Thursday, June 27, 2013

Free RPG Day Story post

January 1st, 3200
{This is the first of a two part rendition of the Free RPG Day Modules: Imperishable Sorceress by Daniel J. Bishop followed by the Tower out of Time module by Michael Curtis.  We are using the Dungeon Crawl Classics Core rules and a slew of House rules from Critters Creatures, & Denizens as well as some amterial from my up comming book Liber Arcanum.  There are MASSIVE MODULE SPOILERS, AND TAILORED ALTERATIONS to fit my game world, so if you are going to play these awesome modules it don't read beyond this point.

This post also has expanded details and descriptions so as to afford the audience a wider lens upon the unfolding area and events.  The following account includes details that the characters could not see, know, or failed to recognize in the heat of the moment.  This post also includes the map information below, tailored area maps I've drawn or heavily modified from various sources, as well as a few manifestation effects that we forgot to account for or couldn't detail due to our haste. 

 The players had access to the pics in this post as table hand-outs, but I naturally focused on the areas essential to the scene for the three players.

Area map of Thire:
I made this map for my last game, but they bypassed it using a quasi-legal teleport spell so I recycled it here.  The area map is rendered to show the start of the current era, one day after the Winter Solstice, which is also known as Highwater in the northern hemisphere of my version of Aereth.  I decided to place this module in an area that would allow me to show some of the changes wrought by the sub-tropical latitude and the Great Tide as it is called by the folks of Thire.  Large parts of Thire are transformed into a vast salt water marsh for most of the winter months of the year do to the unique geography of the region.  

An escarpment with an average height of 150 to 200 feet begins at the southern end of the Ul Dominor Mountains immediately south of Hali in the north.  The cliffs travel in a generally east-west direction until they form the western edge of the Fartrader river valley.  The escarpment continues to trend southward before turning back to the west.  At this point they form part of the northern boundary of White Tip Lake as the cliffs meander westward through the heart of Thire and back to the southern foothills of the mighty Ul Dominor Range.  This large plate of granite dividing the country harshly into Uplands and Lowlands; as the locals call these areas.  These rivers have no names in the DCC #35 set.  So the major river flowing from the from north to south through the heart of Thire in my setting is called the Hath River.  Its four major tributaries are: from north to south and traveling counter-clockwise; the Ferahn River, the Thorn River, and the Cerise River.  The the greatest tributary to the Hath is the Groldak, which plummets over the edge of the plateau west of Bridgeport.  

The hamlet of Wodfeld {Øone games} is on Hath Creek which is a tributary to the Cerise River that is too small to be pictured on this map.  The Crimson Forrest sits between the Groldak and the Cerise and is considered untamed wilderness.  At this time of year the average height of the southern and eastern edges of the escarpment are only 100 to 150ft and the mighty Hath River is just the deepest, and clearest channel through the great salt marsh of the southern lowlands which has an average depth of only 50 feet of brackish, fetid water.  Lastly, large sections of the roadway are submerged and useless.  This requires that passage be arranged via ship or air-ship.  The rich and a small fracxtion of merchants travel via the two nodes that Thire maintains on the Imperial Teleport Network; one at Argolis, and one inside of Hath Hall.}

A new year dawns over the sub-tropical highlands of Thire and brings strange tidings and ill omens to the world in the form of a green comet bright enough to be seen even in the daytime sky.  The new comet is thought to be a harbinger of war, strife, and disease.  For the good folks of the hamlet of Wodfeld {Øone games} this was particularly true.  Normally this tiny burg is peaceful and quiet, squatting upon the banks of Hath Creek and its people make their living trading lumber and simple but well-made fabrics to the river borne traders.  Hath creek flows from the northwest to the southeast and feeds into the Cerise River which begins its journey four days up river in the foothills of the Ul Dominor Mountains. Hath Hall, only two day’s journey downstream by barge, sits on a tor of rock in the middle of the Cerise as it spills over the cliffs to the lowlands below.  All the roads in town are made of compacted gravel and dirt; none of them actually travels anywhere except to the log cabins of foresters and ranchers.  To the southwest and across the creek is the old road that leads to the edge of the Crimson Wood.  No one except sister Nylina ever goes there, and she only does so because the herbs and medicines that grow there are incredibly potent and worthy of the effort.

1. Iron Axe Inn -Dwarf proprietor, Khandar Haan
2. Handy Halvorson's General Store -Human proprietor, Mr. Halvorson; general low level equipment.
3. Temple Mortuary of Soleth, 3 brothers led by Br. Delwin
3a. Grove of Ildavir the Goddessof Life and Nature- tended by the Sisters of Ildavir under the guidance of the elderly Sister Nylina
3b. Home of the Clerics of Soleth
4. Gurt's Smithy, human proprietor
5. Burned wreckage of Elber's Alehouse
6. Cemetary
7. road network
8. Hath Creek
9. Saw Mill- Human proprietor Aldwin Gunderson
10a. Burned wreckage of Main Bridge
10b. South Bridge
11. Remains of old Wizard Bertrand's house
11a. Remains of Bertrand's animal pens
12. Home of the Sister's of Ildavir 
13. wreckage of the Butcher shop
13a. wrecked animal pens

The entire Hath Plateau has always had stories of weird creatures and odd magical surges, but no one could ever remember seeing anything until after the last month or so.  That’s when these started showing up:  
Trilobite -Copied form Wikipedia

These armor plated nuisances will chew your toes off if you let them; though they have gotten rid of all the rats.  But this morning as you look about the remains of your homes, your gaze swings past the charred remains of Main Bridge (10a) you’re just glad to be alive.  It had been sacrificed to force those horrible lizards to cross the much narrower South Bridge (10b).  That’s where you and the rest of the townsfolk held off the pack of man-sized feathered lizards.

Everyone had assumed that ol’man Bertrand was up to his strange tricks again.   As the hamlet’s only wizard he was useful in scaring off problematic monsters, but his proclivity for experimentations with the blending of creature types had caused problems before.  Nothing as bad as this before, many of the foresters and ranchers lost their lives in the night or would soon join their lost loved ones in last night’s defense of Wodfeld. 
They looked like this, but they have feathers and scales:

Dilophosaurus -Copied form Wikipedia

It was a trio of brave souls who ventured into the old wizard’s house to see what had gone wrong.  And so it came to pass that it was Dyze H. Orribly the village cooper, a travelling elven barrister named Daria and Jane Doe one of the town’s few remaining hunters who ventured into the wreckage to see what had happened to Bertrand the wizard.  They found his dead body savaged by the lizard beasts, but the elf confirmed that there was no other evidence of wizardly mischief.  The lizards had definitely started from here though no portal or other source could be found.  However, their brave searching yielded a substantial haul of old silver coinage and the everlasting esteem of the rest of the village.  During the rummaging Daria had been mesmerized by a strange chunk of unshaped quartz that broke apart when she picked it up.  The freed Earth Elemental had been so happy that it granted her knowledge of Hraalvid, Lord of Stone.

Gathering with the others at the Iron Axe afterwards, they find that the Dwarven proprietor was giving out free pints to all and he’d been letting ol’man Gunderson, who operates the town’s sawmill, drink steadily for an hour or more.  The miller had lost his wife when they torched Main Bridge.  As the rest of the town got back to life the three Brothers of Soleth were tending to the dead while several of the Sisters of Ildavir bound wounds and offered healing to the living, most every other able body were on a work detail burying the critters out away from town.  The town’s heroes were allowed to take their ease and ponder upon the things they’d learned.  Jane had discovered a knack for finding dangers and being sneaky; she’d discovered that she was pretty good at thieving and that it was far more lucrative than hunting.  Dyze Orribly had a new found zest for combat so he decides to seek glory on the warrior’s path.  Daria had spent the last 30 years working for the newly independent government of Thire, and for the last 2 years she’d been travelling to the various towns and remote villages updating their law books and making sure that everyone had access to justice.  Unlike the rest of her elven kindred she’d not really had much interest in spell casting.  She paid homage to the Elf King as earnestly as her kin, but it wasn’t until that Elemental gifted her with the knowledge of the Lord of Earth that she considered a career in the arcane arts.  However, with a taste for the rewards of an adventuring life she decided to embrace the power of the earth and become a geomancer.

While they’re hoisting their mugs to honor the dead (Dyze is on his seventh round already) they are approached by the remainder of the town council: Gurt the blacksmith, Mr. Halvorson, the owner of the general store, and Khandar the retired Dwarven stone mason and adventurer turned Ostler.  The grocer steps forward and addresses the party.

Mr. Halvorson; “We’re really appreciative of your brave deeds, but without a definite cause for last night’s troubles we were hoping that we could entice you to look into some troubling rumors?  We can pay you 50gp and each of you can have one weapon from the confiscated weapons locker… I hear that most of them are magical.”

Gurt, “We can’t.  Needs a vote and we don’t have enough people now that…” They all look to Mr. Gunderson.

Mr. Halvorson; “Her wisdom will be greatly missed, but this is an emergency and I’m still head of the council.”

Dyze; “Yahoo!  Sounds great!”  Nearly falls out of his chair.

Jane thinks to herself if I stay around here it won’t be long before I’m in jail… “Sure. I’ll go, but those had better be some good weapons.”

Gurt; “There’s nothin there bu’what’s there! Just be happy you gets one.”

Daria; “To be clear.  We get the gold and the weapon now?”

Khandar; “Ya get th’gold when ya get back.”  Handing another drink to ol’man Gunderson.

Daria thinks for a while, “I don’t know, magic weapons can be dangerous.  What’s been going on?”

Mr. Halvorson; “Well, there’s these reports from several of the lumbermen and foresters lately about more o’ those lil’ bug things off in the forests south of here.  We dismissed it until one of the junior Sisters of Ildavir spotted a large infestation close to the Crimson Wood.”  Then there is that blood red beam lancing out to the Heavens.  That started this morning.”

All three chime in with various forms of “What Beam?”

Gurt, “Y’all were in the wizard’s place when it started. But y’can see it through the window.”

Even in the wan light of mid-morning, they could see a reddish pink vertical smudge in the sky to the south along with the suggestion of story weather on the horizon.

Daria; “And we get to keep the items, even if we fail?”

Gurt; “Yes.”

Daria; “OK. Besides, I might learn something new…How are we to get there?”

Mr. Halvorson; “There’s horses in the pen… no… they got eaten…  There’s still a mule and a wagon out behind my place.  You’re welcome to use them as long as you promise to at least bring back the mule.”

Daria, “Well I guess it’s better than walking.”

They get up to follow the council to the vault, but hang back a moment gathering their things.  As they walk through the door they notice several sensations and sights in quick succession: one of the town’s few remaining stray dogs comes running down the street and barking madly and passing very close to them, the next thing they notice is the loud humming noise like million bees coming from all around them; lastly, there is a blinding flash of light.  All is blackness for a heartbeat and then their senses are bombarded by several new sensations all at once. 

In priority order: there is the nearly overwhelming sense that they are going to explode from the pain and pressure as their bodies try to adjust to going from near sea level to near the top of a mountain in so brief a span of time.  In the haze of pain, they see their breath fogging in front of them as they experience true cold for the first time in their lives.  The barking of the dog just adds to their misery and they are glad to see it run away awkwardly through the snow and off into the dark forest behind them.  Its barks getting fainter the further it travels until they are cut of violently.

The pain starts to clear a little, and that’s when they hear the war cries and drums behind them and coming from the dark forest of strange trees whose leaves are naught but clumps of needles; giving them a shaggy appearance under the slate grey sky.  Dyze seems un-phased by the cold, but Jane and Daria start shivering.  It is about this time that they see two golden humanoids emerge from the forest to the party’s right.  These humans are taller, more muscular and bulkier than normal, and they are gold skinned and wear only loincloths as well as the antler’d skulls of deer.

Dyze, “Damn!  How they handling the cold without any clothes!?  I should go take their magical golden clothing so I can be warm.”  And starts to creep forward towards the golden humanoids.

Jane is too busy studying the way ahead of them to notice anything else.  Her practiced hunter’s eye takes in the road, the black mass of mountain that looks like a cloven hoof; but most importantly, she surveys the cairn mounds that squat on both sides of the road.  These massive piles of jumbled rock were the only cover and high ground of any use to them at the moment.

Daria spots another 8 golden humanoids as they step out of the forest to their left, but farther from the party than Dyze’s targets. “More trouble over here!” and then she yells outat the interlopers, “Back off or I’ll unleash my magic upon you!”  And she starts waiving her hands menacingly at them.

All of the tribesmen continue to advance; a third group more than a dozen strong steps out of the woods to their right far enough away to be a difficult bow shot.  The sounds of drums, ecstatic shouts, and ululating calls from the woods behind them are getting louder.  Daria observes the rhythmic character of their movements and the repetitive nature of their cries and yells out, “I think we are to play a brief but vital part in someone’s ritual!  The woods are NOT safe!” And she hurls 3 flaming arrows at the feet of the humanoids to their left.  One hits the snow directly in front of their advance; showering them with snow and steam, the other two land to the right and left of the golden humanoids with similar effects.  Four of them panic and run back into the trees as they see her transform and take on a skeletal appearance.  Daria is surprised, “Huh, I didn’t think that would work.”

Dyze yells; “I’ll have the secret of your warmth!” and closes the distance a bit more.

Jane notches an arrow to her short bow and sprints forward, “Get to the high ground!”

Daria looks about and sees the rest of what is going on and sighs exasperatedly when she spots Dyze just in time to see the charge of the two tribesmen. “What are you doing?!  We don’t have time for this!”

Dyze was too far for a standard charge, so they sprinted forward at him, one swings his stone axe and draws blood from a minor cut.  His companion simply stood there sucking in air in great volumes.  With glee in his eyes Dyze swings his battle axe at his attacker, cleaving him horizontally and forcing the bulk of the remains onto the other, knocking down the winded tribesman.  The warrior can see now that they are in fact painted with a paint of gold powder and tree sap that smells faintly of grease.

Daria follows Jane’s example while calling out to Dyze’s back, “You fool! There’s too many of them get over here!”

Dyze finally looks around, hearing quite a commotion from the woods and is forced to concede that she’s right.  As he’s running to catch up with them he realizes that none of the tribal warriors had any serious ranged weapons. We could take them if we had enough firepower. Then he looks back to see more than a hundred take one singular step forward out of the tree line as the others run forward to stop abruptly at an invisible line just below the cairns.  They are all screaming ecstatically now.  As the trio of adventurers run on up into the heights, none of them sees the Shaman of the People consecrate a new cairn for their fallen comrade.

Three hours later they rest for a moment, and see that they are now so high up the mountain, following the spine of the mountain’s western flank, that they can see nothing but dark, shaggy forest below them stretching on for miles and miles.  Beyond that and to the east there is a far distant sea choked with floating ice.  The cold is severe enough now that even their running cannot keep them warm.  Dyze again appears to be immune to the deadly chill, but the elf is slowly turning blue and Jane’s teeth are chattering violently.  Jane pulls a deer pelt from her belongings, cuts some holes and turns it into a poncho with the fur side in to stave off the worst of the cold.  But continuing to run forward and trying to find shelter is Daria’s only hope of staying alive and on they run. 

An hour later they come to the end of the road.   

The ridge of the mountain had been shaped and enhanced long ago to create sheer cliffs on either side of the 20ft wide strip of road.  Likewise, the much larger ledge to which the road had taken them was bounded by similar drop offs into the misty forests below.  Daria seems to know instinctively that a landslide covered over this ledge quite some time ago, but that the same geologic instability has ripped away the doors to an underground complex and is busy explaining this to everyone when something odd happens.  Dyze gets a strange glazed look in his eyes and holds his axe high and he runs forward; Jane sighs and tries to nab him by the collar, but fails. “By the blood of Ivrian I have come!” can be heard echoing from inside the mouth of the cavern.  Jane and Daria look at each other and then trudge their way to the entrance.  It appears to be a wide arch of 20ft, but they could reach to the top of the arch if they stood under it and stretched a bit.

Jane; “At least its shelter.”

By the time they get inside Dyze has lit a couple of torches and hands one to Daria.  Between those and the last rays of the setting sun behind them they could clearly see the tunnel’s construction is similar to the door, only on a grander scale.  The low vault of the ceiling was scarcely taller than the arch of the entrance which is centered within a hallway that is roughly three times the width of the doorway.  They can see two squat arched hallways leading off the main tunnel; on the left, near the edge of their clear vision as well as a closer one to their right.  They also see that the passage has a noticeable downward arch to its construction, so everything at the end of the tunnel is hidden from them.  Any further examination is cut off as the elf claps her hands to her ears and winces. 

Jane, “What? You OK?”

Daria, rubbing the tips of her ears; “My ears itch.”

Dyze, looking about frantically; “Meaning?”

Daria, pointing to the left hallway; “There’s a powerful magic over that way.”

Dyze; “Should Jane check it out?”

Jane digs around in her kit, pulls out a candle and lights it from his torch; “Ya, probably.” And she sneaks off to see if there are any traps or other hazards.  She glances down the near hallway as she passes and sees what could be described as a sitting room on the other side of a very fancy portcullis of some kind.  Curious, but determined to finish the task at hand she finds that there aren’t any traps at the mouth of the hallway.  She decides to check out the other room on her way back and gets right up close to the portcullis to get a really good look at the room.  The candle light shows an elegant lounge with a dark chair, upholstered in white along with a matching foot stool in the center of the room.  To her right, there was a desk against the wall of the roughly 50ft square room that had an open book and candle holder in it.  However, her attention was drawn to the rattling and shrieking of the metal bars of the portcullis.  It seemed to be reacted to her proximity, retracting in all directions away from the center of the strangely shaped hall to reveal a wide oval aperture wreathed by a ring of intertwined metal bars allowing passage to the next chamber.

Back in the hallway the elf cringes again from the dual onslaught of the shriek of metal and the itch from a powerful arcane source.  She can’t see the sparkling specks of light rapidly flying towards them from somewhere at the other end of the main hall.  Dyze realizes in the second before impact that these tiny motes of wriggling light seem to be a school of tiny fish darting through him as they fly their way through his location on their way to somewhere else.  It is like hundreds of tiny stinging hailstones, but the pain is over swiftly enough and without any apparent damage.  Dyze screams and runs after them with his axe whooshing through their ghostly forms vigorously, but ineffectively.

Daria; “THEY’RE GHOSTS! You can’t hurt them like that!”

Oblivious to everything and furious, Dyze continues to rush after the ghostly minnows and runs straight into the left-hand wall; gashing his forehead, and knocking himself unconscious.  Jane hears the commotion and heads back to the main hall; “I found a sitting room over there,” points behind her as she approaches the scene, “S’ got a comfy chair.” And she grabs one of his arms and looks back up to Daria.

Daria; “Ya, OK.” Grabs his other arm and they drag him to the sitting room for a rest.  While Daria is situating the injured warrior, Jane notices the other exit on the eastern wall on the far side of the sitting room.  Sticking to the center of the passage, she steps through into a much larger room with a vaulted dome for a ceiling.  It is quite obviously an arcane laboratory by the signs and sigils on everything; including the black rectangular slab of rock in the center of the room.  On top of which lay a naked female who was apparently resting peacefully.

Jane; “DARIA!  YOU NEED TO SEE THIS!”  She moves quickly to aid the poor woman.

Dashing in, Daria and Jane both reach the center of the room and find the slightly mummified corpse in the fancy black dress at about the same time. “Wait a minute… something’s not right here.” Says Daria, as she pulls herself back from the two bodies.  Jane follows her lead.  Daria takes a closer look at the young and beautiful woman on the slab, then starts studying the arcane details of the room in earnest.  Seeing all of the vats of congealed goop lining the South wall of the room on their long defunct burners, but she is unable to divine the purpose of these items or the lab.  She can see that the slightly mummified corpse has a severe head injury; she’d read enough criminal records to suspect that this was probably an accident, but there was likely no way to know for sure.  Jane sees that there is a slow stirring of movement in the frozen corpse, but she beheads it before it can get to its feet. She kicks the head and the corpse away from them; “OH no you don’t!  The dead stay dead!”

About this time Dyze wakes up in the comfy chair, slightly confused, but he can hear a ruckus going on in the other room.  He wanders in to see what all the fuss is about just in time to see the mummified head go whizzing off into the far corner.  He dodges out of the way, “What’d I miss?” Then he sees the face of the young woman on the table.

The others catch him staring and Jane says; “I’m going to go look for a blanket or something to cover her up, and wanders out of the room.  Daria continues her searching, and Dyze digs one of those old coins out of his pocket and takes a good long look at it.  He can’t read, but he just seems to know that the letters on the back of the coin say: “Beauty Devours”.  He flips the coin over and sees that the tarnished face of a woman stares back at him.  It is Identical to the lady on the slab; he holds it out to see if it looks like Daria, and then checks it against the face of Jane when she comes back in with a cozy comforter that she found somewhere against all odds.  No match, but they see him doing this and Jane queries him.

“Hey! What’re ya doing? Can I see?”

Dyze; “No! It’s my coin! You can’t have it!” and pulls away from them.

Jane; “I don’t want it; I just want to see it for a second.”

Dyze; “You’ll take it!”

Jane; “No I won’t.  See I’ll even hold onto my thumbs.” And each of her hands grabs the thumb of the other.

Dyze; “Fine.  But you mustn’t even breathe on it!”  And he holds it so they can see the face.

Daria looks back and forth; “That’s uncanny.”

Jane; “Creepy.”

The face in the coin looks incredibly similar to Dyze, only feminine. He puts the coin away.  As they point this out the resemblance to him and he just shrugs.  Daria huffs a bit; “I can’t quite figure out what was being done in this room.  If only there was some more information or something.”

Jane; “There’s a book on the desk back there in the sitting room, maybe that’ll help.”

Daria; “BOOK!  Did you say book? Show me!!”  They all head back to the sitting room and she starts leafing her way through the tome open upon the writing table.  She sees that most of the book is blank, but the rest of it is in a very intricate cypher.  The diagrams and sketches are still enough to show the casual cruelty of its author and give an indication of the type of work conducted in the lab.  Women being stripped of their flesh and other unspeakable Rites dedicated to the pursuit of youth and beauty.  While the elf is doing this they ask Dyze to guard the door to the room in case something comes along and Jane decides to take another look at the lab.  She manages to find both secret passages along the eastern wall; the one on the right opens to a tunnel that spirals down and to the right, descending into the mountain.  When she tries to open the one on the left she nearly misses the telltale increase in the door’s resistance to her push; instinctively she dives back.   She examines the door more carefully and finds that it really is a crude device consisting of painted wooden panels; but closer to the floor she finally discovers that there are two cleverly placed glass rods that are sharp enough to cut someone by themselves, but they also seem to contain swirling gas of some kind.  A few more minutes of searching, and she discovers the catches that allow her to slide them back into the wall. 

She opens the door and sees that it is a bedroom about the size of the sitting room only slightly longer on the north-south direction; with a neat and tidy appearance and a 10ft square closet of some kind on its northern wall.  The room has a bed of dark wood and white linens, there is a chest and other simple furnishings in here; but there is a whisper deep in Jane’s mind that draws her attention back to the bed.  Without understanding why, she crosses to the bed and lifts the mattress to see a jet black scabbard with a black grip and quillion encrusted with rubies.  Jane finds herself reaching out to take this mysterious long sword, but manages to finally resist its seductive call.  Letting the mattress fall, she heads back to the sitting room in time to hear Daria ask Dyze to open the chest that she found.  Before Jane can stop him, Dyze grabs the chest, lifts it, and starts to shake it violently.

Daria; “HEY!  STOP THAT!!” And cringes as she hears something inside make the distinct sound of breaking glass when he starts slamming it against the floor.

Dyze; “If it had a trap I think it would have gone off by now.” But he sets it down and begins to fiddle with the lock.  That’s when a greenish beam lances out to strike him from the glowing rune on the locking plate.  He screams in pain but somehow manages to shake off the spell, but not before the others see that all of his muscles bulged and melted spastically only to repeat the process several times before the effect subsides. There was also a fair amount of screaming on his part.

Jane; “Maybe you’ll let me have a try now?”  After a few moments of searching, “OH! Huh, I’ve heard of Trapping Runes before, but I never thought I’d see one.”  After a few moments of study she sees that the rune’s logic was obvious; she deftly scratches a line through a particular part of the sigil with the tip of her dagger.  After that, getting the lock open didn’t seem like much of a challenge and she opens it, stepping back so Daria can look for more clues.

Inside Daria finds the broken remains of a couple of potions, both clearly labeled as Healing Potions.  Their contents now soaking into the pages of the 6 other books still neatly stacked in one corner of the trunk. “Damn it Dyze, we could’ve used those!”  She panics when she sees the damage to the books, and tries to pull the closest one out and as she lifts the book they all cringe as the alarm rune that was on its cover gets triggered; emiting a most obnoxious and very loud keening noise.  Daria shouts over the noise, “Jane, can you make it stop?!” only to drop the book and fall slack-jawed to the floor from the effects of the Confusion Rune set upon the book’s black leather spine.  Jane tries the same trick with her dagger, but after several tries and managing to resist the effects of the second rune many times, she finally gets zapped by it and drops the book about the same time that Daria snaps out of her daze.

Dyze is just cringing with his hands over his hears, while Daria examines the other tomes.  Not finding any runes, she tries to pick them up only to discover that the rest of the tomes are stuck into the trunk so strongly that they won’t budge.  “They won’t come out!” and to demonstrate the point she grabs the tome again and by lifting it, she manages to lift the entire trunk and then sets it all down.

Jane wakes up just in time to see Dyze grab the noisy book and hurl it across the room; “I’ll take care of this!” and with a mighty throw of his axe, and a scream from Daria, Dyze’s axe whirls through the air and splits the book neatly into a front and back half along the length of its spine.  The silence after the noise ends is nearly deafening; they manage to hear the thump of the book’s parts hitting the floor and the crinkle of pages fluttering back to the floor... and possibly a faint sob from the elf.  Daria rushes over and collects the pieces and fragments and puts them in the best order she can; seeing that they are written in the same neat script and maddeningly difficult cypher.

Jane shakes her head and gets to her feet; “Um, I found a couple of secret doors back in the other room if you wanna take a look.”

Daria turns to Dyze; “Stay here and keep watch I want to check something out in the lab.”  Jane follows her as the elf makes her way back to the vats and checks the symbols again; “Yes, I think this is some sort of constructed body.  Like a homunculus, but with an incredible level of precision and detail!  Normally these things are just a vaguely humanoid lump of clay and sticks animated by magic.”

Jane; “But is she alive? She’s breathing after all. Maybe we should try and save her?”

Daria; “I don’t think there is a ‘her’ in there to be saved.”  She walks over to the mummified head, “I’m no expert, but even through the desiccation you can see that she is advancing in years.  The white and silver hair is a dead giveaway that she was nearing the end of her days.  Clearly she was trying to cheat death somehow by animating her spirit somehow.”

Jane; “What?  Like die and then somehow re-inhabit the new body?”

Daria; “No, if that were so then she wouldn’t be lying here still.  No this is some kind of necromancy to transfer her mind and soul directly to this new form.  That’s some seriously dangerous and illegal magic.”

Jane; “Speaking of dangerous, I think I found a magic sword in that bedroom over there,” pointing to the tunnel at the north-east end of the room.  “It was calling to me, but I managed to leave it alone and keep it hidden.”

Daria; “Probably a good thing then, but we should see what else is in there.”  They head off in that direction. 

Dyze had grown restless standing guard, but he really couldn’t remember how he found himself in this bedroom holding up the mattress.  He had no recollection of crossing the intervening rooms, but he didn’t care… it was beautiful.  The rubies sparkled and he simply had to have it.  He was absolutely certain that this sword would take him to greatness! He used his axe to prop up the mattress as he lovingly cradled the sword in his arms and lifted it from the bed.  He drew it silently as the others were fussing over another trunk they’d found.  The sword was spotless and untarnished with by age and still razor sharp.  The light flashed off the blade and into his eyes as it whispered wordlessly to his mind of the glory and wealth that was theirs but for the plundering.  As he wandered over to the others he saw that there was a demon’s face carved into the metal and inlayed with black enamel at the base of the blade, but only on one side. “Look at this wonderful sword I found!”

Unfortunately this was just as Jane failed to disarm the trap rune on the locking plate of this trunk.  This time the spell casts two beams, one at Jane, and one at Dyze.  They both somehow managed to resist the effects, but the strain of it causes them to writhe about on the floor in agony for a few moments as their muscles settled back into place.  Inside they found some more healing potions and as luck would have it, there was some fur lined women’s winter clothing inside with the rest of the valuables.  It was just the right size for Daria who put it on over her armor.  When she sees the others looking at her strangely she says: “What?!  I need the extra layer, I’m cold!  We knew about the sword Dyze, we left it there on purpose!”

Dyze; “Thanks.” He wanders back to the lab and the others hurry to follow. 

Daria turns to Jane; “What’s down there?” points to the other door.

Jane; “A tunnel that spirals down into the mountain.”

Daria; “Hmm, tempting, but maybe we should check out that other room where I felt the arcane power?  There is something strange going on here and I think the answer might be over there somewhere.” 

They all agree and Jane leads the way back into the main hall.  They all emerge more or less at the same time, but only Jane fails to get out of the way of the phantom minnows speeding past. They wriggled through the air trying to escape out the exit of the complex, following the curving floor and walls of the main hall.  Jane screams as the hundreds of chilling daggers pass through her body.  She is frightened and unnerved, but unharmed.  Dyze shouts as he charges after them; “I’ll get you this time!  I’ve got a new sword! AHAA!!!”

Daria; “Dyze!  You idiot!   You can’t kill ghosts like that!  You need a cleric!”  She turns to look at Jane for support just in time to see a huge, ghostly maw strike.  Daria flinches, but is still struck by the jaws of the huge spectral fish; it’s long cylindrical body thrashing at the ghostly wound as it tries to tear her throat out.  Had this been a creature of flesh and blood, the wound it delivered would have been mortal.  Even still, the powerful cold radiating into her body is enough to make her turn pale and start to shiver.  Massive chill blains and pus filled blisters rise up from where the wound should have been.  This chill was nearly fatal in its own right, and she certainly couldn’t have withstood another successful strike.  Fortunately, she didn’t have to.

Dyze spotted what was happening behind him and managed to still be in range to charge, so with reversal in direction and a rush of motion, the warrior manages to hit the ghost with a mighty thrust of his shiny new blade.  He tries to skewer the phantom hunter of spectral waters from front to back; but even has the fails with his planned attack, the enchantments on the weapon were strong enough to cleave through the ethereal flesh of the ghost fish with a shower of silver sparks from the blade.  The severed parts of this hunter of the afterlife fall to the floor and thrash about for a few seconds before devolving into vapor; then they sink into the ground.

Dyze; “SEE!  I told you I could kill them!”  And he flourishes the sword over his head as best he can in the low ceilinged hallway for emphasis.

Daria; “You can’t go around swinging your sword at everything!  You’ll get yourself killed that way.”

Dyze; “Have I ever let you down in battle?”

Daria; “You were defeated by a wall.”

Dyze; “But the wall didn’t fight fairly!”

Daria; “UGH! Whatever!  Jane, didn’t we find some healing potions?  I could really use one of those right now.”

Jane gets one out of her bag and hands it over and watches as the power of its magic restores Daria to full vitality.  Dyze speaks up at this point; “I could use one of those as well.” He holds out his hand.

Daria; “WHAT!  You not injured!  When did you get injured?”

Dyze; “That half-naked gold guy cut me pretty good, and then I took damage from that wall too you know.”

Daria; “That’s just a scratch, and THE WALL!  You did that to yourself, and you don’t look the worse for wear. Humph!”

Dyze; “I’m the only fighter here… you need me.”  They hand him one of their precious potions and it restores him to full health as they move cautiously down the left-hand hallway with Jane in the lead.  The short hall has no door at its end, but empties out into a large chamber with vaulted ceiling and inward sloping walls.  Their torch light does a fairly good job of illuminating the place and they can see that the chamber is only about 40ft wide, but stretches farther away to their left far enough to be a moderately difficult shot with a short bow; maybe as much as 80ft.  The hallway continues onward from the other side of the chamber directly opposite to their position.  The spectral light emanating from the ghost siting upon an ebony throne to the left at the far end of the room reveals what their torches can’t reach.

Her translucent image is young and beautiful and they recognize her immediately as the young woman in the laboratory.  She floats up from the throne and hovers in the air, slowly drifting towards them. “AT LAST!  Someone has come to rescue me from my suffering!  I am Lady Ivrian of Dalcia, please say that you will help me!” begs the ghost.  There is a flirting lilt to her voice.

They are somewhat startled by this and say nothing as the ghost continues; “I fell and died before I could complete my work, but you could help me!  The task is easy and I’ll tell you what you need to circumvent the dangers.”  There are notes of panic and hope in her voice.

Jane; “You look just like him,” points to Dyze, “What’s that all about?”

The ghost floats a little closer and inspects the warrior in dirty, ragged studded leather armor.  For the first time they see genuine hope cross her visage; “YES! Indeed, the stealthy one speaks the truth!  For I see that you are of my line, my heir.  Please good sir!  For the sake of our family bond, please help me!?  The task is but a simple one and shall take but a few moments of your time.” 

Daria sees that the ghost is focusing upon Dyze, and is attempting to use her long dead womanly whiles upon the only male in the group.  Then she thinks about the stag-demon she saw in the journal, and the horde of mostly male tribesmen at the base of the mountain.  She suddenly realizes that this woman is/was far stronger and more dangerous than they suspect; “What’s in it for us?” she asks of the ghost, drawing its attention from the hapless warrior.

Ivrian becomes indignant; “FOR YOU! What’s for you?! I’ve heard the alarm! I know that you’ve been rummaging through my possessions already!” She points back at Dyze without looking, “Does mine heir not already wield Nightraker!  An heirloom of my family for untold centuries!”  The ghost takes a deep breath, smoothing out her hair and dress as she floats back to the floor about 15ft from the trio.  To Dyze she says; “I will ignore all of this and you may use my sword until the task is done, it is your inheritance after all.  But when I’m revived I shall have it back.  I can promise you both power and wealth, you won’t miss it.”

Dyze; “Wait.  I help you and you take my sword.  No way! Not while I’m alive!”  And he lunges forward mightily and tries to sever the head of the ghost from her spectral shoulders.  He failed but still managed to deliver a dreadful cut to her throat.  The sparks fly from the tip of the blade as she dives upward and back out of reach.

Ivrian; “UNGRATEFUL WHELP!”  Her features have melted into a predatory scowl of hatred, “I’ll teach you manners boy!” and quicker than any thought possible she flies forward and slices through the warrior’s armor with her clawed hand as if the boiled leather wasn’t there; he is frozen in time.  His attack had ended with his blade on a high arc to deliver a vicious downward slashing riposte; but now he was probably locked forever with the line of his sword tracing straight as an arrow through his hips and forming a line with his left leg. The right leg bent to support his weight; Dyze had been pointing at her with his left hand when he was frozen in that oddly graceful, dancelike pose.  The others hastily left the way they came in and stopped in the middle of the hall.  Looking back they could see Ivrian’s savage visage fade, her snarls fading to a mewling whine; “Help me and I’ll spare him!”

Daria; “What do you want?”

Ivrian; “Bring me the Starstone!  That is the hardest part of what I ask, and I shall tell you how to circumvent its guardian.”

Daria; “Tell me how to get past the guardian.”

Ivrian; “No.  I’ve not heard an affirmative from you and you’ll not have my secrets for free!”

Daria; “Release Dyze first!  We will need him.”

Ivrian; “If you insist.” And she snaps her fingers; but they hear nothing.

Dyze slumps to the ground and then moves back to the group.  “I’ll not give her my sword!  Besides how do we know we can trust her to keep her word?!”

Ivrian; “Have you no sense of duty or family honor?!  We are kindred after all! Aren’t we?  I’m a powerful sorceress; I can make you a new and better sword than Nightraker.”

Dyze; “Well…  I don’t know.  Though I do want to know everything you can tell me about those ghost fish in the hallway!”

Ivrian throws her head back laughs with genuine mirth; “Those!  They’ve been here as long as the rocks themselves. They are mostly harmless if you’re quick in the halls they don’t notice you.”

Daze; “But what are they?!  Can I kill them?”

Laughing again Ivrian continues; “NO! Not even with Nightraker.  They are the ghostly spirits of the fish entombed within these very rocks.  Kill them and they just come back.”

Dyze; “Even you?”

Ivrian; “Yes.  I’d have disappeared for a while but I’d come back.”

Dyze; “Fine let’s go get this over with, but I’ll not give you my sword.”

Ivrian; “We can discuss it when you’ve returned me to my body; if you are quick about it perhaps I’ll let you keep the weapon.”

Daria; “I want to know more about that constructed body in the other room.”

Ivrian; “Hm, it is a long and difficult explanation you seek, but I will happily teach you the secrets of constructing your own Imperishable Body so that you may be young and beautiful forever.”

Daria; “Fine, but I’ll hold you to that when we bring you back.”

Jane is distracted momentarily by an out of place sound; like the rustle of dry leaves.  It is coming from behind her somewhere, but when she turns she sees nothing.  “Guys!  We’re not alone in here!” to the ghost she says, “What else lives in here and how do we get this damn stone for you!”

Ivrian; “Nothing else lives here, the complex was sealed off by a land slide centuries ago, but I cannot say for sure because I cannot leave this room.”

Daria; “So how do we get this Starstone and how do we get past its guardian?”

Ivrian; “Simple.  He holds forth Nightraker and proclaims himself as the heir of my blood and power.  The demon is frightened of the sword and will do as you command.  You go out the way you came in, turn left, and head straight down the main hall to the old bridge.  Cross to the summoning chamber and there you will find the demon and the Starstone.  Bring it to me and then I will tell you the rest, and easiest part of the task.”

The trio heads back out to the main hall but are ambushed, not by spectral fish, but something with hundreds of legs and dark chitin.  Jane barely misses getting smacked by one of its whip like antennae.  She dives forward into the hall, rolling and coming up farther away and looking for better ground.  She is the first to see the long, centipede type creature, all legs and chitin.  She sees that it has nasty looking mandibles and a sharp claw on each of its slightly larger and forward most pair of legs.  It also whips about the area with two stout antennae such that Jane believes it may have no eyes.

Dyze is next out of the side tunnel, but his swing is wide of the mark.  Everyone is shocked when the thing’s tail arches over and thrusts a wicked stinger deep into the warrior’s armored chest.  While he’s screaming in pain, Daria steps casually out of the hall and sends a flurry of fiery arrows streaming from her now skeletal fingers, around and past her companions to strike the strange bug.  It didn’t catch fire, but hissed in pain from the terrible damages inflicted by the magic missiles.  Jane’s arrow flies wide of the mark and she too is skewered by the thing’s stinger; it pumps something into her veins and she screams but manages to resist the poison.

Dyze manages to hit the beast with a terrible blow, but still its battered form continued to live.  Daria tries to summon more magical missiles, but all that happens is colorful sparks shoot from the end of her skeletal fingers.

Suddenly their minds are full of strange images; unfamiliar places, and undersea panoramas drift through their minds along with the words: Stop! Surrender! Must Flee!!!  The thing uses what legs it has left to drag itself wetly away from the trio and towards the entrance to the tunnel complex.

Jane and Daria both; “Then why attack us?!”

Critter; “HUngrrrryyyyyyyyy!!!!” The images in their minds convey desperation and fear at war with another, more primal instinct.

Dyze lunges forward and skewers it… then starts dancing and stomping merrily upon its corpse.  Jane imbibes the last healing potion and tosses the bottle aside as she staggers back to the rest of them.  Daria’s attention is drawn to subtle movements along the floor; something about the after effects of the spell casting, or the new senses available to her skeletal form allows her to see three long tendrils retreating down the hall.  They were retracting in the same direction the trio needed to venture. To the rest her skeletal form says; “There’s something really weird down there… I think we should get this over with as fast as we can.”

Moving with a new found determination born of fear, they follow the ghost’s instructions as quickly as they can.  They purposefully ignored several more hallways, branching off to their left, in their hasty travel.  They came upon the bridge sooner than they expected, but were not reassured by what they found.  It had no hand rails and seemed to be made of nothing but old weathered boards and ropes spanning the gulf below.  It was long after sunset, but the light from their torches hinted at another wide, dark, and low arching entrance upon the opposite side of the bridge.  From below, the mountain had looked like a cloven hoof, now they had to cross over that cleft and it was much larger and more terrifying than they imagined.

Jane checks the bindings on this side of the chasm while Dyze and Daria keep watch; after a few minutes of checking she feels confident that they can make it if they go one at a time.  Jane takes one torch and darts across before she can talk herself out of it and finds a ledge on the other side; she waits for the others before going into the summoning room.  Unfortunately while Jane checks things over and then darts across.   While hesitant, Daria makes it across without incident.  Dyze Orribly gets halfway across the bridge when something dives out of the sky at him.  It is buzzing madly like the mother of all wasps, but it misses him and flies off into the night; but not before knocking him off balance.  Somehow, just as it seemed that he would go over the side, a helpful gust of wind pushes him past the tipping point and back upon the bridge as he scampers the rest of the way across. 

The wide and low tunnel from the ledge leads into a room that is even larger than the arcane lab; sickly yellow light sparks into life from four strange spheres set in each corner of the room at floor level.  The ceiling is vaulted high enough that they couldn’t see it in the gloom even with the additional lighting.  There is little else in the room other than a huge and intricately wrought summoning circle set into the floor.  It seems to be carved into the stone of the floor and inlaid with gold; it is so large that they cannot see the other side distinctly.  On the far side of the room there are a few steps that lead up into another tunnel that leads into the dark.

As soon as Dyze Orribly steps into the room golden light shines out from the inscriptions on the ground and a swirl of gold smoke streams into a tornado of towering dust that coagulates into the form of a golden, scaled stag that is taller at the shoulder than any of the trio of would be heroes.  It has wickedly intricate antlers that must be at least 5ft across with dozens of razor sharp points.  It stands upon its hind legs and roars at them, steaming black bile dripping from its fangs to sizzle little holes into the floor of its prison. “Who dares to disturb Aagazzbagh!  Step forth and make your death a quick one!”

Jane turns to Dyze; “Now go get the Starstone so we can get out of here.”

Dyze turns to Daria; “What do I do?”

Daria; “Go present yourself as the heir and take command of it.”

Dyze steps out of the shadows at the side of the tunnel so the demon could see him; “I, Dyze Orribly command you in the name of Ivrian’s blood which flows in my veins!”

Jane whispers loudly from the shadows; “THE sword!  Show him the Sword!!”

Dyze; “Oh, right.” Unsheathes Nightraker, “I am the heir of Ivrian and this is Nightraker, You will do as I say!!”

The demon moves slowly forward, the acrid stench of its breath washing over them as it leans as close to him as its confinement will allow.  It sniffs at him slowly and deeply, pausing to lick its nose just to be sure; “Yesss.  I taste her blood pulsing within you.  What would you have of me my master?”

Without hesitating Dyze screams out; “POWER!!!”

Daria rushes to his side and shakes him; “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WE NEED THE STAR STONE YOU FOOL!”

Demon; “A Starstone I have and power I can give… but not both.  You must choose master, knowing that she will betray you if she can.”  It reaches out both hoof-like hands; in one is a ruby the size of a baby’s head, in the other there was a swirling gold mass of energy.

Before he could say anything Daria summons up a hundred feet of rope, and with a loop of it manages to snag and bind Dyze just as Jane rushes from the shadows.  With Daria’s help they pin him to the wall; Jane’s dagger pushing into the side of his neck with just enough force to draw a single bead of blood.  The demon licks his lips and his nostrils flair at the scent of it.

Jane; “We’re here to get this Starstone!  What are you playing at?!” 

Daria; “You tell that thing to give us the Starstone!”

Dyze continues to hesitate.

Demon; “You can’t trust Ivrian!  She will tell you any lies to get what she wants.”

Jane gets in real close; “I have two words for you. Star. Stone. Say them and you live.”

Dyze; “Fine.  You heard them demon, give them the stone.”

Demon; “Are you sure master?”

Dyze looks at Jane, she just lifts an eyebrow; “Yes. The Starstone, Now!” Jane reaches her other hand out, not losing sight of the warrior and takes it quickly from the hideous beast of the Outer Darkness then helps Daria drag Dyze from the room.  As they are leaving it plaintively calls out to them; “Master! Wait… I’ll still grant you power if you wish it!” It puffs back into gold dust and showers to the floor.  On the ledge Daria and Jane hold up a moment to think things through in the cold night air of the mountain. 

Jane in between heaving breaths; “What – was –that-all- about!  Are you trying to get yourself killed?”

Daria; “You were about to grab power from a demon!  They can’t be trusted at all!”

They make haste to the audience chamber of the ghostly sorceress without incident and she is ecstatic upon their return; “Wonderful! I dared not hope for your return, but now I am so close!  When I’ve entered the gem simply place it upon the chest of the body on the table in the laboratory.  Then I shall awake and give you such gifts as you could never dream of!”  She turns to vapor and disappears within the sparkling depths of the ruby on the floor.  They all stare at it for a few seconds.  No one says anything at first, but they can all see the same thought passing across each other’s faces.

Dyze; “You know she’s going to betray us right?”

Daria says with a guilty tone in her voice; “Well… I did promise.”  Picking up the gem she turns to the others.  “She said the place doesn’t have anything living in here, I want to survey the other rooms before we let her out.”

Dyze; “I’m not giving her my sword.”

Daria; Oh good grief!  You don’t think she’s going to let you keep it do you?  I’ll tell you what.  If you give her the sword then when we get back I’ll let you have my pick of the weapons in the village lock up.”

Dyze; “Hmm.  I suppose, but I think we should just leave her in the stone, can’t trust her.”

They all decide to wander through the strange frozen world of the tunnel complex.  There is a long, low kitchen to the north of the audience chamber with enough freeze dried rations to keep them going for a few months.  It was connected to a dining hall with a long abandoned meal on the table.  Not finding anything of real interest, they skip the last corridor and make haste to the sitting room.  They enter the lab and without any preamble or consideration they touch the stone to the body on the table; which convulses slightly and takes a giant breath as she sits up.  Without hesitating; “Die treacherous fools!” and casts a spell that causes her hand to glow with a sickly blue light.  Ivrian pushes Daria away from the table, sending the terrible energy into her slight elven body.  A death rattle escaping her lips as Daria collapses to the floor.

Dyze screams and starts to hack away at the body on the table as best he can in such close quarters.  Jane tries to do likewise, but when she lifts her sword to strike it slips from her fingers and tumble brightly in the torch light as it lands somewhere over by the door to the sitting room.  The evil sorceress, her hand still aglow with the lethal blue witch-light, fails to strike Dyze.

Jane moves around to the side and tryes to strike at something vital with her dagger; though she hits where she knows the woman’s kidneys should be; there is neither blood nor kidney to be found in her target.  The Sorceress screams and twists away from this new attack and the warrior darts in and slashes her naked belly wide open.  He is shocked when no blood or entrails fall to the floor; but Ivrian screams in rage again and tries to leap to the ground on the opposite side of the table.  Unfortunately for her, Dyze leaps high up into the air and with a mighty swoosh of his sword sends the head of Ivrian screaming into the corner by the secret door to the bedroom.

Jane makes it back to Daria’s body and finds that the elf isn’t dead after all so Jane dribbles the last of the healing potions into the wizard’s mouth.  Dyze continues to hack at the still ambulatory body, and when he sees the chunks are still moving he starts stomping and hacking at anything even vaguely flesh-like on the floor.  Seeing what he is doing, Daria calls out; “Save the head!  If she was right about the Imperishable thing then she’s still alive.”

Jane gets her sword; “Why do you want that!  Can’t she cast spells?”

Dyze; “I told you she was going to betray us!”

Daria finds the head, which promptly tries to bite her as she stuffs it in a small chest; “I doubt it.” Closes the lid and puts it into her back pack.  “Besides, I’m going to need her to teach me her cypher and any spells she can remember.  Shall we find our way out of here?”  She grabs the trunk with the rest of the books and they head back towards the bridge.

Jane darts across the bridge without stopping and get to the other side and waits for the others.  Daria looks back to Dyze just in time to notice that faint, ghost-like motion that she’d seen after the battle with that bug-thing.  Only this time it was reaching out from the last hallway that they’d been ignoring for some reason trying to ensnare the completely oblivious warrior.  Before she could say anything, it struck the back of his head with a snake-like motion; reaching into his brain.  She instinctively tries to cast her magic missile spell only to discover that she can’t remember it.  Desperately she calls upon Hraalvid to return the spell to her mind.  He hears her call and grants her request, but not before sending several hundred volts coursing up through the ground to burn out a fairly big part of her nervous system.  She endures an extra few seconds to make sure she has the power to cast the spell.  Casting her spell, a magical flaming arrow shoots from her skeletal fingers to sever his connection with the nearly invisible tendril.  Daria helps him stand up again and together they slowly cross the bridge, helping each other to stay steady on the perilous bridge.  Fortunately the bridge survives the burden and nothing attacks them from the darkness.  They pause a moment on the far ledge; they are all bone weary at this point but they dare not linger for long.

Daria; “I think his brain has been addled by that thing that reached out of the corridor.”

Jane; “Huh?”

Daria; “You were already across.” She tells Jane what happened.

When she finishes Dyze chimes in; “Ya, and when it had me I saw that the way out of here is through the stairs on the other side of the summoning room.  They lead to the top of the mountain and there is some sort of gateway up there.  I’m sure it’s the way out of here...
I think.” fear of the strange buzzing  in the dark that had threatened Dyze the last time they were here eventually goading them into the summoning room.

Jane; “SO, you really think there’s a way out on the other side of the circle?”

Dyze; “Ya.” He exits the hall and starts walking into the summoning room.

Daria, following quickly with Jane close behind; “Where are you going?”

Dyze; “To see how we get across.”

Aagazzbagh appears as soon as they enter; “Master!  You have returned!  I will serve you willingly if you but free me from this cage!”  It slams the invisible wall at the boundary of the circle.  Jane takes advantage to sneak about searching for the way across.

Dyze turns to Daria; “We could use that thing to bring us fortune and glory! And POWER!  I could make it send us home!”

Daria; “IT’S A DEMON!  You can’t trust it unless it’s in a cage!”

Demon; “I can give you all of what you desire and more!!  You have but to use Nightraker to sever the circle and set me free!  Then I’m yours to command!”

Dyze; “It told the truth about Ivrian!”

Jane’s voice comes to them from farther off to their left; “If you’re careful you can walk along the wall to get to the other side of the circle.”

Daria; “See Dyze, we don’t need its help you said there’s a way home up top, I believe you.  So let’s go.”  She starts heading for the wall to find her way to the steps and tunnel she can now see on the other side of the room.  She is halfway to the wall when she realizes that Dyze hasn’t followed.  She turns to see the stag demon playing idly with the golden orb of power it had offered to the warrior the last time, and that the warrior is walking slowly to the edge of the circle.  She cries out; “DYZE, NOOO!”

She tries to get back to him, but he manages to evade her grasp at the last moment, twisting away and running for the edge of the circle.  With one slice of the magic blade the soft gold splits in twain.  The demon roars in triumph, making the walls shake, sending debris raining down.  Jane and Daria run for the stairs, but can hear Dyze screaming; “GIVE ME POWER!!!!”

The human and the elf pause a moment at the stairs to look back; the demon had turned to smoke and they see it fly into the warrior as he lifts the sword and with an evil flash of golden light where his eyes used to be he cackles; “At last! ON TO GLORY!”  He disappears leaving only the fading echo of his insane laughter.  Unknown to the wizard and the thief as they climb the seemingly endless stairs, the possessed warrior appears at the mouth of the cavern complex and starts to amble down the road to the forest below.  Strange wasp-like creatures swoop down from the heights; buzzing about his antlers, sweet melodies issuing from their impossibly beautiful female faces.  The voice of Dyze H. Orribly echoes from his mouth; but still sounds far away and is overlaid with the rasp of the demon’s powerful voice; “Come my darlings, we have been summoned, and there is much work yet before us.”


Exhausted, the last few steps were the hardest they’d ever taken, but eventually Daria and Jane make it to the surface again.  They can see that the peak of this mountain is precipitous on all sides, leaving a clearing of less than a hundred paces across.  They exit onto the plateau with just enough room to stand outside a circle of huge stone blocks nearly as wide as the mountain top; each acting to support the ring of lintel stones.  All were intricately carved as far as they could see with their flickering torchlight.  On the far side of the circle there is a silvery shimmer hanging in the air between three of the stones to form a sort of doorway.  Lightning flashes somewhere in the distance and cold snow starts to fall with the first roll of thunder.  They look at each other and run for the portal hoping for the best.    Far below in the tunnel complex, and unseen by any mortal eyes, ghostly tendrils rise up from the drain and start to collect the bits and absorbing the fluids smeared across the floor of the arcane laboratory; slowly, and with great care they began reconstructing as much of the form as could be found.  Unfortunately it has no knowledge of humans and has to guess at some of the missing bits as best it can.


With an odd twisting sensation Jane and Daria find themselves stepping across the threshold of the door to the Iron Axe Inn and out onto the quiet main street of Wodfeld, it is mid-morning.  The air is incredibly hot and thick in their lungs and they see spots for a moment as they are overcome by a euphoria and dizziness.  They look around confused because everything is almost exactly as they left it hours ago.  Dyze is nowhere to be seen and Daria is wearing the fur lined black dress she found; still dragging the trunk behind her. 

Jane; “That… really happened right?”

Daria; “I need a drink!”  And she marches right back to the bar.”

 Until the next chapter…