Fritz, Elvin Chandler
Talbot Shortstock, Halfling Haberdasher
Oscar, Wheat Farmer
Karl, Halfling Moneylender
Monty, Potato Farmer
Garrett, Halfling Trader
John, Ditch Digger
Paul, Guild Beggar
Ringo, Halfling Dyer
|Rufus Weatherbee, Halfling Glovemaker
Mortesh Bogul, Caravan Guard
Wedge "Antillies" Bunyun, Woodcutter
Godfry Glitterspiel, Merchant
Bjorn Berber, Dwarven Ratcatcher
Borg Berber, Dwarven Blacksmith
Simon Graves, Grave Digger
Wilber Wifflelinks, Halfling Dyer
Red, Radish Farmer
Jeremiah, Potato Farmer
The halflings in the group are from Brandy Hollow, and are proud to hear of Olo Nudd's rescue. They follow the path to the village to thank the group responsible, but, oddly, all of them are currently absent. So they pay a visit to the local shop before leaving. Ulric the Blacksmith is counting out change for Rufus Weatherbee and just stops....then holds up a tarnished coin and stares at it, then at Rufus, then back to the coin. "What are you playing at, boy? You some kind of royalty?" Confusion is obvious as he takes the coin and sees a slight resemblance to himself in the visage of the woman inscribed on the copper. Relations turn sour and Rufus leaves in a huff with the large band following on his heels. He flings open the door to the street, stomps through, and finds himself nearly halfway up a path on a great mountainside dusted with snow.
Looking back behind them, there is no doorway. The group contemplates heading back down, away from the monotone white of the mountain peaks (and back to warmer climes), but a female voice sounds in Rufus's head, bidding him forward. Good thing these folk are no strangers to hard work or extreme weather. The livestock, on the other hand, were not as happy about the frozen landscape.
Two hours pass as they trudge along. The duck is carried by the mule. The moneylender reveals himself to be an insurance salesman. Impropriety abounds. Finally they catch sight of a low stone cairn ahead just as they hear a war call from the trail behind. They decide there's not really time to run for cover, so some brace their pitchforks in a pike line against the charge while others run forward to engage in battle with the savages who swarm up in waves. Eleanor and Red stand their ground with disembowling attacks that would impress experienced fighters, and others succeed in knocking their enemies over the side of the mountain, but in the end, Eleanor, Oscar, and Borg are struck down with furious axes. The fallen are buried appropriately; there are no marking on the stones forming the cairn, so it seems a neutral ground. A handful of stone axes are taken from the dead, and the fallen savages are stripped of their furs and stag antlers. The furs keep off the worst of the chill for the weakest of the party during the remainder of their journey; 3 sets of the antlers were secured to Jeremiah's new War Mule.
Rufus is coaxed along the way, much as a trained animal, and they find the trail dead-ending. Steps have been cut into the rock, leading up to a black opening in the face of the white mountain. Torches alight as they enter the pitch-dark hallway, which turns out to be so massive they cannot see to the other end. The black fossil impressions of ancient fish in the walls are inactive, so, in true adventurer fashion, they split up.
Meanwhile, our left-side explorers have found a small hallway leading to a plain room with a very large chair that looks to have been carved seamlessly from the mountain itself. Seated upon it is the translucent figure of a beautiful woman with long black hair a silverish hue to her body. She looks remarkably like the image on the coin. She smiles and greets them, "I am Ivrian of Dalcia. I bid you welcome. But you are not...." She trails off with a confused look. Karl and Leonard assure her that Rufus is right behind them, so she relaxes and asks them the favor of finding a stone for her. "It should be here, within the mountain." That's about when Group B hollers out into the cavernous hallway for Group A, because they're not about to commit to such a task without the person responsible putting his butt on the line too! She claims to know nothing about the coin, but, "It is nice that someone thought so much of me to immortalize my visage." She milks it, using her beauty to get them to agree to find the Star Stone and bring it back to her body so that she can rise again. She implies that her soul is within the Stone, and tells Rufus, "You must not touch it. Because we are kin, it will devour your soul. But because of our connection, you will be more potent against the Stone's guardian." Hey, what could go wrong with this plan? Sure, they say, and exit the ghost's chamber to the north.
Due to the cold dry climate, the foodstuffs found in this kitchen/pantry are still viable. Rations are replenished, and the entire party breaks for lunch, spending a good hour just relaxing in this place that doesn't seem to hold any active threats. [Drat my dice - they were right! The fossils were dormant, Ivrian's ghost couldn't reach them, and Rufus ignored the voice in his head in favor of resting.] After lunch, they head out toward the dining room, and smack their foreheads for not looking for a full-sized table to sit at -- but the partially-eaten meal still preserved upon the table gives them all misgivings.
Now fortified, they decide to remain together as a group, and continue toward the other end of the immense hallway (60' wide by 320' long). They have to investigate all apertures, of course, so next is the storeroom. The jars of flesh-colored putty are grabbed from the shelf, and in a stroke of sudden genius, Pete slathers some of it on Gefrid's wounds. Amidst checking out the vats full of congealed and frozen materials that look disturbingly like deconstructed body parts, another filament trio slithers up from the grate in the floor. One succeeds in contacting Leonard's psyche. Fritz's scissors prove a boon and the others scoot out of there as quickly as they can with the wispy tendrils trailing them. The rest of the party jumps on them once in the hallway.
Finally coming to the end of the hallway, the party is faced with a rickety rope and wood bridge leading across an enormous chasm to another hallway on the other side. The drop is at least 1,000 feet, and they have 100 feet to cross. Not sure what waits for them on the other side, they decline to leave the mule, so they detach the antlers (lest they catch on the ropes!) and each adventurer takes their time to carefully cross.
Beyond the next hallway lies a temple-like chamber. As they enter, a swirl of gold motes appears in a corner, and quickly becomes the corporeal form of a scaled horse with branched horns on its brow and ichor dripping from its mouth. The creature appears to be guarding the Star Stone, a gem of swirling black and silver. Sensing both the Blooded One (Rufus) and Nightraker's presence, Aagazzbagh the Golden introduces himself. Rufus fails to assert himself, so the demon appeals to them for release by way of the sword. Pete doesn't quite understand... Aagazzbagh gives him multiple swings, all of which glance off or miss completely, then grows tired of the game and swings out with his antlers. Pete drops. The group closes in at that point. Alfred's magnificent swing goes horribly awry and Leonard the Ukelele Minstrel is killed instead. The sword "calls" to Wedge, who grabs for it and sends the demon back to his home plane with the first hit.
Leaving the party to kibitz about the Star Stone, Karl scouts a little further and finds an exit from this room back out onto the mountain. The path leads to the top spire, which is home to a ring of black standing stones topped with snow. He calls to the rest of the party, and they're dive-bombed by a trio of translucent silver and gold wasps with the faces of women. Amber (the remaining Beekeeper) doesn't know where to begin. The others lure the creatures down and make some pretty special attacks, the unnatural bodies falling irrecoverably down the mountainside and only incurring a few injuries. Proceeding to the stones, a shimmering haze is seen between two of the standing stones. After much deliberation, Oscar runs between them. He vanishes. Simon then passes his shovel through the haze and pulls it back, bringing back a moldy wooden handle but an otherwise sound tool. They decide they should return after sealing the deal with Ivrian, and poor Oscar is written off.
There is a LOT of discussion about whether or not her wish should be granted. Bottom line: Nobody can come up with a good reason not to. [Believe it or not, "Because she lied to them" never comes into it!] The stone is brought back into the stone throne room, she vaguely answers a couple of questions about the tendrils from the grates ("The Builders are miserable chaotic beings who wish to keep me here"), pulls out one last promise from Rufus to do as she bids, and Ivrian happily enters into the Star Stone. The group travels to the bedroom as a whole. Not sure how to proceed, the Stone is placed upon the Imperishable body. Ivrian the Unkind is instantly returned to the flesh form, and the Stone ceases its swirling coloration. Opening her eyes and realizing her location, the sorceress immediately reaches under the bed for Nightraker. With no care for modesty, she jumps up from the bed and shrieks in outrage at the thieves who dared to steal from her. This gets an uncomfortable look from the person holding her jewelry. This also results in Wilbur getting all twitterpated and climbing onto a chest to bring him to a higher stature so he can proclaim his love for her. Heedless, she runs into the adjacent workshop with the vats and her old body, luring half the party after her, but no attacks have been made (successfully) yet. She takes advantage of the split group and summons a 4HD monster into the bedroom to thin the herd, but pays for it with a lot of punishment from the weaponized angry mob who followed her. The hairy monster with boar tusks and eagle talons tore apart Amber and Mortesh before he was dispatched. Ivrian's next spell check fails (got a little rusty, perhaps?) and she's knocked to the ground as 12 full-length, ectoplasmic filaments emerge from the grates of the lab floor. Jeremiah is, unfortunately, one of the nearest targets, and the Builder succeeds in taking over his Personality and brain. The other adventurers drag him as the tendrils reach for Ivrian's bodies -- both of them -- and begin dragging them to the grates in the floor. Though the Imperishable body is out of hit points and unable to move, the face of the body housing her soul contorts to a mask of pain as she is driven beyond the point of insanity. Wilber is horrified, and requests that her head be severed. The party rushes to get the hell out of dodge, slowing down for the bridge crossing -- and to toss Ivrian's new, grotesquely beautiful head down into the ravine.
Back at the standing stones, Gefrid decides to shove one of the fowl companions through the portal -- this time Monty's caged chicken -- attached to a pole. The cage comes back empty, with a note in Oscar's scrawl: "Took you long enough." Everyone heaves a sigh of relief and runs through, finding themselves back in the general store.
In the aftermath, a coup is staged against the blacksmith, and the store may very well end up being run as a co-op.
Jeremiah's quirks are finally determined to be chaos-driven. His reaction to mentions of the Builder are the final key, and the party acknowledges that he has to be put down.
As we wrapped for the night, 24 of 32 PCs survived (although 4 were AWOL as a player had to leave early). Only 8 deaths, but at least they were traumatic.
"The Imperishable Sorceress", Daniel J. Bishop / Goodman Games
LOOT: 10 sets of stag antlers / 10 stone axes (8 remaining) / 2 jars of healing putty (9 uses remaining) / fancy black garments / silver candle holder (20 SP) / Nightraker (longsword) / 10 pieces of jewelry (70 GP) / Star Stone jewel (value TBD) / Ivrian's journal (multiple volumes)