Adthar’s two ettin heads peered round the corner of the corridor. He saw a hooded figure approaching, muttering and talking to itself. Figuring that he was big enough now to take care of himself, he stepped out into the corridor and hailed the figure, which gave a hiss and threw back its hood. Suddenly, the rest of the party were not looking at an ettin but at the statue of one.
No sooner had the medusa (for such it was) petrified Adthar than Alurax, in lion form, sprang forward and attacked, managing to avert his eyes from the monster’s gaze. He pinned the medusa to the floor and began to bite and rend at it as its snakes tried to bite back. Several times they bit but the lion managed to shrug off the effects of the poison until at last the shaggy-maned beast succumbed. The medusa then moved towards Cafaror, who was desperately trying to polish up his helmet so that it would be reflective. Galzor moved in to support his friend but it was not long before both doughty adventurers fell to the poison bites, even though they had managed to remain unpetrified.
The medusa went back down the corridor, alternately cackling and weeping to itself. Elysia, Zanurax and Ferros followed, being unable to cast spells or attack it; they were all too aware of the medusa’s abilities and the fact that even in their ethereal state, they were vulnerable. They discovered that the medusa slept on a straw pallet in a room, one wall of which was a huge stone-carved version of the picture that they had found in the Shadow House. It was surrounded by ancient hieroglyphs.
The three remaining party members were stuck in their ethereal state and had to put their heads together to work out how to get out of this one. Elysia deduced, correctly, that the medusa was a victim of the polymorph result on the Disco Floor of Doom and that she might actually be good – they already had displays of her split personality to go on. Elysia despatched Relic to find Russet (pay attention, it gets complicated), whereupon both pseudo-dragons would fly off to the town to find Elador, communicate Elysia’s predicament through limited telepathy, get him to find a 5th level cleric who could do Remove Curse, get him to come back with them to the dungeon, then fly him across the Disco Floor of Doom using the pseudo-dragons, lay in wait for the Medusa, lure her into the room and then the cleric could cast his Remove Curse.
To cut a very long story short, this is exactly what happened (albeit after six days of waiting). The medusa reverted back into a human female. Ferros was brought back to material status and healed up the poisoned members of the party, then Elysia was de-etherealised and Alurax was restored to human form.
Phew! The one fly in the ointment was that they were unable to restore Adthar who was still a statue, and an ettin statue to boot. After much debate, they decided to transport him across country to the Moat House, where they would install him in the courtyard as a feature while they set about trying to find a 12th level Magic User to restore him to flesh.
I had to explain to them that it was unlikely that a 12th level magic user would be just kicking around town waiting to be called on. Because I'm running the campaign as a sort of West Marches theme, the reason that the wilderness and its dungeons are unlooted and unexplored (more or less) is explained by the fact that the party are the pioneers, the trailblazers and amongst the highest levels in the area. If there were 12th levellers wandering about, they'd have cleared out all the dungeons already and there'd be nothing for the party to do.
Returning to town from the Moat House, they came across a herd of wild oxen grazing near the river, and later, saw what appeared to be a winged horse flying north-west. Elysia, who had long wanted a winged horse of her own, was delighted and vowed to locate it.
Another die roll that served up a very interesting result. I'd no idea that the Pegasus was due to appear - where it was going and what it was up to is another matter, one that may well unfold into a new adventure as the weeks roll on.
When they arrived in town, Cafaror (who had elected to stay an elf) was contacted by the tanner to whom he had taken the lizard skin. He had, you will recall, sent out messages inviting interested parties to an auction, hoping to sell off the skin and believed that he could get at least ten thousand gold pieces for it. Cafaror was delighted to hear this, but his delight was to be short-lived.
Meanwhile, Elysia was contacted by the town archivist, who had found another version of the legend of the Seven Pointed Star. This one was many hundreds of years old and told an even earlier version of the story (which I knocked up in an alliterative style to reflect Anglo-Saxon poetry)
Slumbering, sinister in their shadow souls
Demons dream, deep in the darkness
Evil enters, encountering everywhere
Foemen fleeing, fleet of foot, fearful
When wild and woeful war wracks the west
Carrying the clear clarion, comes cantering
Bold and bright, bearing blades burning
Fair of face, flamehaired, fierce her following
Swords sing the strong song of striking
And all around, adversaries advance
Mighty the magics, marching menacingly
But bold blows break no blazing burdens
Warriors wore woe and weariness the while
Strength lay with sorcery, spells and sigils
Not knights with need of neverfailing knives
Laid low in the lakes, the lady laughed not
But tears in tumbling tracks tainted her
Face and fires fiercely flared on flanks
Sought she safety from servitor soldiers
Their blades blazed not with bravery, back
Into dishonour they darted, deserting their dearest
Shamefaced and serious, sombre souls slinking
Homeward, not heroes, their hearts harrowed
Manacled by memories, men without manliness
Left their loved one to linger in the lakes
Not eager to embrace the error, eagle wielder
Perished in poverty, pernicious pride his prison
Cursed were his comrades, carrying their cowardice
Till time and a true traveller took the treasured hilt
And wielded what was wasted, winning the way
To set the sweet soul again springing skywards
From the fiery fastness and the forest fane
Ferros had his own message, from the Council of Clerics, who had heard tales of mysterious goings-on in the forests to the west. A party of hunters had come across some ancient burial mounds and those who had investigated had never returned. Ghostly moanings could be heard and as Ferros was supposedly a specialist on the undead, the Council thought that he might like to investigate.
As can be seen, hooks are being scattered about here; the more the merrier, although as an overworked DM, I do hope the party gives me a little warning about which one they want to investigate!
Some time after this, Cafaror was approached by a man who introduced himself as an artist who was keen to acquire the lizard skin for a public exhibition; he did not think it right that rich collectors should get their hands on such a rarity just because they had piles of gold. He offered two hundred and fifty gold pieces for the skin but Cafaror was reluctant to make a decision and said he would think about it.
Meanwhile, in the tavern, the party noticed two things – firstly, a strange man wearing what they at first thought was a snake-design torc (but then turned out to be a real snake) was drinking in their tavern. As he left, they spotted a short, bearded figure at a nearby table, a large battle axe by his side. They approached the dwarf, for such he was, asking if he was interested in joining their party. He suspiciously asked why, to which they offered gold and jewels. He was happy to take up their offer, but glared at Cafaror’s elvish looks.
This was Adthar's player's new character that I'd agreed he could run whilst Adthar himself was waiting to be returned to flesh. I'd not thought about demi-humans but Mummy Grognard clearly remembered a discussion we'd had some months ago about introducing demi-humans when the gang were ready for it and as Adthar's player is the oldest (13), it was decided that if he was okay with it, he could run the character as a dwarf.
Meanwhile, the party noticed that their tavern was being watched. A hooded figure lurked at the top of the street. Elysia donned the Cloak of Elvenkind and slipped out into the night to follow the watcher, who headed off through the streets, eventually disappearing down an alleyway in a very shady part of town. Elysia was not too keen on following the figure any further without back up and returned to the tavern where she briefed the others on what had been going on.
The next day, the party headed off to the dingy alleyway, where they followed it down to a courtyard in which was a dusty dry fountain, surrounded by several shifty looking types. On offering gold for information, the party were directed down an arched passage to a heavy set of doors. Elysia cast a Jump Spell and was soon on the first floor windowsill. Her view was blocked by heavy black curtains. Down below, the party tried to force the doors but had no luck; their banging was answered by a strange looking manservant who informed them that they could not see The Master, but that if they wanted, they could make an appointment. They gave their names and the address of the tavern where they were staying and left, taking Elysia with them.
When they returned to the tavern, the town guard were waiting for Cafaror. They asked him about his visitor of yesterday and then revealed that there had been a murder, that they suspected he was connected and warned him not to leave town. The party had been mulling over setting off on either the winged horse quest or to investigate the burial mounds but put both on hold to investigate who might be trying to set up Cafaror.
Fortunately, the visitor had left his address with Cafaror and so they (minus Ferros and Cafaror who were waiting for their appointment with the Master) hurried down to the place, which turned out to be a guest house, guarded by two members of the watch. There was clearly no gaining entry that way, so they repaired to an eaterie a few doors down and sat listening to the chatter and gossip of the customers and the wenches. They soon found out that horrible screaming had been heard from the building the previous night and that the town guard had been called. They had taken away several boxes of evidence but nobody had seen a body being removed.
The party decided to make good use of Zanurax’s six-inch high status and slipped him in through a cellar window to nose around. Whilst scouting around outside, Alurax came across a shattered terracotta tile and the party realised that it must have been knocked off the roof above. Did it have anything to do with the murder? There was only one way to find out.
Elysia, using Jump and Alurax and Galzor using the drainpipe, shimmied up the outside of the building. They tried to get a first floor window open and succeeded, only to find that the room was occupied by an irate guest who asked them who on earth they were and what were they doing breaking into his room. Alurax pretended to be a town watch crime scene investigator, gave a false name and carried on climbing. The angry guest told them he would report them to the watchmen outside.
A classic scene; I was running it in real-time, playing the irate guest and putting Junior Grognard on the spot to come up with an explanation. He produced one and we ran with that; the consequences of his improvisation will become apparent soon.
Realising that they had little time, they completed the climb and found themselves outside a second floor window, which had been forced open. They climbed in and began to examine the room. There was a pool of blood on the floor, through which something had been dragged, and some blood on the bed itself. Under a cupboard, they found a wooden holy symbol that had been broken in two.
All the clues were relevant and I'm wondering how long it'll be before they put them together and work out what's been going on.
Before they could find out what it all meant, there was the noise of footsteps from the corridor outside. Alurax and Galzor made a hasty retreat, whilst Elysia hid in the cupboard using her Cloak of Elvenkind. Unfortunately, more guards were waiting for Alurax and Galzor at the foot of the rope and arrested them when they reached the ground. Elysia slipped out of the cupboard when the guards had gone and managed to get out of the building unnoticed.
Meanwhile, back at the tavern, a servant of the Master had arrived, with details of the appointment. Ferros and Cafaror were to visit the house at eight o’clock that evening. They were warned to bring no-one else, a warning that Elysia had no intention of following.
A fun and unpredictable session - well, it was for me, watching the party following a series of events that arose one from the other. To be honest, there were a couple of points at which the party (or certain members of it) were getting bored - when Elysia, Zanurax and Ferros were stuck in their ethereal state, and later when they realised that they were not going to kill any more monsters that day but instead found themselves involved in a murder investigation. Things livened up when events became personal for the party and it may well get even more personal next time.
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