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 posession 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.
More to Come Later