Lights in the Darkness

Past the Standing Stone
Session 0

- The island
- Alliance with Sliptail and his merry band of Man-Possums
- The arena
- Fall into darkness

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Under the Arena
Session 1

- The pool
- Battle with the chain-wielding skeletons
- Fall of Kenric
- The baths and jakes; the cracking of Tibalt

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Escape from the Arena
Session 2

- Crossing and the giant carp
- Room of flasks
- The room of the harem
- The room of the tree
- Escape
- The marsh pirates

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Ambushing the Ambushers
Session 3

- Froxhall: Colbert, Old Scaly, and the other company
- Ambush

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Treacherous Living Treasure Map
Session 4

After our victory over the pirates, the group handed over their prisoners to two rather dubious looking sergeants. Maurice and Taeting (former pirate, now living treasure map) waited outside town, while the others interacted with the locals.

Folkhart the blacksmith is curious about the alloy used to forge the chains I salvaged from the dungeon, but is too superstitious (and insufficiently knowledgeable) to analyze it further. He recommends that someone in a city might be willing to buy it and also expresses his interest in learning more about similar alloys.

Athelthrith (headwoman of another adventurer company): The local reeve is a magician of some renown who is mainly interested in his research and his taxes. He might be interested in buying monster parts.

There is a bigger town called Carlton about one day’s march to the east of Froxhall.

The Sunken City is a collection of ruins. One can use the menhirs near Froxhall to teleport into random parts of the city, but it is dangerous: several parts are submerged and sealed. Few groups enter several times.

Colbert the priest tells us about a Frog Cult in Taygle’s End, a village to the southwest. The canon in Taygle’s End died some time ago, but for unknown reasons, the Metropolitan of Hewflore has not yet sent a replacement. Hewflore is the capital of the local kingdom.

Helmward the local reeve: The group asks for an audience with the local reeve, which is granted. The reeve hardly bothers to prepare and continues his studies till the group stands directly in front of him. He considers helping his village against the pirates barely a start and tells us that people who try to evade the adventurer safety tax by sleeping outside the village will be treated like bandits, but he is very interested in buying monster parts from the group if we behave (and pay taxes). He also hints that adventuring wizards who titillate him might have a chance to study with him.

We hire two mercenaries, Urien and Athelwine, to accompany us on our adventurers. Osric uses this time to plea for a prophecy and gets the vision of a strange menhir hidden in the mists. Soon, we set sail toward the promised treasure, luckily without running into any trouble.

After about half a day we reach an island with the menhir from Osric’s dream on top. Taeting leads us to the treasure and explains we have to dig close to it. Despite considerable digging, we find no treasure and settle for the night. The next morning, Tating tries to escape but is stopped by Zephyros sleep spell. After being bound, he confesses there would be no treasure: He wanted to use the menhir to teleport back to Froxhall, as most of the menhirs lead there. There is an underground ruin beneath the menhir, though, which could be opened by knocking on the menhir.

After binding Taeting, Oswald knocks on the menhir, and, indeed, a secret door opens, allowing access to stairs leading down. Taeting mentions that several pirates tried exploring the dungeon, but none returned. Fearing a trap, the group rolls a heavy boulder down the stairs, but without any specific results (except for a lot of noise).

Oswald, Osric and Maurice descend the stairs, reaching a chamber with cobwebs on the north, a crate to the southeast and a further tunnel to the south, ending in a metal door. When poking the crate, several skeletons burst from the ceiling, attacking the group. They are quickly turned by Osric’s invocation of the Maker and are easily dispatched afterwards.

When trying to open the door to the south, Maurice triggers a trap and almost falls into a pit directly in front of the door. Athelwine only just drags him back in time. A torch thrown into the pit reveals a natural cave with a pool at the bottom. We consider investigating the lower level but decide instead to return to the entrance to allow our magician to better prepare himself. We also learn that the secret door closes on its own after about one hour.

The next day, we first sent one team in to check whether one can open the door from the inside or not. That proves to be rather easy, so the whole group descends. We also find some strange dust on the walls that glows when squeezed; we fill a bottle of it for further study or sale. The metal door to the south proves to be false, but we find a strange rune on the eastern walls during a more thorough search. Maurice finds a strange skull (with a ruby for its left eye) in the crate on some kind of push-button. When pressing the button, a secret door opens in the wall section with the rune.

In a small chamber beyond the secret door, we are ambushed by small, white-skinned humanoids with sharpened teeth and hooked swords currently in the middle of cooking meat stew in a large cauldron. Walking in the lead, I kill the first attacker quickly, but I am then badly injured by the remaining attackers. Luckily, Osric and Maurice turn the tide before I fall.

Now seriously injured, I take a more passive approach. We push through another room, past a stairs leading further down, and finally into a room with filled with gears and mechanisms. While entering the room, the whirring machines hit both Maurice and Osric, and Osric is badly wounded. They quickly leave the room through another door and find themselves back in the room with the large cauldron. Using the cauldron and dropped swords of the gray-skinned humanoids, Maurice finally jams the gears of the machines and halts their movement.

Afterwards, we grabbed the corpses of the slain monsters and returned to Froxhall to heal. The reeve was very happy with the monsters and bought them and the skull for a great deal of money. Oswald gave the monster’s weapons to Folkart the blacksmith on the condition that he will turn them into tools and sell them for a low price to needy families; Folkhart was rather touched by this gesture. Osric donated a lot of money to the local church, pleasantly surprising Colbert. Maurice tried to buy better armor but discovered that only leather was available.

We discussed what to do afterwards, visiting the ruin once again (to gain more treasure and experience) or going to Hewflore (to sell our loot). We also learned that the Scaleless Snake, the local inn, offers a free safe deposit for adventurers on the condition that everything not reclaimed within a year and a day passes to the Inn keeper. With that, we rested in Froxhall.

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The Broken Elevator
Session 5

Oswald hired Taeting as guide through the swamp, offering him standard pay and a share in the treasure if he enters dungeons. Taeting agrees on the condition that he may chose whether to enter dungeons or not.

Afterwards, the group returns to the dungeon under the menhir. Before entering, the group takes time to reconnoitre the island. We find a trail that leads us to a hidden swamp boat, where we discuss what to do with this news. During this discussion, a giant mutant frog (with a human arm on its back) attacks us, but is quickly gutted. While harvesting monster parts, Maurice gets poisoned and suffers nausea, diarrhoea and vertigo. Luckily, the symptoms subside after a short while and, while relieving himself, he also finds some submerged buildings in the water (which we do not further inspect).

The group returns to the camp site from our last expedition and sets up camp. During Zephyros’ and Oswald’s watch, some scouts try to sneak into the camp but are noticed and then flee towards the dungeon. The group remains in place and the rest of the night remains calm.

Next morning, we enter the dungeon anew. The traps (and skeletons) in the first room have been reset, we destroy the first skeleton by bowling a large stone down the stairs, afterwards Maurice and Oswald take care of the remaining. The skeletons look different from last time, mutated humans instead of normal humans. We stash their weapons outside and continue through the secret door.

In the former cauldron room (this time without a cauldron) we are again ambushed: This time by a frog man and a mutant human. There is also one of the small, grey coloured begins (I’ll call them morlocks from now) we fought the last time, but this time it flees and shouts “prepare the defence” in beastmanish. (To our luck, Zephyros understands the language and warns us). Even though Maurice gets wounded, the group manages to cuts down the attackers. We also mercilessly cut down the frog man that tried to escape into the machine room.

We find the door forward jammed, but Maurice easily bashes it open. When we press forward, we figure out that the morlocks did not try to ambush us—they wanted to prevent us from going to the stairs.

After taking a look into the machine room and shortly trying to figure out the origin of a strange jabbering sound at a turn toward the machine room, we descend the stairs. They end in a long shaft with a large metal chain running up and down. Oswald manages to get across, but can only find some very small holes on the other side and nothing else. Neither a stone nor a torch thrown down the shaft reveal any further clues, except for the torch flashing briefly before vanishing in the darkness.

We return upstairs and give the machine room a closer look. We find and pull a lever, which starts some kind of machine. The group splits, half remaining in the machine, the other half checking out the chain. They find something changed, there are not levers where the holes were. Maurice binds himself to the chain and tries pushing them. When he manages to do that, he suddenly vanishes down the shaft. With some luck, he manages to keep his wits and somehow lights a torch, finding himself shortly above two white tunnels.

The rest of the group gathers near the shaft, looking for a way to return Maurice. After some discussion (and yelling up and down the shaft) we learn which lever Maurice pressed and, by pressing the opposite one, return him to our level. This takes some testing. Afterwards, Oswald is bound to the chain and lowered and lifted through the whole shaft. We find that there is no level above us, but just the ceiling with a small hole for the chain, and that there two levels beneath us: The one with two white tunnels about 20 m beneath us and a second one with a lake and a grey tunnel about 40 m beneath us.

After some discussion about how to cut as large a piece from the chain as possible, to sell somewhere else, the group decides trying to enter the lower tunnels through the trap door near the dungeon entrance next time, instead of braving the chain. Thus ends the session.

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Mushrooms and Civilization
Session 6

Returning from the chair back to the front door, the group prepares to descend the trap door. After some discussion, the group lowered some ropes and a lantern, before Oswald climbed down. At the bottom, he found a water pool filled with algae, and stairs leading upwards. He managed to swing over to the stairs and went up, meeting some kind of crocodile man.

The crocodile man considered poor Oswald (who carried just a dagger and no armour) a tasty snack and attacked immediately. When Maurice heard Oswalds cries for help, and hurried to help, he almost drowned. Luckily, the monster was already wounded and thus died after two lucky stabs with the dagger.

Afterwards, the rest of the group descended the shaft as well, searching the chamber carefully. We found a decomposed warden’s corpse with some treasure (divine magic scrolls, coins, holy symbols). Osric blessed the corpse before looting it.

There was a second stair in the room, leading deeper into the earth. We followed it down, finding a room full of giant glowing mushrooms. The floor was rather wobbly (probably fungus and mold) and stank horribly. We could also see a giant door with a metal face on it, Maurice also found a second exit.

We decided to check the second exit first. It led to the elevator shaft we already knew from our last visit. Next, metal door. Before we could check it, we were attacked by some giant vines which we finally shredded without any losses (Osric was hurt, though).

The door was about 7 m (22 ft) tall and 3 m (9 ft) wide and at least the top consists of gold, while the face is made from brass. Nobody opened when we knocked, pulling and pushing proved pointless – we could not move the door.

When investigating the face more closely, Osric found some nubs within the mouth that were labelled with unknown glyphs – not even Zephyros could read them. Oswald simply tried pushing some of the nubs, resulting in an explosion of toxic spores which almost killed him and Zephyros. Luckily, both survived, even though Oswald suffered permanent infection of his joints and Zephyros was horribly scarred.

Frustrated and quite bruised, we decided to leave the dungeon, taking a part of the vine, the crocodile and the frog man with us. On our way back, we find Orhan stabbed and Taeting (as well as our boat) gone.

We can prevent some possum-kin from fleeing with the second river boat we had found before on the other side of the island. Orhan put them to sleep with a spell, afterwards we smashed most of them before taking their boat and leaving the island.

Due to our complete lack of navigators, the return to Froxhall was delayed by two days (mainly because we got completely lost and accidently drove further into the swamp instead of out). Finally, we reach Froxhall, where we sell the monster parts, grab the stored stuff and sail towards Hewflore.

We stop in Taygle’s End but find it an unwelcoming backwater, where nobody is willing to let us stay for the night. The local teacher is rather strange and Osric finds him suspicious. The local lord is not willing to speak with us. We decide to paddle a bit further and sleep a little outside the village in the wilderness.

The next morning, we reach Hewflore around mid-afternoon. We sell our remaining loot, including the new boat. Osric tries to be received in audience by Warren of Speers, but learns that the metropolitan is indisposed since a study almost collapsing on him a couple days ago.

After some asking, Osric manages to speak an experienced cleric (whose name I forgot), who liked him enough to tell him a lot about what worries the Makerite church in Dwimor. Heresy was spreading, as two few well educated priests were available, the local lord did not cooperate with the metropolitan, instead investing local priests himself and tithing exclusively to a monastery that was independent from the metropolitan.

When hanging out with the local soldiers, Maurice and Osric learnt that there were plenty mundane problems too: Bandits ravaging the countryside and marsh pirates are massing for another raid, whereas the local lord Drogo is busy wooing the Lady of Orellfor. Also, the Deadlhaws are growing.

Shocked that so many things are amiss, with so few ways to earn quick money, the company retreats for this session to plan what to do next.

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The Chronicles of Zephyros - Chapter 1
The Purpose

Deep in thought I spun the last bit of wine in my glass around before bringing it up to my lips. I set the glass down on the table and could not help but form a distorted smile across my face as I recounted the moments of my near-death experience and the days that followed.

I was so fixated by the peculiar face on the door jeering at us, along with all the gold, silver and bronze adorning it, that I didn’t even consider stepping back while Oswald was fiddling with the mouth. Time stopped as I heard the hiss of gas under pressure being released. I glanced over just in time to see a blast of brown gas billowing from the face’s maw. I only had time to close my eyes, as I felt the skin on my face burn. The pain was intense. Everything went dark. Then I heard screams followed by silence.

Suddenly, I awoke. Osric was hovering over me, calling to me, “Zephyros, wake up! You’re going to be alright. It’s not your time to meet the Maker!”

I was writhing, heaving due to the intense pain on my face. Darkness followed once again: the pain was too great to bear.

I woke up again to Osric completing a prayer over me. It was calm. We were outside now. I saw the grey sky beyond his head. His face could not hide his look of despair. “May the Maker have mercy on you, Zephyros,” he whispered. I reached up to feel my face only to be rewarded with the sensation of wax covering my skin. I felt a pit in my stomach like none that I had ever felt before.

“How bad?” I asked.

He replied, “My friend, you’re lucky to be alive. I’m sure the Maker has a purpose for this.”

I exclaimed, “What? A purpose for what?”

As I sat up, I saw Maurice staring at me, and he said, “We’ll find a way to remove the scars from your face, Zephyros. I promise we will.”

The reconfirmation of my greatest fear coming true was too great for me to take. “No! No! No! Stop it!” was all I could say as I scrambled to my feet, pushing Osric aside. I made it a few steps before crashing to my knees, holding my unfamiliar face in my hands as I sobbed.

Osric kneeled beside me, put his hand on my back, and whispered, “You have been through a lot today, my friend, and you will go through much more over the next few days. The Maker reveals Himself in mysterious ways, and I know you will discover His purpose in time.”

I went numb after that. I wanted to be alone. I pulled the hood of my cloak over my head and sat with my knees pulled close to my face.

My mind was a fog as the party insisted that I pilot them to Froxhall, as our navigator Taeting apparently had better things to do than follow us. Frankly, I’m surprised we even made it, as I was in no condition to lead us anywhere. My senses were dead; the only sensation to register was the empty pit in my stomach. I recall thinking, “This was all a bad dream that I would wake up from at any moment, right?” I don’t remember much else from that day aside from being led around by my companions and sitting in a boat on our way to Hewflore. It was mostly a blur save for one moment of clarity: when the pit in my stomach transformed to be replaced with rage.

I recall also that Maurice asked me to try to convince some guard into allowing us to meet with the local reeve in some dead-end town on our way to Hewflore. “Zephyros, try and talk some sense into this guy,” he whispered.

As soon as I made eye contact with this man I knew I had lost ‘it’, as normally folks were excited to see and talk with me.

Not this time. It was like he was looking at a corpse.

I don’t even remember what I said, but it didn’t matter as the conversation was over before it started. I’ll never forget the look of disdain on that man’s face. It made me angry, very angry. So angry, in fact, that I found myself starting to form the words of my spell of charming, but my conscience wouldn’t let me. My new purpose had not yet revealed itself to me. I cloaked my disfigured face, turned around, and walked back to the boat.

As we resumed our trip to Hewflore, I asked Osric, “Can you heal me completely when we reach Hewflore?”

Osric replied, “Zephyros, my friend, I have done all I can for you.”

I retorted back, “Surely there is a powerful cleric of the Maker that can make me look as I once did!”

And with that, Osric quietly said, “Zephyros, you know we do not have the resources for such a request, not to mention such prayers can take a great toll on you. I know you are in a dark place right now, my friend. We will get through this together, and I assure you that once you have come to terms with what has happened, you will go on to do great things, as the Maker intends for you. This is a blessing in disguise. You are close to solving His riddle, Zephyros. You will figure it out.”

I remember thinking, “This isn’t what I want to hear. Why was I so stupid to sit in front of such an obvious trap? Why didn’t I just die? Why is the Maker toying with me?” The questions soon ended and were replaced with depression, as I saw my new face in the reflection of the water as we arrived in Hewflore. “I’ve become a monster,” I thought to myself. I pulled my cloak close around my head to hide my gruesome visage as thoughts raced through my head. “Perfect! We’re in a town full of people ready to taunt and jeer at me. This is the last place I want to be. I don’t belong here. I need to be in some mage’s dungeon, luring poor adventurers to their deaths.”

The days passed as I elected to stay in the inn while the rest of the party attended to the business that brought us to Hewflore. I developed quite a taste for wine during that time. It gave me that sense of confidence that my charm once did, however temporal it that could be. Nevertheless, I was edging closer to accepting my fate. Perhaps the Maker knew this, or maybe it was my inner mind.

Anyway, that was how ‘it’ happened. I was sitting in the tavern, drinking my wine with my cloak pulled over my head and feeling sorry for myself when a burly local barged into the room. I glanced up to hear him yell at the barkeep, “The usual drink, at my usual table!” even as he strolled over to the table where I was sitting. “You’re in my spot,” he said.

I thought to myself, “The old Zephyros would have got up, apologized and moved on." But, the old Zephyros was nowhere to be found.

With a snort, the man continued, “Now, listen here, I don’t know who you think you are, but get the Hell out of my spot, or I’ll rearrange your face!”

I began to laugh, quietly at first and then louder as I stood up and pulled my hood out from around my face to reveal to him my ghastly countenance. I beamed, “It would appear that someone has already beaten you to it.” My gaze locked onto his, and I knew I had him: my terrible features combined with my gift of command was too much for his weak soul to withstand. “This is my table now. You will apologize to me, and you will buy everyone in this fine establishment a round.”

The man immediately prostrated himself on the floor, “Forgive me! Make yourself comfortable, my friend! I was only kidding! Barkeep, the next round is on me!” Making sure to keep facing me, he shuffled backwards to the bar and whimpered to the barkeep, “Get him whatever he wants! Put it on my tab!”

I nodded to him and winked at the barkeep. Needless to say, the burly gentleman didn’t stick around too long after that, but as I reflected back on the moment, I realized the wisdom of Osric’s words to me, “I’m sure the Maker has a purpose for this.” I thought to myself, “The purpose was clear now. The Mornlands’ oppressors aren’t going to succumb to diplomacy. No, as they do not value life or law, they must be coerced. This is why the Maker spared me and gave me a scar to remind me, as well as my enemies.”

After staring at my empty wine glass for some time, my recounting of my last few days was interrupted as Oswald walked through the door of the inn. I waved to greet him, “Oswald, I’m glad to see that you are well. Where are the others? We need to gather and make plans for returning to the Sunken City. We have much to accomplish there!”

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Letters to the Patriarch
Part 1

“… and there is barely a faithful soul to be found in these lands where uncaring lords reign while barely giving lip service to the one true church.”

Osric rose from his desk to take a short break, stretching and walking around to regain his focus and get his blood flowing. The Maker did not create him to read and write all day; that much was clear to him. Later in the day, Osric hoped to visit the collapsed study with Urien, but now he needed to return to the letter, even if he would rather do some exercises to get the frustration of the whole situation better under control.

Back at the desk, Osric continued to write about his travels: the strange well to which he was teleported, the undead-infested ruins where he met some of his current companions, and the horrible tree under the earth. He made a note to himself that he would return one day once strong enough to cleanse that place… He wrote also of the lord of Froxhall who cared more about his own research then his people and of Colbert the dutiful teacher of Froxhall’s study who struggles to keep the faith alive in a forsaken village on the edge of civilization.

He recorded Colbert’s stories about heathens and disgusting frog cults in the neighboring villages, adding his own observations from his visit to Taygle’s End: “…there we found to our surpise that the study wasn’t abandoned at all! Someone lived there, claiming to be a warden of the Maker. If he was speaking the truth was hard to say: he certainly wasn’t all too hospitable, but the same could be said about the rest of the town. Certain is only that this would not be my last visit there. If he turns out to be some heretic — or even a cultist in disguise — I will make sure that he gets his well-deserved punishment, protection from the local ruler or not.”

Looking at the parchment, Osric noted that his writing certainly did not rival that of a monastic scribe, but reflected that it was high time for a visit to the damaged study. So, he rose and fetched Urien, his new understudy who was making remarkable progress in studying the teachings of the Maker. Osric was certain he was no material for a warden — he predicted that a single, well-executed punch in the stomach would probably down him for a day or two — but he thought the young man would make a fine canon one day soon.

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Accounting and Reptile-giants
Session 7

Finally, we decided on a plan. We sold all loot and used the money to hire a group of mercenaries, rented a boat and bought plenty of supplies. This took a lot of time, mainly for two reasons: We were not familiar with the rules to hire mercenaries and weighted several options in regard to boats (buying one, commissioning canoes, renting one). Oswald also hired a henchman called Demoleon, an Ellasene thief (my back-up character).

Afterwards, we returned into the swamp, staying away from both Froxhall and Taygle’s End, resting on a wooded island in the swamp instead. Thanks to Aethelwine (rolling a 20 on his navigation roll), we even found a quicker path towards the menhir than we knew before. With the river current pushing us into the swamp, it took as only two days of journey instead of three.

Arriving on the island, we fortified our camp and rested for the night. The next morning, we reconnoitred the southern half of the island to make sure there are no hostile settlements and perhaps finding a better harbour. Instead, we found: a) centuries -old ruins made of marble and alabaster, b) a copse in which firs and cypresses grew, c) a second menhir on a low hill, similar to what we found on the northern half of the island. (In Froxhall, there are two standing stones as well – which raises the question whether such stones were usually built in pairs or if that is just a coincidence.)

Before we were able to investigate the menhir though, Orhan spotted several possum-men running from a second copse behind the menhir, followed by some giant beings. We quickly took cover, but to no avail: The giant beings spotted us and three of them moved into our direction. The fourth continued to hunt the possum-men that fled northward.

We retreated into the copse, with the fighters building a battle line and the mages preparing spells in the second line. When the beings came closer, we saw that they were as tall as two men, had two pair of arms and two pair of eyes each and looked somewhat reptilian. They immediately threw javelins at us, which luckily missed. In return, our mages were able to charm two of them, while Maurice and Oswald attacked the third. The reptile-man managed to smash Oswald’s chest before an opportunistic attack of Demoleon (who only closed in when the already badly wounded monster seemed temporarily distracted) finally killed (and looted) the monster.

Luckily, Osric’s henchman Uriel was a healer and knew curing spells. Thus, Oswald survived the ordeal with just a minor scar on his chest and in dire need of some rest.

Meanwhile, Zephyros found a language which he and the reptile-man both speak and started interviewing them. They told us that they were scouting the swamp, there was nothing dangerous in the swamp (except for us), that their tribe has more than two members and lives somewhere to the south of our actual position.

Since the reptile-men are too large to fit into the dungeon beneath the menhir, we are a bit at a loss what to do with them and how to proceed. We are unwilling to simply let them go as they could easily kill all our mercenaries. Since it was also already rather late, we stopped the session here to discuss how to proceed.

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