertly into the mouth of the passage. Hoorah, so far.
It couldn't be that easy, of course.
As soon as she entered the mouth of the gently downward-sloping passage, with Novi following closely behind, they were confronted by a hideous ethereal apparition which rushed at them out of the pitch blackness. Taxon stumbled backwards in terror, but (fortunately) didn't lose control of herself to the extent of running straight out the doorway and plummeting down the cliff. Fortunate not only for herself, but also for Phineous, who was still attached to her by the rope. More of which, later.
Novi immediately went on to the attack, but was almost equally immediately posessed by the creature (her own anima finding itself floating in what was clearly an infinite black void while simultaneously being claustrophobically constricted) and turned and stabbed Taxon right in the liver. Taxon was somewhat impeded, because she had Phineous weighing her down, swinging at the end of a rope about her waist and from time to time calling out querulously to find out whatever was going on up there? There was a rather confused fight between Novi and Taxon, and when Novi managed to exert her strength of will and force her way back into her own body, the boogy-monster immediately posessed Taxon.
Remember the rope?
Erasmus had, by this time, climbed into the passage himself, and immediately taking stock of the situation, went running off down the passage, looking for the object binding the ghost to the spot. He managed, by the very skin of his teeth, to avoid running right out into a deep, deep shaft and plummeting to his very messy doom hundreds of feet below.
In small niches in the walls of the shaft, alongside the steps, he found ancient skulls, their jawbones bound to the cranium with rune-inscribed strips of parchment. He figured that maybe one of those was binding the ghost, so he started smashing them.
Meanwhile, back out at the doorway.... remember the rope? The rope with Phineous dangling from it?
Novi, realising that Taxon wasn't herself, was punching her rather than stabbing at her, but Taxon-Ghost's remarkable constituition made her remarkably difficult to stun, and rather than even try to defend herself, she/it just started untying the rope at ther waist. Novi, realising what she was doing, attempted to stop her, but too late — the rope was released and went slithering out and down, along with the unfortunate Phineous, who had plenty of time to realise fully the gravity of his situation before he was smashed to red jelly on the harsh and unyielding rocks, many many hundreds of feet below.
And he took half their rope with him. That'll be inconvenient.
Meanwhile, Erasmus had finally happened upon the right skull and smashed it, releasing the ghost which faded away in a wisp of vapour.
And now they are three. Again.
The team decided to stop where they were for a while, to rest and recuperate — especially important in Taxon's case, as she'd been stabbed and bludgeoned into unconsciousness, and was feeling as weak and pukey as a weak and pukey kitten. Things were made a lot more comfortable by the realisation on somebody's part that the cloth disc of the Portable Hole was only three feet in diameter, and not the whole ten feet of the width of the pocket dimension it led to, so they could use it in much more confined spaces than I had thought.
OK, it was me, I finally read the item description properly instead of working off tragically imperfect memory.
Of course, this means that they won't be able to get anything wider than the three-foot circular opening into the Hole, but I doubt that's likely to be a major issue 99.9% of the time.
While Taxon was recovering to the point where it became of any point at all to start filling her up with magical healing, discussion turned to two topics: first, the desirability of having another team member to replace the unfortunate Phineous, and second, the desirability of getting to Phineous' mangled corpse, 600 feet below, for the purposes of looting the body. Looting dead comrades' bodies seems to be the main way this gang gains and distributes magic items, after all.
The first issue was dealt with via one of the three remaining Crystal Eggs they'd taken from the doppelganger assassin before the Coral Labyrinth Caper. They got one out and broke it, and before them appeared Ozilius (L5th MU, human). After introductions and a brief precis of the state of the world now and at the time of his enwombment, it seems that he had been inside the egg for about 450 years, so his knowledge of current events is somewhat limited.
First order of business was for Erasmus to cast Resist Cold on him so that he didn't just immediately freeze to death. Although, in the time they'd been sitting in the passage, they'd noticed that it seemed perceptibly less freezing inside than out, and also that the air flow in the passage changed direction periodically — the inwards-bound air was knife-sharp and freezing, but fresh, while the outgoing air was much warmer, and reeked a bit of carrion and decay. This made nobody feel any better.
Next, Novi borrowed Erasmus' Gloves of Swimming and Climbing, and, with the aid of a Levitation spell, made her way down the icy, blizzard-battered cliff face to the bottom, where she hoped to find the remains of Phineous. With the aid of a little bit more magic, she found his frozen blood-encrusted belt and belt-pouch (containg the Ebony Fly) caught in a notch between two massive boulders, and a short distance away, a boot. By a truly remarkable feat of deduction, she worked out from that just where he must have bounced to and found the rest of his mangled, jellified wreckage in relatively short order. She was able to recover his Ring of Warmth, but the rest of his equipment was spread far and wide, and no doubt buried in snow by now, so she Levitated and climbed the 600 feet back up to the doorway.
There was a brief issue when somebody brought up the issue of obligation going along with the bestowal of the Ring of Warmth on Ozilius; he seemed to think it preferable to just freeze to death than to be bound in any way, shape or form, or even to express any sort of gratitude, but the situation was sorted out, and he is not going to just freeze to death out of pig-headed bloody-mindedness.
Rested and largely recovered, the team went down the passage to its end, where it debouched on to a roughly-hewn square shaft, about thirty feet across, that dropped away into darkness below. From the top, and by the light of their Continually Lighted illumino-rocks, they could see that the walls were studded with niches in which were skulls, bound in rune-inscribed strips of parchment, and they could also see several larger openings, possibly doorways? Around the circumference of the shaft spiralled a sort of stair, though the steps were nothing more than rough-shaped and sometimes broken slabs of stone, lodged into notches cut into the rock. It did not look at all safe.
Magic to the rescue! They decided to make use of a combination of Novi's Levitation and Floating Disc spells to descend, and thus bypass the treacherous-looking stair completely. Probably a good thing.
As they descended, somebody noticed that the darkness below did not appear to be descending with them. Their light just stopped in what appeared to be a cloud of utter blackness. Erasmus dropped a lit-up rock, which just disappeared into the shadow, which brought them no comfort at all. The prospect of dropping into what was inevitably going to be grave peril without being able to see anything at all was not a pleasing one.
Erasmus actually managed to Turn the first of them, perhaps the very first time he's managed to Turn anything at all. So, huzzah!
Oh yes, and they were attacked by two mummies, one at a time, which failed to do any significant damage to anybody in spite of most of the party being rigid with terror most of the time. Novi got thumped and infected with a hideous wasting and rotting disease, but Erasmus just Cured her as a matter of course, so that was neither here nor there.
They are all now just hovering above the Stygian blackness, chewing their thumbs and wondering what to do next.
The team took refuge in the chamber from which the mummy had come, finding it to be quite small (about 15 feet by 10, and a low 5-foot ceiling) and crudely cut from the raw stone of the mountain. In the middle of the floor was a hole cut into the rock, and beside it a stone slab that had obviously been its cover. The chamber was entirely free of decoration, except for an unsettlingly tentacled creature carved above the lintel of the low entrance.
Novi and Ozilius both attempted to find out what was below; Novi by casting a Wizard Eye and Ozilius with his Crystal Ball. Neither got any useful information, all they could see was blackness.
Erasmus attempted to Dispel the darkness, though without holding out much hope for success... but to the surprise of all, it actually worked! Now, by the light of their Continually Lighted miners' lamps, they could see that the shaft was choked with thick, clinging webs, and swarming up out of them were what seemed like hundreds of rottweiler-sized spider-creatures with grotesque, imbecilic, infant human heads, drooling and hissing as they came.
Novi tossed a Fireball down the shaft, setting the webs alight and dropping the creatures from their supports, but they popped out of existence and then reappeared, scuttling up the walls and stairs towards our heroes, who retreated back into their refuge.
Novi took station at the entrance, which was small enough for her to defend single-handed, while everyone else huddled behind her. Ozilius sat down against a wall and kept as still as possible, relying on his Robe of Blending to keep him safe in the event that any of the critters got inside.
Which they did.
Rather than go through Novi and the grave-cover that had been propped up across the entrance, they just started teleporting directly into the chamber, and immediately began attacking those inside. At first they attempted to ensnare them with webs, but when that failed they just turned out all the lights with their Darkness ability, and proceeded to biting with their venomous teeth.
Alas, they appeared to have no difficulty at all seeing Ozilius in spite of his Predator-cloak, and soon brought him down at the back of the chamber.
Erasmus blew the Horn of Goodness, which prevented any more of them getting to grips, and those caught within the area of effect were soon dispatched. Unfortunately, Ozilius was outside the circle, and was chewed and nibbled to death by the spider-things down that end of the room.
After killing the creatures remaining within the tomb, there was a hiatus in the attacks.
I don't yet know the name of this new wizard, but thus far he appears to be amazingly similar in temperament — especially in obstinacy — to Ozilius. Perhaps they were related.
The team took stock of their losses, looted the crap out of the still-warm corpse of Ozilius (whose gear had survived remarkably well against the acidic webs), and cracked another crystal egg to reveal yet another Magic User, who had been encysted for a whopping eight hundred-odd years. And once again, there was pointless and futile bickering over the loan of the Ring of Warmth.
Theorizing that the spider-babies might not be able to teleport into the Portable Hole, they spread it out in a corner beside the door-hole, currently blocked by the grave-stone, and everyone clambered in before the effect of the blowing of the Horn wore off. Taxon remained at the top of the ladder with her head poking out, both to act as sentry and to partly block up the entrance.
Strictly speaking there should then have been a catastrophic Event when Novi jumped into the Hole while carrying her Bag of Holding, but due to the excessive kindness of the DM (and the fact that I had nothing prepared in the event of the whole party being sucked through a rift on to the Astral Plane with no way of getting back) she suddenly "remembered" and left it outside.
A short time later there was a faint psychic "pop!" as the Protection from Evil expired, and almost immediately there was a BOOOM! as the grave-stone was pushed in and an amorphous blob of inky blackness began to push its way in. Taxon felt a wave of terror pass through her, but thanks to her courage and presence of mind she maintained control over her limbs and bowels and took a whack at it with her magical hammer. She hit something, but what? She could not say.
The thing reached out with its featureless inky tentacles and grabbed her, crushing her cruelly and passing a couple of thousand volts through her so her hair all stood on end, and her companions below saw her skeleton through her silhouette in the traditional manner. It dragged her off the ladder towards the door opening.
The good Doctor leaped up the ladder, and calling on Mother Shipton, attempted to Turn it.... and succeeded! Two successful Turnings in a row, a new record. It dropped Taxon and swarmed back out into the darkness of the shaft.
Shortly afterwards, there was a KRAKADOOOM! sound efect, and the door-hole collapsed in on itself. The chamber filled with dust. When things had settled down and it appeared safe to do so, Taxon investigated the rock-fall and could detect no air movement at all.
It was determined that there should be enough air trapped in the chamber for everyone to get a decent rest, and the wizards to learn what spells they felt they might need. Erasmus dragged out the battered Helm of Underwater Action so that he needn't contibute to the exhaustion of the oxygen supply.
Time passed. Rest was had. Study was done. Taxon began working away at the rock-fall in an attempt to clear an air passage, and turned out to have previously undiscovered skills at impromptu mining, at least until somebody else started trying to help, whereupon everything kind of went to crap. Fortunately, nobody was trapped in the ensuing collapse.
Once again, against all odds, Erasmus was favoured of the dice-gods and managed to Dispel the darkness below, revealing a whole lot of suddenly very angry spider-babies, hard at work rebuilding their webs. Novi Fireballed the crap out of them, killing the lot before they had a chance to do anything. "Right," said Our Heroes, "Downwards we go!" — whereupon Cezain (the newest of the wizards) leaped over the edge, to the consternation of everyone else who (technically) didn't know that he was wearing a Ring of Feather Falling. He began wafting gently down the shaft, interrupted by brief periods of plummeting each time the ring's effect expired and then re-set.
Everyone else clambered on to Novi like so many over-sized baby possums, and she Levitated them all down to the bottom of the shaft, a process that too them about half an hour. They overtook Cezain on the way, he descending at only half their rate, apart from the regular five-foot drops.
Some time about now, Cezain cast Invisibility 10' Radius, so everyone walked unseen except for the splishing and plopping of the feet in the sewage.
They found themselves standing up to their ankles in a pool of what looked and smelt like raw sewage, fed by a couple of two foot diameter pipes exiting from the walls of the shaft. Before them was a much larger cylindrical passage, about five feet in diameter, and that sloped gently downwards. They made their way forward and downward, the footing slippery and treacherous, and came out into a much larger tunnel, down the middle of which flowed a stream of mephitic filth about ten feet wide. On each side there were slimy narrow walkways, only about eighteen inches wide.
Erasmus tested the depth of the flow with his staff, and found it to be about three feet deep before he met a less liquid, slightly more resistant sludge.
The stench was eye-watering.
Taking a bearing with the Rod section, they found that it pointed more downstream than not, and more or less horizontally as far as they could tell, so they started off, roped together (except for Cezain) for safety in case one of them slipped off the slippery footpath.
About fifty yards downstream, they came upon another feeder flowing across the walkway into the main sewer. Taxon carefully felt her way across, and then carefully slipped on something especially squishy, and carefully fell arse over kite into the filth. She sat up, streaming with poop-water, with everyone else starting forward with concern for her safety. Which is probably why she was the only one who wasn't surprised by the OTYUGH which heaved itself out of the sewer, alerted by the commotion.
Taxon immediately took a swipe at it, missing woefully but becoming visible in the process. The otyugh raised its tentacles in alarm, but that didn't stop it starting to beat and bite the bejeezus out of the shit-sodden ranger.
One after the other, everyone attacked the thing and became visible, the last being Cezain who attempted to Charm it and failed. It was soon dispatched, though not before dishing out some nasty (and filthy) damage.
And that's when everything turned to farce, as the team tried to cross the feeder. One person slipped and grabbed another and pulled them in, and so on, and so on... the only person who managed to avoid becoming submerged in the fæcal soup was Erasmus, theough even he ended up thoroughly beslimed.
Another hundred yards or so of dripping, stinking progress down the gently curving cloacum, and the group came upon a rusty iron grille extending right across the tunnel at the top of a shit-weir tumbling down twelve or fifteen feet. There was a hinged door at the walkway that was rusted shut, but by main strength Novi forced the latch and pushed it open, it making a grinding, shrieking squeak as it did so.
I kind of forgot to write this up as we went, so this entry is mainly just to maintain some pathetic semblance of continuity over the last couple of playing sessions.
The team got through the grill by the subtle application of brute force. They carried on down the narrow walkway a ways and came upon a partial blockage of the sewer caused by a roof collapse which had created a back-flood.
There were, if I recall, attempts to wade it at first, until they found out that the "water" was infested with flesh-burrowing worms. Then they tried to climb around, with Novi using her scrolls of Stone Shape to create hand-holds. And last of all, they just sort of floated across with Novi Levitating and her back-passenger dragging them along the ceiling, which revealed to them the next thing, which was...
...that there was an eye-watering and lung-choking afflatus risng from the pile of rubble that was blocking the flow, not to mention some sort of ambulatory slime creature living on top of it.
There was also a bloated humanoid corpse that came floating downstream and fetched up against the blockage, which gave Our Heroes an indication that they weren't the only people down here. The corpse attracted an otyugh, which ate it all up and then was killed for its trouble.
Some further distance on they came to an outlet, pouring about twenty feet down into a large collection pool into which several other smaller pipes were also pouring.
Novi was almost eaten by a Froghemoth that lived in there, but they drove it away and rescued her, not without the usual Keystone Kops farce of people throwing themselves into the poo left and right.
Nobody died at this time, not even Steve's character.
They took a bearing with the Rod segment and chose one of the pipes to slip and slide their way up, coming to a sturdy grill about fifty feet up the way. Novi dug a passage around it wide enough for everyone to wriggle through, using up the last of her Stone Shape scrolls in the process.
They made their way further up and came to the bottom of a vertical sluice, down which was showering the usual unmentionable stuff, and got up it with Novi Levitating and everyone else either hanging off her or sitting on her Floating Disc. They came up out the top of the shaft and found themselves in a massive, echoing reservoir, with huge arched pillars stretching off in every direction further than their lights could reach.
Novi (and therefore everyone else) floated up to bob against the vaulted roof, and another bearing was taken. Off they went again, pulling themselves slowly along, until Novi's spell wore off unexpectedly, dropping everyone down into the deep, liquid, disturbingly tepid effluent.
Their precipitous dunking had left them without any real idea of which way they should be going, but Erasmus took over the transportation role with his Gloves of Swimming and Climbing and just towed everyone else at a great rate through the... let's call it water, shall we?
He observed a glow from somewhere over there, brighter than the usual run of slimy luminescence, and made for it for want of any other direction. The drag of the other three behind him slowed his rate of swimming considerably, but even so he was churning through the muck at about three miles per hour, and once he had a definite heading it only took him about twenty minutes to make it to what appeared to be an island of poo jutting up from the surrounding sewage.
At its top-most point was the source of the light, a gently glowing crystal sarcophagus that looked very promising from their mummy-collection point of view. Clustered around it, and down at the shoreline watching them come in, was a crowd of peculiar rotund little creatures that appeared to be themselves made from poo... a less promising sight.
The Poop-Men waddled down to the water's edge and formed a crescent around Our Heroes' landing spot, burping and piping noises that sounded mostly like wet, juicy, flatulence. However, after a moment or two, Novi found that they were actually speaking words, and understandable words at that. "Welcome strangers," said the largest one at the back, "welcome to our beautiful island! Take your ease here, rest and eat and drink freely of our bounty!"
This big Poo-Man was clearly the leader, as all the others deferred to it, and besides it had a crown of gold nuggets embedded in its head, and it carried a crude sceptre, also of bright, shining gold. On closer examination, it turned out that it was actually not much larger than any of the others, but was being carried around by four others.
A group of Poo-People came waddling forth with cups and bowls that looked just a little too faecal for comfort, containing some distinctly excremental lumps and liquids. The team, heroic though they might be under other circumstances, elected not to try these culinary dainties, to the obvious disappointment of their hosts.
Our gang of loveable bodysnatchers took the opportunity to get some rest and recuperate their spells and what not in a place where, for a change, everything wasn't trying to kill them.
After some time had passed, and they were feeling a little better (though not much could be done about the accumulation of filth that had managed to seep into every nook and cranny) they investigated the crystal sarcophagus. Sure enough, clearly visible therein was a mummy. Of course, considering the number of mummies in the world, it was statistically unlikely that this was the exact mummy they were looking for, but they decided it was worth the gamble and proceeded to abuse the trust of their kind and helpful hosts by attempting to break into the coffin.
The Poo-Folk did not take kindly to this, though initially they restricted themselves to attempting to restrain the grave-robbers from their misguided and sacriligious activities. That didn't last long: Novi brutally murdered King Fex with a Fireball (which, incidentally, also incinerated Cezain, who was invisible at the time) and the Poo-Men got quite a bit more agitated. To cut a long story short, our jolly band went and did a bit of genocide, destroying them all down to the last wriggling fragment of shit.
Then they broke into the seamless crystal coffin with a simple Knock spell, yoinked out the mummy, and stuffed it straight into their Portable Hole. Oh yes, and they also stole King Fex's crown and sceptre, pulling the nuggets from his charred and steaming "flesh".
But never mind, it was for The Greater Good after all.
After resting up for a while, they broke open the last of their Crystal Eggs to replace Steve's last dead character with another character who might just as well remain nameless, since he's not going to last long at all. You might think that's a spoiler, but really....
The New Guy had a Feather Token boat, which they used to go off in search of the adit they'd come up. Since they had no real frame of reference, finding that particular one would have been stupendously lucky, and in fact they weren't that lucky. However, they did find one of the hundreds of others, and went down that, coming down eventually into a main arterial flow-pipe very much like the other they'd wandered down for so long.
There were two major differences though: first, there was very little liquid flowing down the channel — where the last one had been lapping right up at the walkways, this one had barely a trickle running through a deep layer of semi-solid muck at least three feet below the level of the path. And second, they could hear (and feel) a low, regular pulsation that seemed to be coming from all around.
They proceeded upstream this time, as much as there was a stream at all.
To strip events of all drama, I'll just say that they were attacked first by a swarm of dachshund-sized fly-like creatures that had a good go at paralyzing everyone and laying their eggs in them, and they probably would have too if the worthless DM hadn't forgotten that the Good (?) Guys could only see 60’ and would therefore not have had time to Fireball the swarm. And then later on they were attacked by what appeared to be a vaguely humanoid swarm of maggots, which killed Steve's Disposable Character #5,736 due to his pointless and futile recklessness.
And there we stopped.
After a bit of a rest, and the traditional looting of Steve's corpse, the team proceeded up the sewer line. Taxon the Ranger heard some suspicious skittering, and a pause and thump, and then more, faster skittering from the darkness up ahead (everyone else remained blissfully oblivious at this time) and was therefore able to react when a hideous Carrion Crawler came swarming along the ceiling and down the wall on to them.
Novi and Taxon were both paralyzed by the Carrion Crawler, de-paralyzed by Erasmus with his staff, and paralyzed again before Erasmus, in a panicked survival frenzy, managed to crack its chitinous head open so the goopy bug-stuff oozed out and it died.
After neutralizing the Crawler poison flowing in Novi's and Taxon's veins, they investigated further up the path and found a rigid, paralyzed body — Steve's newest character, Max, another wizard, who was immediately de-paralyzed by Erasmus. He's been trapped on this Sewer Plane for some time; all his original companions are now dead, and so would he be if he hadn't been succoured by his only allies in this world, a charming and friendly tribe of Poop-People, to whom he is eternally grateful.
There were some sideways glances and shuffling of feet amongst Our Heroes. Nobody let on about the ghastly fate of the Poop-Folk, annihilated for attempting to fulfill their vows of protection. Such a tragic loss.
Max led the team back to one of his secret lairs, a small cave accessible through a collapse in one of the sewer walls. He kept his (very filthy) bedroll there, along with a few other useful bits and pieces, and his last precious few candle stubs. Everyone introduced themselves, and it became quickly apparent that Max had become somewhat addled by his experiences in the World of Shit.
The Wishing Ring was a completely fortuitous magic item, rolled up absolutely randomly from the treasure tables when Max was being generated. Handy though.
Max was pathetically grateful for his rescue from the Carrion Crawler, since otherwise, if not for our Brave Companions, he'd either be Crawler food, or worse, a Crawler Nursery. So grateful in fact that he decided to make use of his most precious posession, a Ring of Wishes with a single wish remaining. He'd been hoarding it until all hope of escape by other means was utterly despaired of (not least because the ring was somewhat capricious in its fulfillment of his wishes to date — it was the ring that sent him here in the first place just because he'd wished to go somewhere warm).
He put on the ring and wished that he and his new friends were back at their Apparatus-like Device of Kwalish-ish....
....and so they were. Underwater, in pitch black freezing water, drowning.
Fortunately, nobody panicked, nobody inhaled water, and thanks to Taxon's Continual Lighted sweat-rag headband they could see the Apparatus. Everyone got inside before anyone started drowning seriously, and after a period of coughing and wheezing everyone was just fine. And, most importantly, NOT in a World of Shit! Or at least, only metaphorically in a world of shit.
Erasmus immediately — or almost immediately, after a bit of praying to Mother Shipton in thanks at their deliverance and in relief at once again being in contact with his deity — got out Eyeless' Mouth and Ear Box and reported their return and successful retrieval of the next Bride and Rod segment. After what seemed like an interminable period of getting nothing back but hold music ("The Girl From Ipanema", as it happens) he got a terse message from Eyeless instructing them not, under any circumstances, to return to Boarlesions, but to meet him as soon as possible at The Dancing Dog at Reic.
They set off immediately, swimming the Apparatus northwards under the ice, looking for a river-mouth large enough to still have water flowing. When they found one, they set off up it until it became too cramped to safely maneuver. They formulated a plan whereby Erasmus would Part Water on the river, and Novi would Lightning Bolt the crap out of the ice sheet above and, hopefully, allow them to crawl the Apparatus up on to the river bank.
As it turned out, the Lightning Bolt was entirely superfluous. When Erasmus cast his spell, the water across the entire width of the river drew back, leaving them high and dry in their machine. So far, so good. However, the river didn't stop flowing, and as it backed up upstream, it burst the ice which fell forward in an avalanche of ice-boulders, smashing and denting the Apparatus badly.
With some masterful (and extremely lucky) piloting, Novi managed to get them out of the path of the ice-fall and up on to the bank before the machine was completely destroyed, and they walked it off northwards, now screeching, squeaking and clanking alarmingly.
This was, apparently, the first time in nearly forty-odd years of roleplaying that Annette had found a use for this spell.
They decided to hide it and proceed on the Flying Carpet, and so found a small rocky gully to leave it in, further disguising the hiding place with a Hallucinatory Terrain spell.
From the outside, the severity of the damage to the Apparatus became truly apparent. A couple of the legs were badly twisted, one of the grabber-claws had been wrenched off completely, and the shell was badly dented and pierced in places. It would certainly no longer be waterproof.
Max was put into the Portable Hole to keep him from freezing to death, relying on there being about a day's worth of air in there to keep him alive, and the team unrolled the carpet and flew off northwards, following the foothills of the mountains of the Sliabhraon Nathrach. With such an un-missable landmark, and knowing reasonably well where they should be going, there should have been no trouble at all in getting to Reic and the Dancing Dog.
And there probably wouldn't have been. If not for... [OMINOUS CHORDS] ....
The first warning the Good Guys had that there might be Færy-folk about was when they noticed that the bleak, dead, frozen forest they were flying over appeared to be healthy and leafy, and there were occasional twinkling lights to be seen. Shortly thereafter, they began to be plagued by little flying firefly-like sprites which whizzed around and among them, getting into their Stuff, and panicking the Carpet when they began messing with its tassels and trying to unravel it.
It gave a cowardly shriek and took off as fast as it could go, until it had left the sprites behind. That would have been fine, except that the party — or at least, Novi and Erasmus (who had failed their saves) — had been befuddled by færy magic, and when they thought they were flying west out toward the plain, they were in fact flying in exactly the opposite direction, towards the mountains, full of trolls, giants, and all those sorts of things. Nothing Taxon said could convince them otherwise, and at last all she could do was to convince htem to land once they got above the tree-line, in the hope that with time they might come to their senses.
Taxon collected firewood from the abundance of dead trees nearby, and got a fire going. Neither Novi nor Erasmus showed any signs of regaining their sense of direction. They opened the Portable Hole briefly to refresh Max's air supply, and then folded him up again to keep him unfrozen.
And then, of course, things got worse.
A mist gathered, and rapidly became a dense fog. The fire died away almost to nothing; Erasmus tried to stoke it, and it did flame up very briefly, but then went out entirely. And then the snow around the campsite began churning and bubbling and grew up into huge vaguely humanoid forms which immediately attacked Our Heroes, grabbing them and stuffing them deep within their bodies.
Fortunately for Our Guys, the creatures had not accounted for their Rings of Warmth, so instead of being instantly snap-frozen they were just crushed a bit until they managed to fight their way free and knock the creatures apart.
One good thing: the fight seemed to have cleared the heads of Novi and Erasmus, so they all jumped back on the carpet and flew down towards the lights of the Dancing Dog, and the pathetic frozen remains of the once-thriving trading city of Reic.
I got extremely slack about keeping track of this journal, so this is just a quick catch-up.
Our heroes made their way north through and under the mountains of the Worldwall courtesy of the Dwarfs, whose ancient kingdom and manufacturies are there.
On the way, Doctor Erasmus met a small populations of humans, descendants of a travelling carnival and worshippers of Mother Shipton, who had taken refuge with the Dwarfs a couple of generations ago. They'd been eking out a bare living in a series of old unused chambers, living on fungus and rothé, and though in general not treated unkindly by their Dwarvish hosts, they were definitely second-class citizens. The good Doctor consecrated their lay preacher as an official priest of Mother Shipton, and left them with some religious paraphernalia and a few hundred gold pieces to ease their lives a bit. All very commendable.
The party flew out the other side of the Worldwall on their Flying carpet, and entered Imreas through a pass in the northern part of the surrounding hills. All appeared dead and barren below, with only the hive-towers jutting up above the deep snow. Readings with their Rod segmet indicated that their next target was somewhere below the largest of the towers, towards the southern end of the basin.
No entrance could be found in the main tower, so they entered via the tunnels into one of the subsidiary towers surrounding it. They began encountering dead, frozen formians, of several different sizes and types.
It soon became apparent that moving on foot wouldn't be easy, or even possible: the passages within the mound were laid out in three dimensions, not two, clearly to accommodate the needs of creatures that could walk up walls and on ceilings as well as across the floors. The passages appeared to be not so much designed as roads, as simple gaps left between a dense network of disturbingly intestinal pipes and ducts constructed from some kind of dark, glossy resin.
It did not take them long to find the first of the hatcheries, where they discovered that the formians liked to use living hosts for their larvae. Or at least, they used to be living: everything was dead and frozen, and covered with a rime of hoar frost which made the footing doubly treacherous. This was just the first of many such hatcheries, and they began to think that perhaps the formians were not a wholly sympathetic species.
They moved further in to the labyrinth, ever downward.
Their first encounter with anything living was in a very large chamber, filled with stacked row upon row of vats, containing god knows what. Scuttling about among them were pure white cockroach-like bugs, about the size of a corgi. The bugs ignored them.
What did not ignore them were a group of soldier-formians, which attacked them on sight. These too were pure white, unlike any of the others they'd seen frozen on the way in. They were fought off with a fireball, which appered to ignite something that burned very fiercely and gave off a dense smoke — the team retreated on their carpet, but a couple more of the soldiers dropped own on to it from above and started slashing about with their slashy snicker-snack arms, one of them dancing all over Erasmus on their pointy stabby-feet. More importantly, before they were dispatched, they'd also been dancing around all over the carpet with their stabby-feet, and had cut large holes into its weave. This made the carpet profoundly unhappy.
Our heroes decided to take care of the bugs with a Cloudkill spell, for which they had a scroll. So, Max whipped it out, confident of his ability to cast the spell since it was not too far above his usual ability, and proceed to fuck up most impressively. The Cloudkill appeared directly on his position, surrounding the team in a thick, choking, roiling cloud of corrosive vapour, from which they retreated coughing and choking, with all their exposed skin raw from exposure to the poisonous gas. They took advantage of a brief lull in the action to roll up the telepathically-whimpering carpet and put it into the Portable Hole.
Another attack came soon after, again from above, and Max could hear more skittering and chittering approaching from the passageway behind them — he formulated a cunning plan to Polymorph the first of them into a blue whale, which would certainly plug the passage and doorway. This did not, alas, occur.
He was using a substitute for the proper material component for the spell, which worked only partially, and instead of turning the lead soldier into a massive blue whale, it turned into a sort of dolphin-like abomination with spiky slashy arms! Doh!
Behind him, the rest of the party discovered how these white formians had adapted to the frozen world: somehow they now had some kind of acidic antifreeze for blood, which meant that every time anyone chopped a bit off, they got splashed with acid. And when Novi chopped them up with her Flame-tongue, the acid also ignited! Great for killing the creatures quickly, but it did mean that the party ended up taking more damage from killing their foes than their foes ever actually managed to inflict on them on purpose. Not to mention that Novi managed to get her Bag of Holding destroyed, causing it to spit its contents out (including the Diadem of the Maiden) all over the place.
Max decided that perhaps preventing the things from getting at his team might be a good idea, so he cast a Web spell across the doorway, and then another one above them, both of which worked a treat. Until the gigantic bloated acid-spraying bug arrived at the doorway and blasted the web away with its corrosive spray (coincidentally killing the soldiers actually caught in the web, but life's pretty cheap to that sort).
It started repressurizing itself for a devastating acid spray at the Good Guys, when Novi hit it with a spell of some kind that I don't remember. Anyway, a catastrophic failiure of its saving throw, and it exploded in great gobbets of sticky burning napalm, killing all the soldiers that had crowded up behind it ready to surge into the chamber! Hoorah!
There was a lull in the battle. No more enemies appeared. After a while, the Cloudkill blocking their way forward dispersed, and they made their way forward again, through the vast chamber and down a steeply-sloping passage.
They came out into another largish chamber, and were confronted by a gigantic maggot-like creature with scyth-arms, protected by about a dozen bodyguards, larger than the soldiers they'd been fighting to this point, and with four slashy-arms instead of two. Also, to either side of them and encircling the chamber were hundreds and hundreds of egg cases, one of which opened just as half the bodyguards attacked.
Erasmus was attacked by a facehugger from the egg-case, and had its nasty barbed ovipositor thrust down his esophagus, which didn't make him happy at all. Novi and Taxon were each attacked by three of the bodyguards, which snicker-snacked like anything and proceeded to roll more fumbles in a shorter period of time than had ever been seen before.
To cut a long story short, the bodyguard performed much less impressively than might have been hoped, and the queen and her remaining bodyguards took the opportunity to scuttle away down an exit chute. Taxon managed to haul the facehugger off and out of Erasmus by brute strength, after trying to cut it free and drenching him with acidic blood.
In a fit of extreme (but totally justified) paranoia, Erasmus cast a Cure Disease on himself in case of impregnation. The DM, regrettably, neglected to remember that he wouldn't have been able to speak owing to the fact that his throat and esophagus had just been torn to shreds by having the thing's ovipositor dragged out, but as it happened he needn't have worried as it hadn't yet had a chance to lay its egg. Novi, meanwhile, was going around all the other eggs and stabbing them through with her Flame-tongue.
Using their Rod segment, they found the next mummy (and Rod-bit) in a cyst in the floor, beneath where the queen had been sat. They dragged it out, and Novi used her Teleport scroll to get everyone back to the house in Skrær, where they found Eyeless (probably Eyeless, who else could it be?) waiting.
Just one mummy left to find now.
It's in Hell. Oh dear.
I really should be a bit less tardy about writing up these game reports, as a lot of this is now so far in the past that I have only the haziest memories about what actually happened.
Rather than go north again through (or around) the Worldwall, the party elected to go south, to the other Hellmouth of which they were aware. It was located not all that far away from one of their earlier adventures, in the Curséd Land.
The journey south was fairly uneventful, though painful and wearying for the poor carpet, which was still suffering from the damage inflicted on it by the Imrean warrior-bug creatures.
The blessed uneventfulness did not last though.
I don't recall exactly how, but Max got killed again, and so did the carpet — I vaguely recall it was by being Ice Stormed by an Ice Devil cunningly disguised as a fluffy bunny rabbit. Max got better, the carpet did not.
There was a fight right at the entry to the Hellmouth with another Ice Devil that had been out collecting maggot-creatures; it summoned another and then scarpered down into the Hellmouth, leaving the party to kill its reinforcement. The party chased the fleeing devil down into the chasm, which got steeper and steeper and steeper, and started closing behind them like a great rock sphincter.
At one point on the way down, Erasmus was grabbed about the head by a creature that emerged out of the rock, and which tried to drag him back into it. Our heroes fought it off before it could achieve its aim, and before Ras could be dragged far enough into the rock to be stuck there when it let go, but it tore him up something awful, and they feared for his survival with such terrible injuries. At some point, Max had one arm badly broken too; I don't recall exactly how, only that Taxon managed to not make it much worse with her first aid.
However, her attempt to heal Erasmus with the Staff of Curing went disastrously wrong, and she dropped it down into the bottomless pit!
(Curiously, both Ras and Max healed from their injuries remarkably quickly, neither of them much the worse for wear except for the hideous scarring: Erasmus has been left looking a bit like Freddy Krueger, and Max has an unpleasantly lumpy looking arm, though it seems to work OK.)
Taxon immediately leapt out after it, relying on her Wings of Flying to catch up with it. Alas, she had forgotten that she was roped up to Max, who was jerked off after her.
More farce ensued, in which Taxon did manage to catch the Staff before it hit the ground and shattered into a bajillion pieces, but Max was not so lucky and died again. And then got better. Again.
They were followed down, a lot more slowly, by Novi and Erasmus.
They found themselves in a dark, soot-covered landscape of cinder slag-heaps, littered everywhere, every ten or twenty yards, with iron coffins, from which the sound of screaming could be heard. The slag underfoot was uncomfortably warm, the iron coffins were scorching hot. On the horizon all round could be seen a red glow, and from time to time large daddy-longlegs-like things of indeterminate species could be seen moving about, silhouetted against it.
A certain amount of dithering occurred, and Novi spent some time hammering off the latch on one of the coffin-ovens to drag out the screaming roasted inmate. It was clearly humanoid, but otherwise so scorched up that its species, or even its sex, was impossible to tell. It did not stop screaming.
They took a bearing with the Rod segment in their posession, which now actually showed them a definite direction — it had not, previously — which, regrettably, was downwards. They tried digging at first, but found that the loose, sliding cinder-slag not only wasn't ideal for digging any kind of shaft in, but got rapidly hotter and hotter as they went down.
They decided to head off towards the horizon glow, and chose to fly: Taxon with her Wings, carrying Novi and the coffin-roasty, and Erasmus on his Ebony Fly, along with Max. They soon found out that just a few yards above the ground there were swarms of huge biting horseflies, that immediately latched on to everyone and started stinging and sucking their blood.
They landed again to get away from the flies and to take stock, and eventually started walking in an arbitrary direction towards the horizon glow. I believe they abandoned the screaming roasty-person at this point, feeling that the constant screaming might attract unwanted attention.
They spotted a patrol of what looked like humanoid insect-creatures, and attempted to hide from them by burrowing (shallowly) beneath the loose clinker. They were not completely successful; somebody (I don't recall who) was spotted, and pounced on. A fight ensued.
A couple of the devils were dispatched, but the others managed to grapple the party with their grabby-claws, and then they unfolded their beetle-like wings and flew noisily and erratically off, carrying their "escaped souls".
The guys could see, as they got closer, that the horizon glow came from massive iron walls, glowing red hot, and with devilish sentries patrolling their battlements. Before the walls were great corrals, full of naked and terrified people, which were being herded and catalogued by a variety of fiendish guards. People were being loaded into iron coffins, which were then loaded on to the huge daddy-longlegs creatures and taken off away into the dark slag-fields; others of them could be seen bringing coffins in from the fields to have their now blackened skeletonized contents decanted, given weapons, and set into ranks in vast skeletal regiments arrayed about a gate through the red-hot wall.
Our heroes were dropped unceremoniously into one of the sorting corrals; none of the devil-guards had (yet) paid any more attention to them than to any of the others in the pens, inspite of being significantly less naked than the rest of the crowds.
More to Come Later