Othwic, Maud Balliol, Jarl The Lame, Hob The Bastard, Konrad, Alys and Baine
Current Date: May, 1012TR

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The End... (?)

Here ended the scrolls recording the Chronicles of Tekralh. Maybe, at some time in the future, new scrolls will be recovered detailing further adventures in this mysterious land...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Chapter 14: Red In Tooth And Claw...

The village of Larm was abuzz with tales of the return of Red the Ranger, long thought lost to the dungeons of White Rabbit Castle. Although he could recall little of his tortures - besides a strange black figure that he couldn't name - he had somehow escaped and made his way back to the village, where he was treated as a hero and put up in the Borderlands Tavern.

Naturally, he got talking to the village's current crop of adventurers - Norfel, Foden and Yves - and their hirelings, and so when the mayor again approached them with a job offer it seemed only natural for Red to be included in the deal.

A scout for Mayor Caius had discovered what he thought was the entrance to the Halls Of The Goblin King, but with the troops away fighting the Goblin Wars, a group of brave adventurers were needed to confirm that this hill-side fortress was home to the feared Goblin King.

Norfel, Foden, Yves, Red and their henchmen approached the mountainside entrance; a vast wooden door into the side of the mountain, set in a clearing and seemingly guarded by a single kobold. Red snuck through the woods opposite the entrance and used a small fire to attract the sole guard away from his post. He then ambushed the kobold and took him back to the others, where Yves interrogated the creature and learned the secret knock to obtain entrance to the fortress.

The group used the secret knock and the door was opened by a surprised goblin who was quickly run though and the party bundled into a vast entrance chamber. The design of the place suggested it had been built by dwarves, but beyond that the party could tell little else.

Having examined some semi-animated dwarven statues for a while, heard snoring from behind one door and sounds of orcish gambling from another the party crashed in on the orcs playing flach-wrrg and engaged in a bloody battle.

Four of the orcs fell quickly, unable to get to their weapons in time, and Foden took on the leader. The two were locked in combat for some minutes before the cleric subdued the tough orc and took him prisoner. Yves was again called in to conduct the interrogation and, spying the key on the orc's belt, discovered that the passageway from this guard room led - amongst other places - to a section of prison cells.

The only prisoners being held were a greedy halfling called Meriaboc and a rabid and beaten-looking bugbear, which Norfel put out of its misery with some well-placed arrows!

Meriaboc joined the group on the promise of immediate food and further sustenance when they got back to Larm.

At this point Yves, Foden and Norfel decided they had enough proof for Caius - with Meriaboc's testimony and the confessions from their two captives (the orc boss and the kobold guard) - and just made one further stop before heading back to Larm.

They checked out a room which the orc boss had called "water", which turned out to be a large storage cave with a subterranean lake to one side. Checking some large crates down by the water, Yves disturbed a giant spider which sprang at her - but missed. Red identified it as venomous and so - as one - the party decided to "run away".

Outpacing the spider they made it back to the main entrance hall and, although Yves was still drawn towards to the sounds of snoring, it was decided now would be a good time to head back to Mayor Caius.

Slipping back out of the fortress, the group made its slow way back towards the village where they were greeted as heroes. Meriaboc planted himself in the tavern, explaining that the party would cover his tab, while the two prisoners were taken away to the barracks for questioning.

The party congratulated themselves on another job well done!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Chapter 13: Smiting Sigyfel!

Brave adventurers Norfel the fighter, Foden the cleric and Yves the elf were approached at the Borderlands Inn in Larm by the son of Mayor Caius who explained that his father might have a job for them.

The mayor told them about a farmer who had been scared to death near the ancient tomb of cursed warlock Sigyfel and requested that our heroes recruit a band of men to sack the tomb and root out any evil that lurked within.

Having hired, and equipped, three local men-at-arms Churchill, Boggins and Erak, the adventurers hiked to the barrow where Sigyfel was said to be buried.

They camped outside before venturing down underground the next day... and almost immediately walked into a trap of scything blades, which wounded Churchill quite badly.

Their exploration continued into the darkened, subterranean corridors. The group methodically and slowly made their way down the central passageway of the tomb - hearing orcs down beyond the furthest bend.

That corridor the group blocked with broken wood and scraps they had found earlier, but then they advanced into a room of broken sarcophagi and were surprised by the sudden emergence of half-a-dozen skeletons.

However, without hesitation, the pious Foden strode forward and drove the creatures back until they shattered themselves on the far wall of their crypt in a bid to escape him.

In another corridor, where heavy velvet curtains concealed small side alcoves, Yves said off a trap by stepping into one of the alcoves and bringing the ceiling down - luckily she was nimble enough to dodge it.

Beyond that passageway though was a huge room, with three grotesque and obscene demonic statues standing vigil over an ornate, sealed sarcophagus. Tentatively the group prowled the edges of the room before Yves and Churchill had the courage to approach the stone coffin and, eventually, move its lid so they could see what was within.

As they did so, a powerful, clawed arm darted out of the sarcophagus, grabbed Churchill around the throat and smashed his head against the lid - knocking him unconscious - as a hideous ghoulish creature (the archmage Sigyfel returned from the afterlife by the dark forces he worshipped) arose.

The ghoul slashed at Yves and Foden, knocking the elf unconscious and rendering the cleric paralysed with it toxic venom.

Boggins was felled and Erak turned tail and ran, but heroic Norfel - who had considered running - having snapped his bowstring, lashed out with a lit lantern, dousing the ghoul in flaming oil. The creature screamed its hideous death wail and collapsed.

Norfel, having defeated the ghoul, slowly dragged his colleagues, two at a time, back towards their encampment and after about an hour of this activity those that had been infected by the ghoul's touch were beginning to recover, while the injured still needed some care.

The group camped outside the barrow for another couple of days before deciding to head back to Larm, where they were greeted like heroes and feted by the mayor.

After a a couple more days of rest, and having hired a couple of Churchill's friends - Devor and Caspa - the group returned to the tomb, only to find signs of activity.

They carefully ventured back inside and just as Yves was liberating a large gem and magical dagger from Sigyfel's sarcophagus, Churchill and Norfel - at the back of the party - were set upon by a pair of orcs and a shadowy humanoid. However, although the orcs wounded both of the rear guard, they were felled quickly and the cloaked man fled; Norfel tried to put an arrow in him before he disappeared from sight (out of the tomb) but missed.

Searching the rest of the tomb, the group found nothing of interest and returned to Larm.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Chapter 12: The Harder They Come...

Feuding elfish cousins, Eritbanner Dreamtongue and Bardcarver Windweasle, joined with dwarvish tough guy Bostock Clevehand, to tackled the dreaded White Rabbit Castle.

The elves had been drawn there by a magical map, which led to an unknown prize in the lands beyond the castle, under the cloud of the Fist Of T'Ao. They met Bostock, a relative of the village smith, in Larm and decided to try their luck in the dungeons of the castle.

At first much seemed desserted, with signs of past battles and former occupation. They discovered interesting religious murals - which suggested their goal lasy to the south - and a small, ancient library, outside of which they held off an attack by a tribe of orcs they had disturbed earlier.

Bostock slew the leader of the orcs and his followers fled in fear. Bardcarver recovered from the orc the magical sword Wavecleaver, which had previously belonged to the 'outlander' Clodius (not that she knew this fact, of course).

Soon after they managed to avoid an entanglement with a gelantinous cube that had seeminly trapped them in a dead end, by the clever use of a 'teleporting statue' which transported them back to a part of the dungeon they had earlier explored.

Their explorations next took them back south in the dungeon, where they discovered a nest of goblins. Uncertain of what tactics to use they stormed the room and Dreamtongue brought the creatures down with a powerful sleep spell.

Bardclever declared the goblins 'vermin' and said the only thing to do was now slaughter them.

Unfortunately, having done this and just as they searching and moving the bodies, another party of goblins streamed out from a door into the room and - outnumbering our heroes two-to-one - quickly overpowered them.

The two elves fell in the first moments of combat, but then Bostock managed to hold the creatures at bay with some brave posturing and waving of the orc leader's severed head (he was a trophy hunter, but only claimed the heads of creatures he had personally slain).

Confused, and slightly shaken, the goblin began to back away - which would have allowed the dwarf to save his unconscious colleague - but then the impulsive Bostock launched an attack at one of the goblins and was last seen disappearing under a mound of angry, stabbing goblins.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Chapter 11: What A Gas... And Beetlemania!

Having sojourned for a long while in the safety of the village of Larm, Sister FitzRovia, Wu Bao and Bernard decided it was time to once more venture forth to White Rabbit Castle, having been charged by the local abbot with finding an old temple to the forgotten god Thaxon believed to be somewhere within the castle.

Their expedition led them down into the rooms formerly occupied by kobolds, but these now appeared to be deserted and their hunt for clues to the location of the lost temple only unearthed a giant statue of a knight with the symbol of Thaxon (a chalice) on his shield.

The trio headed off into a long, winding tunnel and it may have taken them an hour or so to eventually find some more doors.

Without thinking, the foolhardy adventurers went through the door straight ahead, into a short corridor with another door at the end, and immediately fell victim to a cruel trap. Two collapsed from posion gas and one was struck down by a scything blade from the wall. Bernard managed to stay alive for a while, attempting to force the doors at either of the corridor - but to no avail.

Slowly the darkness embraced him and he knew no more...

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Sometime later another reckless trio of adventurers came upon the castle, via the village of Larm. A steppes woman called Irena, looking for a mystical herb associated with the forgotten god Thaxon, a gruff, zealous priest Father Melvin The Smiter and the child thief Tom.

Caution was their watchword as they explored the ground floor of the castle; Irena being slightly spooked by the strange whisperings they heard in some buildings (and despite attempts by the party to communicate with these voices, they heard no more).

Father Melvin had refused to enter the chapel to Thaxon in the castle courtyard, but Irena and Tom managed to topple over the altar before continuing on their way.

Carefully making their way along the battlements and through the inner keep, the groupd eventually found the staircase down into the underworld and began to explore.

At first they discovered very little, passing through rooms already cleared by previous adventurers (although unknown to them), until they entered a side room where a skeleton was collapsed over a locked chest. Pushing the skeleton aside Tom tried to pick the lock and was fried by some form of magical energy. Brought round by Father Melvin's healing hands, Tom watched Irena try to shatter the lock with her small club before trying to pick the locks again.

Once more the young thief was rendered unconscious by the magically trapped lock, but he had managed to pop the lock - revealing an elaborately engraved gold key, which Irena pocketed.

Father Melvin and Irena decided now was a good time to rest up (so Melvin could pray for more miracles to restore Tom to full health), but couldn't decide where to pitch camp. Deciding against the great outdoors, because of the perpetual cloud that hangs over the region, and ruling out the chapel (because of Father Melvin's aversion), they sought the old tavern in the 'village quarter' of the castle.

A derelict, gutted building, the old tavern seemed a sensible choice until they started to make camp and disturbed a frighteningly monstrous beetle from its nest. Irena and Melvin attacked the beetle, but it soon brought the Father down leaving Irena to face it alone.

The warrior from the steppes fought bravely, delivering much damage to the tough brute, but eventually she too died bleeding under the pincers of death!

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Chapter 10: Green Slime Claims A Victim...

Having spent a week recovering back in Larm, Sister FitzRovia, Wu Bao and Bernard decided to return to White Rabbit Castle.

However, first the priestess used her considerable charms to employ two strapping northerners - Beowulf and Churchill - to be torchbearers and muscle for the party; for the princely sum of three gold pieces a day and an extra gold piece per orc slain.

An elaborate plan was concocted to draw the orc guardians out of their gatehouse, but after Beowulf and Churchill had set light to the abandoned castle stables and stores, it became clear that there actually no orcs in the castle... at least not above ground.

The party explored the apparently abandoned castle more thoroughly, eventually making their way to the main fortress at the northern end, where they discovered a strange bedroom. Although the drapes on the walls were crumbling with age, the four-poster bed was remarkably well preserved. Unfortunately when Wu Bao tried to see if anything was hidden underneath he was flung backwards by a magical electrical force and the party decided to leave this room for the moment.

Eventually, Wu Bao led them down spiral stairs that led underground, but at the bottom the steps they discovered a makeshift barricade had been erected with the heads of Wu Bao's fallen colleagues along the top on spikes. Half-a-dozen kobolds hid behind the barricade with spears, jearing and taunting the adventurers.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, and lengthy discussions back on the surface, our heroes decided to storm the barricade, managing to set it alight with flaming arrows and throwing handfuls of silver pieces over the top to try and distract the kobolds. Much to everyone's surprise and amazement, the kobolds picked up the money and ran... giving time for the heroes to pull apart the barrier, light some torches and begin their fast exploration of the underworld.

The party's initial tactic was to keep heading south, through a large room of pillars and another room with a large oak table with a relief map of the area around the castle carved ornately into its surface. They heard a gaggle of goblins behind a door and decided to leave well enough alone, but then found a damp room coated in mold.

It was trying to cross this room that Beowulf the hireling fell victim to a green slime which dropped on him from the ceiling. The party pretty much freaked - with Churchill yelling: "Do something, do something!" - and considered various options for dragging the screaming, slime-coated man out. Sadly, by the time they figured that fire was only way to defeat the slime, Beowulf had been completely consumed and their victory over the creature felt rather hollow.

Sister FitzRovia swiftly doubled Churchill's salary to keep him on side and the exploration continued.

In a circular room, they encountered a giant statue of a squatting ape, wearing a fez and holding out a cup. Sister FitzRovia impulsively threw a coin in to the cup and promptly disappeared. The others thought about this for a moment, made sure everyone had a gold coin, then followed suit.

Everyone "rematerialised" in a near identical room (somewhere else in the dungeon) and as they started to map their way around they were charged by a pair of orcs.

Bernard was run through by a broadsword, before Sister FitzRovia stepped in and flattened one of the orcs, while Wu Bao engaged the other in a slightly longer melee. That orc lost confidence when his comrade fell, but as he turned to flee, Wu Bao smashed him squarely in the back with his hammer and brought the orc down.

Looking around, the still conscious members of the party realised they were actually back in the original corridor they had come down, so FitzRovia and Churchill carried Bernard back out to the surface.

It was then decided they should head back to Larm to recuperate and plan their next assault on White Rabbit Castle.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Chapter Nine: And Now The Orcs...

As Red collapsed in a heap from some form of blood poisoning, Wu Bao could hear the kobold shaman outside demanding they leave the "bitches and cubs alone and get out".

The decision was made to explore deeper into the dungeon and so Wu Bao, Gregor, Clodius and Jabo the hireling left Red temporarily and checked the next room, which turned out to be a randsacked, but otherwise empty, store room. Slightly concerned about what the shaman might do to them they then opened the next door and came across a half-dozen orcs sharpening their weapons and eating scraps of food.

It was impossible to tell who first cried: "Run away!", but it was a cry soon picked up by the rest of the party as they turned tail and fled back through the kobold lair - paying no heed to the feeble cries from their ailing colleague. The shaman's pet toad spat a glob of acid which burned Gregor slightly, but that didn't slow him down as the party made for the stairwell back up into the castle.

Instead of heading back onto the battlements - the way they had come in - the party decided to forge a path through the overgrown inner courtyard, heading for the tower across from the one they had just come out of.

They soon realised they weren't alone and "something" was moving with them in the tall, dead, damp grass.

Reaching the far tower, the party found a wooden ladder up to a small doorway. Clodius and Wu Bao made it up into the tower with no problem and Jabo had almost reached the tower when the simultaneously the ladder broke beneath him and he fell badly backwards into the courtyard - snapping his neck! - and the creature in the grass attacked Gregor, pulling him down and tearing at his legs.

From the tower, Wu Bao could see that the creature in the grass was a giant weasel... and it wasn't going to let go of Gregor! The canny dwarf could also see the half-dozen orcs following their path through the grass. Suddenly Clodius swung himself down to the courtyard on a rope and charged at the orcs.

Gregor's trained badger Billy tried to forced the weasel off his master, but to no avail. Clodius charged into the oncoming orcs like a madman, cutting one down before two closed on him and one drove his sword into the fighter's guts while the other scythed a blade into his neck.

In mere moments, Wu Bao realised both his colleagues had fallen and he decided the only course of action was to flee back to the village of Larm.

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The Wu Bao who arrived in Larm was a broken dwarf, driven insane by the brutal killings of his fellow adventurers and the sudden realisation that he was alone on this alien world with no connection to the place from whence he had come.

The villagers did their best to tend to him, but he took to propping up the bar in the tavern and rambling about "hundreds of orcs" and "blood weasels".

A couple of weeks later a pair of fresh-faced fortune hunters, Sister FitzRovia and Bernard The Archer, arrived at the tavern - having been drawn to Larm by the tales of the mysterious White Rabbit Castle and the treasures rumoured to be squirrelled away in its vaults.

Their interest piqued by the ramblings of the dwarf Wu Bao - also the only person in the village who had actually been to the castle recently and survived - they coaxed him into leading them back there (with the hope of possibly retrieving Clodius' magical sword Wavecleaver).

Once in the outer courtyard, Bernard scouted up onto the battlements and spied a trio of orcs manning the inner gatehouse. He came up with a scheme for Sister FitzRovia to create a distraction, so he could get parallel with the inner gatehouse, while Wu Bao climbed another tower and pinned the orcs from a different angle.

The plan would have gone perfectly had Sister FitzRovia been more nimble in her distraction and not taken an orc crossbow bolt in the back of her leg for her troubles. The dwarf and the archer traded missiles with the embedded orcs for a good couple of minutes before the last pig-face fell and they could claim victory.

Unfortunately, FitzRovia was so badly injured, they realised their expedition would have to call it a day and head back to the village to get her patched up.

(picture from Lord Of The Green Dragons)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Chapter Eight - Trouble With Kobolds...

Finding themselves in a strange, new world, Red, Clodius, Gregor and Wu Bao made their way down the grassy slope to the nearest village, Larm.

All felt slightly different from their magical journey; Gregor, in particular, felt physically changed as though his orcish heritage had receeded slightly, and his communication with his god had become more distant.

The party settled themselves in at Larm's one tavern, The Borderland, and over the next few days began finding their feet and settling in to the community.

Among the many strange things they discovered about their new world was its odd, occasional similarities to the one from whence they had come - such as the name of the country they were now in was Tekralh, where back 'home' it had been the name of the continent of their homeland.

Chatting with locals in the tavern they learned of the nearby "haunted" castle, White Rabbit Castle, which had once stood as part of Tekralh's frontline against the evil creatures that lived in the adjacent borderlands (also known as the Badlands) and beyond.

They heard how, a century ago (about fifty or sixty years before Larm was founded) the Fist Of T'Ao (the ominous, supernatural cloud that keeps the "evil lands" permanently enshrouded in darkness) had rolled forward and swept over White Rabbit Castle.

Nothing more had been heard from the castle since, but the inhabitants of Larm had plenty of rumours to spin about the influence of The Great God T'Ao and the magics that must be hidden in the cellars and dungeons of the overrun castle.

While preparing to head off and explore the castle, Red was approached by a nervous halfling, Jabo Furfoot, who offered his services as a torchbearer - and a map drawn by his grandfather. Jabo's "grandpappy" had run errands to and from the castle back in his youth and had drawn a crude map of the interior to find his way around the courtyard and its environs.

The party made their way to the castle and, at first sight, it seemed as deserted as they had been told. Not expecting to find much in these empty buildings, after initially exploring quite cautiously, they split up to try and find a way into the inner courtyard or even an entrance that would lead underground.

While alone, both Clodius and Wu Bao heard strange whispering voices; Clodius was quite freaked out and didn't really understand what was going on. Red and Jabo headed for the huge gates of the inner gatehouse, where Red thought he heard a noise or maybe someone speaking. By the time everyone else arrived he was convinced they were not alone in the castle.

A belief that proved to be correct when Wu Bao was felled by an arrow from a kobold up on the batrtlements of the inner keep.

Having pressed thesemselves to the gates for safety, Red and Gregor heroically charged out, with the intention of turning and firing (Red with his crossbow and Gregor with a sling) at the kobold... only to see ten faces and ten bows shooting arrows at them.

Both were struck by the tiny arrows, although Gregor still managed to take a kobold down with a well-aimed stone, and eventually Red suggested he head back to the original gate towers and try to make it up onto the wall, with Clodius, to assault the kobolds from that direction.

Gregor and Clodius made it through the hail of arrows to the tower, but before bursting out and attacking the kobolds from the flank, Gregor enchanted his mighty scimitar so it glowed magically.

The kobolds fled in horror at the sight and sound of the roaring, tattoed man armed with a glowing blade bursting out at them. He managed to catch up with a couple and butcher them mercilessly. He and Clodius pursued the kobolds around the walls to a far tower, then waited for their comrades to catch up.

Descending the tower, and following a very clear path left by the kobolds, they headed down into the castle cellars; their way lit by Gregor's "magic" sword. Almost immediately they stumbled into the kobold's lair and a pitch battle ensued, and was soon joined by the kobold's leader and his burly bodyguards.

Gregor was a whirlwind of death and destruction, his skin and clothes becoming increasing caked in kobold blood, guts and internal organs as he carved a swathe of death through them.

Red took on the kobold chieftain; a duel that lasted surprisingly longer than either side expected until eventually the weight of the entire party - having killed the other kobolds - forced the chieftain back into the room he had emerged from. With a final, telling blow, Red slew the leader and everyone paused to catch their breath.

At this point, Wu Bao and Jabo, bringing up the rear, pointed out the apparent kobold shaman that had come into the first room, behind them, with a large, red frog by his side.

Red and Gregor slammed the door shut behind them and everyone thought they could relax... until they realised they were now in a room with half-a-dozen angry female kobolds and half-a-dozen sobbing baby kobolds - all rather upset that their husbands, fathers, uncles and friends were dripping off of Gregor and Clodius...

[Illustration from Larm, by Brave Halfling Publishing]

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Chapter Seven - Strangeness Afoot In The Trollstone Caverns...

With Wu Bao trapped behind the stone portal and Red suddenly (magically) vanished, Clodius stepped up to answer the next riddle and managed to guess it surprisingly quickly for a fighter not gifted with the greatest of intelligence.

Behind the door, Wu Bao had been instantly charged by a great troll, intent on making a meal of the dwarf. However the brave dwarf stood his ground and was soon joined by Clodius and together (thanks to Wu Bao smashing its kneecap quite spectacularly) the troll was defeated.

However, by the time Gregor had answered his riddle and gained access to the room all he could see was Clodius standing next to a troll... and a second troll, seemingly dead, on the floor. It was also about this time that Clodius' armour gave up the ghost and fell off his body, shattering into dust on the rocky floor.

It didn't take a genius (which was lucky as there weren't any in the room) to realise that Wu Bao had been transformed into a troll, and enchanted to protect the troll's treasure horde.

A long drawn out fight/discussion ensued as the original troll came back to life and attacked the Wu Bao-troll, while Clodius and Gregor tried to resolve the situation (and steal some of the treasure... a collection of hefty golden hoops). Gregor cast magical light on the original troll's face, but was then attacked by the Wu Bao-troll when he was trying to ferret around a pile of old bones and discarded armour in the cave.

Gregor reacted with fine half-orcish pride and smacked - with the flat of his scimitar - the troll, which had recently been his dwarvish companion, into next week. However, by the time the troll hit the wall it had transformed back into Wu Bao... and Gregor had transformed into a troll!

Clodius carried the dwarf out the room (Gregor had previously found a way to open the stone portal from the inside) and left the two trolls fighting while he and Wu Bao (who soon regained consciousness) tried to figure out a solution to their dilemma.

It was only upon answering more riddles and returning to the room that Wu Bao realised the only way for Gregor to shake off the curse of being the "guardian of the treasure" was for the first troll to defeat him in combat, so he would resume the mantle of "guardian".

Gregor-troll, however, would have none of this - he wanted to guard the treasure. So Wu Bao and Clodius contrived to sneak round behind him, while he was still locked in mortal combat with the original troll, and trip him up so the original troll could batter him unconscious... thus triggering a magical return to half-orc form.

Clodius and Wu Bao hastily dragged their druidic colleague out and, once he recovered, they decided to explore more of the caverns, rather than chancing the troll room again. Gregor revealed that he had managed to load about 40 of the gold hoops into his backpack before he was transformed though, so it wasn't a total waste of time.

Nimbly evading a corridor of traps, the party came upon a cavern illuminated by a stream of sunlight from a hole in the ceiling. Possibly still punch-drunk from his encounter with the troll, Gregor wandered into the room to study the light and was promptly attacked by a host of strange bat-creatures.

He managed to magically keep about half-a-dozen at bay, but others pressed home their attack and before his colleagues could come to their senses and wade in, he was almost on his knees from blood loss as the vampiric creatures sucked out his life blood. Obviously, it didn't help when he stabbed himself in the neck trying to get one off of him.

Staggering from the cavern, Gregor healed himself with some magical berries, and the three explorers found themselves on the opposite side of a chasm they had encountered earlier.

Wu Bao was lowered into the crack in the rock, but found nothing of interest. So he climbed out the other side and secured the rope so the other two (and Billy the badger) could get across.

The corridor on the other side of the chasm took them back towards the iron door that marked the entrance to the caverns. After easily dispatching a lone orc who foolishly attacked them, the party headed out of the door into the welcoming sunlight.

Heading out of the tunnel entrance of the Trollstone Caverns, they again passed the point where a strange wave of giddy vertigo hit them. But then they realised that the view in front of them had changed (they were no longer in a woodland, but an open grass plain) and Red was walking along beside them.

Gregor looked back... and the Trollstone Caverns (and the hill they were in) had disappeared!

Something very odd had just happened to the party and they didn't feel quite themselves...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Chapter Six - The Trollstone Caverns

Following Lemunda's map, the party - including their new recruit Wu Bao, travelled for two days along the main road before branching off into dense woodland and shrub and soon found themselves standing before the entrance of a cave.

The cave ran back into the hill for about forty feet and was then blocked by a strange iron door, with an eye carved in the top, a mouth carved in the bottom and an arm extending out of the centre, bent upwards at a right angle. Approaching the door, the party all felt a momentary giddy feeling as though they had lost their balance, but that soon past.

Reaching the door, they made out some dwarvish runes which Wu Bao read aloud. They spelt words in orcish which Gregor, the half-orc druid, translated as "This door yields to gold or force, nothing else".

Gregor, the muscles of the group, strode forward and grasped the arm in an arm-wrestling style and with some effort bent it down, causing the door to swing open. The party entered the cavern system beyond and were almost immediately met by a small band of goblins who were quickly dismissed.

Retracing the direction they imagined the goblins had come from, the group were led down a sloping corridor into a bowl-cave, filled with black water. Red bravely felt his way round the edge to the exit corridor opposite and, because of the slippery nature of the footing, suggested the others come one at time and that Gregor rope them to himself in case any fell. Wu Bao made it round safely, but Clodius had almost reached Red when he slipped under and emerging from under the water discovered he had lost his sight!

Concerned, Gregor wrapped cloth around his eyes and carried his badger, Billy, under one arm. Even led by the rope, he still lost his footing and plunged into a sink hole in the centre of the dark water - even though he had time to throw Billy to safety. Keeping his eyes closed as tighter a he could swam for the 'shore' and crawling out he found that his makeshift blindfold had miraculously worked.

Wu Bao volunteered his services as a "seeing-eye dwarf" for Clodius, who rested one hand on his shoulder as Red (now carrying Clodius' lantern) and Gregor (mapping) led the way to a T-junction in the cave system.

Heading south they discovered a stone door which swung open and revealed a large cavern... and two slavering wargs which attacked Gregor and Red. A brutal battled ensued with both the ranger and the druid taking severe bite wounds and being pulled to the ground. Red managed to dispatch his one from a prone position before rising to help Gregor defeat the other.

While the group scouted the cave, looking for other exits, Clodius began to get his sight back... and made out the blurry image of an orc charging towards him. Although Wu Bao managed to get off a wild crossbow bolt at the orc, it was Clodius that killed it with a single mighty blow.

Gregor continued his exploration of the cave until the group was disturbed by the sudden appearance of another ferocious warg; which Clodius again dispatched with a single blow. However, by this stage the group had decided enough was enough and they headed back out to the corridor where they turned right and made their way to a cave where they caught a glint of silver.

Distracted by the prospects of hundreds of nuggets of silver, Gregor and Wu Bao was surprised by the freezing breath of a giant silver snake which then slithered towards Wu Bao. Clodius, however, stepped up and smacked the snake so hard, he almost took its head right off and Red jabbed it with his spear and slew it.

Red proceeded to skin the snake while the others counted the nuggets of treasure and searched through the pile of bones the snake had been resting on. Realising there was more treasure than they could carry, the group decided to leave it where it was and come back for it later.

The adventurers then retraced their steps and headed north towards a fork in the path. Turning east they followed a path round to where a twenty foot cube blocked their path. On top of the cube sat a massive beast with the body of a lion, the head of a ram and large feathered wings. Between its paws rested an obsidian carving of a troll. The creature was very pleasant, although not one for small talk, and after answering a couple of questions explained it was the "guardian of the trollstone, which would allow access to the 'final chamber'". To get the trollstone they had to answer a riddle. One riddle per person.

The first riddle was asked. The party huddled together and conferred, then chose Wu Bao to answer. It was correct! The beast handed the stone to Wu Bao who slotted it into a hole at the front of the stone cube, which caused a secret door to swing open. Wu Bao jumped through as the door started to close.

The door slammed shut and the party realised that the trollstone was back at the beast's feet.

"Who wishes to answer my next riddle?" it asked.

To be continued...

Interlude And Aftermath...

The town of Portown was almost razed to the ground, barring the tavern, during the great Battle Of Portown.

The once proud fishing community has now transformed into a small tented community huddled around The Green Dragon. A few families have actually taken to living in the inn at the moment.

Funeral services were held for the dead - including Lemunda - and memorials for the missing - including Feng Ying. People have started to trickle in from outlying communuties to aid with the restoration of the fishing town.

While going through Lemunda's possessions, to see what should be buried with her, Red discovered a partial fragment of a map.

It showed a section of the route west to the border town of Grosker in the neighboring kingdom of Sudland, with an interesting note pointing to an off-road site marked: BEWARE HIGH MAGIC. Next to this, in a different hand, was written HIGH MAGIC = BIG REWARD.

The treasure hunters in the group declared: "How better to remember the fallen, than to investigate this site?"

During this time of reconstruction and mourning, outsiders and drifters came through the town, either to help or hinder, and among these stragglers was a dwarvish wanderer from the Deng Fang mountains, by the name of Wu Bao, who said he was an old "drinking partner" of Feng Ying...

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Chapter Five: The Battle Of Portown...

28 Jester In the Year 3208

Hear, O Princelings, the tale of The Battle of Portown. For decades, bards will sing of the bravery of a group of adventurers (three human, one half-orc and one gnomish) who held off the combined might of a band of marauding pirates from the sea and a troop of goblin mercenaries from the land. And of the fall of one and the kidnapping of another.

Red (recently returned from his unsuccessful attempt to track the elusive mage Magoo), Gregor, Feng Ying, Clodius and Lemunda were woken from their slumber in the Green Dragon Inn by the town's alarm bell ringing - even though it was still several hours to dawn.

From his window Red espied the Sea Witch, the pirate ship of Elean Starlight, the fierce Zennish pirate queen the group had battled a couple of weeks earlier in the Tunnels, had docked at the town's small harbour and its foul crew were spilling out into the streets - pillaging and torching as they went.

Those towns folk that could fled towards the tavern, the strongest building in town. Clodius, who had been asleep in a pool of mead in the main room of the tavern went outside and climbed the stairs to meet his colleagues who were formulating plans to fight off the invaders.

Red and Gregor scrambled onto the roof of the inn to provide hassle the pirates with missile fire - Gregor slinging magically enchanted stones (and managing to take out two pirates with a single stone at one point).

Meanwhile, Feng Ying stealthily dropped down into the street and slid off to try to find a lone pirate to 'interrogate'. Bursting into a house where a pirate had just beheaded an innocent townsperson, Feng Ying stunned the foul man - but quickly realised his lack of knowledge of Zennish (the tongue of the pirates) meant he couldn't get any information.

Red spotted Elean in the middle of the pirate horde as her men headed for the tavern's front doors - on the tail of the fleeing towns folk, who just managed to get the doors locked and barred before the pirates reached them.

Red scurried to the front of the tavern and, having been shocked to also see a party of goblins coming down the track from the ruins of the old city, dropped down to tackle the pirates at the door - while Clodius, and then Lemunda, fought off the ones trying to get up the staircase to the top floor.

Gregor and Elean traded missile shots - to little effect - although Gregor was taken with the obvious magical nature of her crossbow. Then Gregor jumped down from the roof to engage her in furious hand-to-hand combat. Elean drew on her primal fury and went berserk as Feng Ying crept up behind her to try to land a fatal blow.

Elean's fury was such that although Gregor managed to strike some quite powerful blows, she appeared to be oblivious to them and her attention was focussed now on reducing the gnomish monk to a green paste...

Out the front of the tavern, as the goblins approached, the pile of dead pirates grew as Lemunda, Clodius and Red hacked, slashed and slew their through the encroaching ruffians.

But then the goblins arrived, under cover of a shower of arrows, and one managed to carve Lemunda across the stomach with a lucky blow. She fell back, fighting on, but having to hold her guts in place with one arm, as consciousness faded from her body.

She went down fighting, but by the time Clodius fought his way through the goblins to her she was dead.

Elean's mighty blows almost killed Feng Ying and had not Gregor distracted Elean, the pirate queen might have slain the gnome then and there... and in her berserk fury probably torn his body to pieces.

Just as it looked as though Gregor had got the upper hand, the pirates who had been raiding the town (rather than attacking the tavern) reached their leader and engaged Gregor in a mighty brawl, while two helped her away and another lifted Feng Ying's small body up and carried him off towards the Sea Witch.

The pirates round the front of the tavern were all dead and of the goblins few remained. The archers fled when they saw the day was lost for them while one brave goblin - empowered by a magical potion - took on Red and though he landed one mighty blow, the seasoned ranger got the better of him.

As the sun slowly rose and the flames of the burning houses took hold, Red surveyed the carnage around him.

It was impossible to say at that time how many locals had died, trapped in their homes, either from the fires or the blades of the pirates - but some had definitely been taken - including Feng Ying (probably to be sold as slaves) and Portown might never recover from the slaughter.
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