November 13, 2006

Test of the Drake

The Mokers called to each other and managed to gather in the area beyond the darkness where the blind mojh lay. Here they performed whatever other healing they deemed necessary. Mezzezar realised that the darkness that obscured their vision would disappear eventually, so they waited so that they could view the door with the bas relief. It took some time, but finally the darkness dispersed. The Mokers got another look at the door and the large dragon’s head that protruded from it. Underneath this head was writing in a strange script. Mezzezar was able to decipher it using his knowledge of draconic; it seemed to be written in some ancient form of that tongue:
“All those who would enter the temple must pass the test of the maw. Reach into the mouth of Yig, and your courage will be rewarded.”
Mezzezar did not hesitate; he plunged his arm into the mouth of the dragon and reached to find something that would release the door. As he did so it seemed to him that the jaws of the carved dragon were closing on his arm. It took all of his strength of will to keep his hand in the mouth and to find the latch to release the door.

The door ground open, sending dirt scattering across the floor. The chamber beyond was circular, about thirty feet in diameter. A ramp along the far right wall led down into murky water. In the centre of the chamber was an enormous, fifteen-foot-high, marble statue of a coiled dragon. In many different locations, someone has scribbled the same (ancient draconic) words across the walls in red ink. Mezezzar translated them as “Beware brethren, for Yig will abandon us.”

Ke-Tant led the way down the ramp and into the water as there seemed to be no other route to take. After going underneath the level of the water he returned and recommended that they rope themselves together to avoid getting lost. This they did and managed to descend the ramp safely into the water. Ahead of them, along the curving side of the wall, was another ramp leading down, so they pressed on down this ramp. When the Mokers came down this second ramp, the emerged into a dry chamber, looking up they saw a ceiling of water over the ramp that was not falling to the floor.

Mezezar was more taken with the room itself. Carvings of dragon’s heads were spaced evenly around the wall, each with a glowing globe of light in its open maw. A dragon-carved-altar stood against the opposite wall from the Mokers, and large circular cushions dotted the floor. There was another ramp leading down, but the Mokers made for the altar. On the way, Mezezar picked up one of the cushions. His examination revealed that it was mouldy and smelt of damp. When they got closer to the altar, they could make out a humanoid shape, barely distinct, in front of it. The shape seemed very like the kobold-kin that they had fought before in the temples below Khorl, but this creature was not solid. It repeated a few actions of benediction before the altar again and again. The Mokers came right up to it and suddenly it spoke. The shape turned out to be Alisst, a high priest of this temple of Yig and he was very grateful for the fact that living beings had come, for they could help him free his people from their curse.

In return for him revealing the whereabouts of the Jade Statuette; he needed them to find four artefacts of Yig for him: an amulet; the fangs; the venom and the scales. The Mokers agreed to this and immediately went down the next ramp to start their search. The first room they tried, the party encountered four more of the shadowy kobold-kin, but these were much more militant. Whenever one of their blows struck home some of the strength was leeched from their opponent. They also proved difficult to strike as the Mokers weapons often passed straight through them without effect. Ke-Tant stood in the doorway trying to block the creatures from reaching the rest of the party, while the others cast as many spells as they could. Eventually this worked although Ke-Tant felt half as strong and as healthy as before. The spell-casters were running low on options as well.

November 9, 2006

Master Of Eyes

After their fight with the staj, the Mokers went east through one of the four doors leading out of the pool chamber. This led to a narrow room which had been tunnelled into (or out of) at some point. Above the arch leading to the tunnel someone had carved “Continue and the loss of an eye will seem trivial”. The party took this as a rallying cry and moved out along the carved passage. They came across an opening to the south which led to a storeroom. Ke-tant led the way into the cramped space and a creature dropped from the roof, attempting to slam against his head and envelop him in its leathery wings. As this did not succeed Ke-tant got the chance to slash at it with his sword. His first attempts were clumsy in this confined area, so he suffered more damage from the creature before cleaving it in two with his greatsword. The room itself was lined with freestanding shelves which held jars containing water and dried meat. It was not very appetising, but functional.

Beyond this offshoot, the carved tunnel led east and then spiralled down into the darkness below. Before attempting this, the party decided to regroup and find a place to rest. They went up and out of the temple and wandered the streets of the ruins looking for a suitable house in which to hole up. They found one fairly quickly and set watches once they came upon a defensible location. Their rest was uneventful, so the Mokers returned to the lairs of the staj and decided to try the doors they had not looked behind. In one they found a mouldy bag with an amethyst and a dagger inside. Another contained a sibeccai skull stuck on a spear. A pearl sat in one eye socket and a phial of blue glass was perched on the crown of the skull. Mera revealed that the spear and the glass phial were magical, as was the dagger from the previous room. Once they had looked in these rooms, Mezezar became convinced that there may be another room lurking unseen behind the walls. He urged the others to search for an opening hidden in the stonework. The Mokers could not find anything. Now satisfied that they left nothing behind them, the party descended the spiralling tunnel.

The floor in the torchlight looked oddly like glass it was so smooth, and the wall to their right was carved from green jade. Covering most of this wall was a mural depicting two creatures in red robes, standing on the summit of a jade tower shaped in the form of a coiled dragon. Their hands were raised to the sky, and far below a throng of Kobold Kin look on. Between the two robed figures was an enormous, stone doorway; in the centre of which a bas-relief dragon was carved out of the green stone. The mouth of the dragon jutted out further than the rest of the relief, its teeth bared as if ready to bite or breathe. Beneath this head was writing in some strange script. Before they could have a chance to examine this more completely, they could hear a disquieting chorus of mumblings and babblings coming from further ahead which distracted them. Inching carefully forward, the Mokers found themselves confronted by a gibbering mouther. Mezezar ran forward to attack the beast, but he was stopped short by the acid spittle that the thing flung at him, momentarily blinding him. The mojh retreated. Ke-Tant was not to be cowed and he rushed forward and slashed at the creature with his sword. He connected but it was almost that the thing could flow around his blade, neutralising most of its effectiveness. Mera, Gath and Obur were about to confront the beast as well, when all went utterly black for them. Mera and Gath tried to retreat out of the darkness back they way they had come, but not before some spell effect exploded nearby damaging the whole group.

The Mokers were getting worried, and they left the giant to wade through the softening floor to attack the mouther while Obur pressed on through the darkness to try and find what they thought might be their other adversary. It was like a sick parlour game, with chaotic attempts at blind communication; shouting instructions; straining for the sounds of combat; feeling along stony walls in the hopes of finding light. Gath found his way south and realised that Obur had fallen to some foe and was bleeding beneath him on the floor. Mera found his way through to Ke-Tant just as the giant witnessed the mouther die, but strangely, not from a current strike against it. Mezezar sight returned to him while he was in the darkness so he too went groping for the greenbond.

The giant Ke-Tant, and Mera made it through the darkness while the other two tended to Obur in the lightless tunnel. On the other side stood a blind mojh, its eyes having been removed but it was not lacking in awareness. It moved as if it had the clearest of vision. As the two Mokers approached it made to cast another spell, but this was an error as it exposed itself to the attacks of the two before it. This opening was enough for the pair to finish it. Mera realised that the mojh had been about to cast another spell of darkness. Mera quickly searched their foe and found several items that she deemed magical. They waited for their comrades to come through into the torchlight and join them.

October 26, 2006

The Eyes Have It

After the performance of the prophet, the grand ball did not have much life left in it. The Mokers retired to the temple of Vekik the Runegod to confer and to come to some sort of understanding. Jaralin arrived back and was able to give them some immediate insight. The “Jade Serpent” reference from the verses, he has seen before, referring to an item that was kept in a temple to Yig, a god once worshipped in Serran. The Jade Serpent seemed to have a role in protecting the worshippers in some way. During his studies at the Temple of Vekik the Runegod, he had come across some information about a temple to Yig, which was converted into a now forgotten temple to a minor sea god. This temple was also called the “pit of murdered children” in some sources and was said to lie within the ruins to the north of Khorl. He suggested that the Mokers try to locate this temple.

The party decided to do just this and headed north through the old city and beyond, reaching the city walls. They chose the easterly gate, nearest to the sea, as their point of entry to the ruins. They were somewhat surprised to come across a square acting as a market, some of the buildings around it having been reclaimed by the traders. Some were being used as taverns. They entered one to see if they could discover the location of the temple but they were directed to ask Marivik the Hunter, a sibeccai who was helping to clear the area outside the city walls. On their way through the market towards Marivik’s base, they were warned against straying into an alley plagued by a serpent headed woman who could turn people to stone with a look. The Mokers were a little sceptical of this but followed the directions.

Marivik’s camp was more impressive than they had first thought. It was entirely walled and had guards on high walkways around the perimeter. There was one large building that had been completely restored, but the rest of the area was filled with cruder shelters for a number of people who were trading, sleeping, being healed or trained in combat. Marivik was as helpful as he could be. He encouraged the Mokers to avoid the area that was full of statues, but only because he thought than one “Eritic the Invincible” was holed up in the area with his gang. He described the major geographical locations between them and the temple, suggesting that they leave the market by the western avenue, then turn north to the fort, the head northwest to where they would find the temple, west of the forest. He warned them of rumours that those who had stayed near the temple often lost their eyes. The Mokers thanked him and departed.

They found the fort easily enough and headed into the maze of ruined buildings to the northwest. They kept coming upon roads that ended in the forested hill, so they backtracked and went northeast from the fort to the lake and along its western shoreline. They could see a hill with caves beyond the eastern shore of this lake, but proceeded north until the reached the first bridge over the river that flowed north and east out from the lake towards the sea. The party crossed this and wandered amongst the ruins for a while, finding an interesting structure whose stone roof seemed intact, but had fallen on a pile of rubble. They searched this for an entrance below, but found nothing large enough to squeeze through.

After a rethink and Obur’s clearer recollection of the conversation with Marivik, the Mokers returned to their scouring of the streets northwest of the fort, eventually finding a building that fitted the description that they had. They found a stone stairway beneath a circular tower. The upper floors had collapsed down into the stairwell below, but they managed to clear a path to the floor below. The room at the bottom of the stairs was also full of debris from above, but the party could clearly discern double doors to the northwest. They opened these and found a small room which once had shelving, but this had now collapsed in piles of rotting boards around the walls. To the west there was a door. While searching this room, the Mokers disturbed a cat-like creature with a dark green ridge running down its back. It had no tail, but a single tendril rose from behind its head ending in a three pronged claw. Mezezar realised that they faced a staj and related as much as he could to the others about these “eye-hunters”. Luckily the Mokers were able to react quickly and remove the threat before Mezezar or any of the others were injured.

The next room once held a robes in now decayed wardrobes. A door led off to the north. Mezezar discovered a broken mirror next to the western wall and while he was searching there he found a brooch that was shaped like a breaking wave. Going through the northerly door, the Mokers could see a pool in the centre of the room. One door led west, another north and another east. Two more staj had secreted themselves here and leapt out to attack the Mokers once they had crossed the threshold. Both Ke-Tant and Gath were bitten by the beasts which leapt up on their chests to attack. The one attacking the giant then fell back down, but Gath’s one clung on and tried to use its claw to slash towards his face, which damaged him but missed his eye. The Mokers used spells and weapons and eventually managed to kill these two staj as well, though Gath got a nasty shock in the process.

September 21, 2006

An Intriguing Invitation

The Mokers were shocked to realise that the Speaker of Khorl, Milton Drac, was implicated in framing them for murder and carnage. They knew that they could not openly confront such a powerful individual; one who had the forces of Khorl effectively at his command. The giant steward, An-Redachan seemed to have no involvement in the day to day running of the city, leaving that to the speaker and his council. Perhaps some influences of the council could be brought to bear to stop Drac and his plans. The construction of the lighthouse had to come into this somewhere. Mezezar asked Jaralin (who posed as Thuron) if he knew any members of the council. Jaralin was able to remind them, that as High Priest of Vekik the Runegod, he had a seat on that council and he recommended that they seek the assistance of Lady Kavara Lonron, a human who led the council faction opposed to Drac痴 will.

But first rest was called for. The Mokers asked Jaralin for permission to stay in the temple and urged him to continue to take the place of Thuron. These things he agreed to. The Mokers rested that night and were able to avail of the rune priests� assistance in healing their wounds. They awoke refreshed, if apprehensive the next day. As they were planning what to do next, a messenger arrived at the temple with a silver filigree scroll tube for each of the Mokers. Inside each was a fine vellum scroll held closed with a red satin ribbon. Each read:

Milton Drac葉he most honourable Speaker of Khorl幼ordially invites you to be his honored guest at the Grand Lighthouse Ball. You have been awarded the Order of Drac for your bravery in defeating the evil councillor Verlaine. Present this invitation at the gates of the Speaker痴 palace to gain admittance to the festivities. Prepare yourselves for an evening of entertainment you will not soon forget.

This set the Moker痴 thoughts whirling. They now presumed that the Speaker did not know that they knew of his involvement with the Cult and was trying to make the best of a bad situation. They asked Jaralin where they could find Lady Kavara Lonron and set off to meet her.

The meeting was short and courteous. Lady Lonron shared some of her misgivings about the lighthouse project with the party. She also mentioned that there was an opening on the council, as Councillor Verlaine had died. She was lobbying for an artisan to take the position, a sibeccai called Minanay the Sculptor. If she could get Minanay elected, her group on the council would be able to vote down many of the poor policies of Drac. As they were going to the ball, they could help her cause by trying to persuade as many of the councillors to vote for this candidate as possible. Lady Lonron then filled them in on all the council members who were likely to be present and bade them farewell until the ball.

The Mokers had a chance to rest and get ready. They borrowed enough money from Jaralin to buy a great-sword for Ke-Tant, unfortunately it was neither dire nor masterwork. The giant then took the time to bond with this weapon. The others bought what sundry items they required.

When the time for the ball was upon them, the Mokers set forth from the temple clutching their invitations, but without their large weapons or armour. Such things were frowned upon at such important events. The Chamberlain met them and ushered them into the ballroom at the right time, explaining some of the etiquette required for the occasion. Each was presented with the Order of Drac, which turned out to be a golden medallion on a chain with the symbol of a trading ship on the front. Drac praised their deeds in saving the temple folk and helping to root out the cultists and the ballroom erupted in applause. Drac went on to talk about the lighthouse which was due to finish soon, saying how it would be the wonder of the land and would bring glory back to Khorl.

Then the ball started. The Mokers spent their time moving through the crowd looking for the dignitaries that Lady Lonron had told them about. They talked to each of these in turn and built up a picture of strange goings-on at the lighthouse.

Katorn the Chamberlain told them of an incident when a visiting merchant came running out of a third-floor study and jumped out the window. A book left open in the study showed the mark of the yellow sign. Lady Kavara Lonron told them that the two top levels of the lighthouse had been sealed off. The workers from that section can稚 now be found. Captain Ji-Herram, mentioned that two days ago, he had noticed a mysterious ship anchored in the harbour. It left again in the middle of the night, but not before depositing
a couple of passengers in a boat bound for the lighthouse. One of them was
almost certainly a mojh. Gaena Lighttide, a loresong faen said that one night, a priest at sea shrine saw some strange lights from the top of the lighthouse. The next morning, the mutilated bodies of two grotesque monsters were found at the foot of the tower. The monsters had the bodies of large bears, but the hideously distended heads of owls. Captain Regrick Mored stated that another Councillor, Alar Wensen was sent on a very hush-hush mission to Noll a while back. He returned with a crate of specially crafted yellow wax candles engraved with runes and symbols. Minanay the Sculptor couldn稚 believe that after the honest craftsmen of Khorl laid such a beautiful and solid foundation for the lighthouse, Drac then decided they couldn稚 be used to finish the project. Xexedir, a verrik said that Drac had commissioned a giant crystal from the Crystal Fields, southwest of Navael which may have had magical properties.

Captain Vi-Tarob, a giant, also approached the party. He got them into a quiet corner and said that although he had supported Drac in the past, it was now becoming obvious that something had to be done about him. He felt that diplomatic manoeuvrings in the council would not help. He urged the party to hide with him in an ante-room where he was due to meet Drac shortly. There they could slay him and either reveal him as a sinister cultist or escape through the window that gave out into the grounds of the palace directly. The Mokers demurred, but sent Gath to discover if Vi-Tarob did indeed meet with Drac. The faen reported that he had and that Drac was none too pleased with the giant from his manner, although he could not get close enough to overhear the conversation.

The Mokers gathered back in the main ballroom to discuss what they had heard when the music and dancing suddenly stopped as an unshaven man in a brown robe shuffled into the ballroom. The crowd parted for him as he made his way to the middle of the chamber. He spoke with a rasping voice:
滴eed me well! The words of an old man should not be ignored. In the ancient scriptures of Yig, it is written:

When yellow evil stretches out
And trumpets madness in,
From reaching light shall darkness come
And mayhem will begin.
A thousand mirrors of the soul
Shall be salvation痴 call.
And from the murdered children痴 hole
The greatest gift of all
Will cleanse the night with purest green
From snake of jade so bright.

迭emember these verses well, citizens of Khorl. The prophecies of Yig do not lie.�
The old man then transformed into a green serpentine creature with vestigial wings which vanished in a puff of smoke when the nearest guard attempted to skewer it with his spear.

August 31, 2006

Thuron Unmasked

The Mokers reacted to the knocking at the southern door by sending Ke-tant and Obur out of the eastern door and heading down to see who was there. Another group of temple staff were seeking admittance. The Mokers told them to come singly to the corner of the temple and then towards the entrance. Though they did not follow this instruction exactly, at least some order was put on these attendants approach. The person in the lead managed to throw a detonation amongst those by the door, injuring some, but Ke-Tant managed to slam the door shut so that no one got inside.

The next noises were heard by the western door and the Mokers decided that they could not sit and be attacked by their enemies any longer. They all left through the eastern door leaving a password with those inside, so they would be trusted on their return. When they got around to the other side of the temple, they could see a cultist running away. Although, they did manage to fire arrows and sling bullets on him as he fled, none landed a telling blow.

Meanwhile, the cultists must have managed to overhear the password, or trick the temple staff in some way, for when the Mokers returned to the eastern door, they found it open and those inside beset by enemies. The Mokers leapt to action, helping the temple rune priests defeat their disguised foes. Once they all had fallen and no new attacks seemed to be originating from outside, Thuron took the Mokers, along with Brother Egil, down to the temple tombs. There he had a confession to make, he was not Thuron, but rather Jaralin a mojh from the Free Cities of the South. He opened a tomb to show them the peaceful, dead form of Thuron.

Jaralin went on to explain that he dreamed a great dream about a group of mojh who had uncovered a great magical force and were going to use it in some great act. He had discerned their location as Khorl, but when he met with one of their number in secret and Milos had tried to recruit him into the cult, he realised that they were cruel and ruthless. Instead of letting them act freely, he went to the temple of Vekik the Runegod to see how deeply the conspiracy had spread. There he had discovered the dead Thuron, apparently the victim of a simple heart-attack. Then he made a fateful choice. "Perhaps not a wise one, or even a brave one, but one that made the most sense. I took Thuron痴 place and devoted myself to the study of the scrolls to see what I could discover about this cult. When I learned of your adventures with the Brotherhood, I should have abandoned my charade. But I was too greedy for knowledge. Now I will render you the only service I can庸ar too little, far too late. This document promises great danger for Khorl預nd for the world. It is a public speech, an explanation of tonight痴 events. I will translate it without remarking upon the obvious擁t is all lies."

The Speech:

This evening, after the death of Councilor Verlaine, the clergy of the Vekik the Runegod have been slain. Their murderers are the adventurers who of late discovered the caverns beneath our town: Obur Tilsen; Mezezar the Mojh; Ke-Tant Faerblay and Mera Reerance.
After an investigation by the Speaker痴 Council and the City Watch, we have pieced together the truth. Chief Councilor Verlaine, that great servant to the city of Khorl, heard rumors about town of unwholesome activities at the temple to the Vekik the Runegod. He hired the wandering mercenaries to investigate. They made a tremendous discovery: The temple and its priesthood were a cover for the Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign, a grotesque cult of mad mojh. The mercenaries joined the temple to gain its secrets, but they proved treacherous to both masters. They revealed the caves beneath the city and threatened to expose even more secrets unless the Brotherhood paid them a fortune in gold.
The Brotherhood agreed to their demands, on condition that the mercenaries accept one final task for their masters預ssassinating their erstwhile employer, Councilor Verlaine. The double-crossers carried out the grim job, but they quickly found themselves double-crossed. The Brotherhood refused to pay them their blood money. The mercenaries went mad with rage and slaughtered the cultists, but were killed themselves in the battle.
We mourn the loss of Councilor Verlaine, but his efforts brought this menace to light預nd rooted it out of town, once and for all.

Jaralin looked up from the note, concern etched in his face. "It is the next part of the document that troubles me the most. For the note is addressed to Speaker Drac. And his name is marked with the Yellow Sign."

August 3, 2006

Temple Below, Temple Above

The passage led down as such a steep angle that Ke-Tant roped the group together to ensure that no one would slip on the damp stone. With these precautions in place the Mokers reached the bottom of the slope safely, though they all had to keep crouched in the cramped tunnel. The passageway turned to the right and rose slightly, then, almost immediately turned left again, back in the original direction of progress. Finally, the passage opened out into a paved corridor that was ten feet wide and twenty tall; it headed off to the right. Along this path, they found a room to either side.

The first, to the left had an oval opening in the wall leading to an ellipse-shaped room filled with crates and boxes. The second, to the right, seemed to be a more conventional library, with shelving along the walls. Leaving these for now, the Mokers continued to the end of the corridor and around the corner to the right. The passage took another couple of turns before opening out into a large, tall chamber filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Torches set into brackets, cast odd shadows across the chamber, made seeing distances difficult, but at the far end of the chamber clear light illuminated an altar, with an attendant who was incensing the altar. Behind the altar was the huge statue of the lizard-like creature that had adorned the previous temple.

Approaching cautiously, the Mokers could make out that a figure that looked like Egil was strapped to the altar. Crossbows were readied and the attendant dispatched. The Mokers moved up towards the altar, realising then that the altar too had been moved and examined the fallen attendant. Just then they heard the approach of some creatures and so prepared themselves by hiding behind the altar, except for Mera who was stuck out in the open with the attendant. She quickly threw on the robes of the cultist and hoped to bluff the new arrivals. Unfortunately she could not understand the draconic tongue that the two kobold-kin who arrived were speaking, though Obur realised that they said that they had arrived in response to the alarm and were wondering if they could be of assistance. Mera didn稚 realise this, couldn稚 think of another course of action, and attacked.

The other Mokers then stood up to help just as other kobold-kin arrived as reinforcements. Shortly thereafter another person arrived, this time a human cultist similar in build to Brother Egil. All of these were eventually dealt with and the party managed to free Egil and discovered a secret door behind the statue and a scroll in an unknown language hidden in the altar. Before using this new exit, the Mokers went back to the two rooms off the passageway to ensure that they had examined everything. The crates had the address marked on them that they had seen on the crates in the other temple which they had discovered, in the records house, belonged to Councillor Verlaine. They were now empty. The library had many tomes in obscure languages. In the desk they found a tome titled, in the common tongue, The True and Secrette Historie of the Brotherhoode of Khorl, and had the Yellow Sign impressed upon the front cover. The text, also in Common, was filled with illustrations and out-of-date maps and read like this:

Thousands of years ago, the dragons ruled the world. Their empire centered on a continent called Terrakal and the population devoted to the peaceful worship of the dragons. Then this great race vanished overnight, their world-spanning civilization destroyed by the hand of the Unspeakable One and his servants the dramojh, a loathsome deity born outside describable space. Most of the people degenerated into savagery傭ut a few retained their sanity, including some of the cultists who had summoned the grotesque god.
The Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign庸or that is what the cultists called themselves用ersevered and transmitted their black secrets down the generations. The cult found a home in the remains of the once-great Khorl. Over the centuries, the Brotherhood flourished along with the city, even as the giants arrived and established their kingdom. And it found a way for its members to move about in the daylight world. Its craftiest, most powerful priests disguised themselves as humans and established a church aboveground: the temple of Vekik the Runegod.

Egil expressed his disbelief at this discovery. But the party were in too much of a hurry to argue historical points. They made their way back to the secret door and up another sloping passage into a wine cellar. The grand house above, they soon discovered, belonged to Councillor Verlaine. In a bedroom above, several people had died, one while on the large bed; only the dried blood remained. The Mokers noticed that the house was guarded and so let themselves out through a back window and off through the alleys of Khorl. They made straight for the temple of Vekik the Runegod hoping that someone there could translate the scroll that they had found in the altar and hoping to find out whether the Secrette Historie was true.

The high priest read the scroll and told the Mokers that an attack on the temple was imminent. He asked them to guard the western door while he arranged for the temple attendants to guard the other two. He said that he would share the contents of the scroll with them after the attack. Soon a knocking was heard at the western door but the Mokers rebuffed the callers, telling them to try another way. They were trying to position themselves in the most advantageous vantages when the eastern door was opened.

The Mokers quickly ran over to re-enforce that group along with a faen called Gath Kingtongue, who was looking a little the worse for wear. The group seeking entrance seemed to be temple staff who had been attacked in the market and they were seeking sanctuary. Thuron, the high priest seemed satisfied that they looked genuine, but when the Mokers made to close the doors the intruders were able to act first and a number of them stole inside to attack. They had not counted on the presence of the experienced defenders though, and so although they managed to land a few telling blows all four of those who got inside fell while the Mokers and the temple attendants still stood. The party barely had time to cast a few curative spells before sounds were heard coming from the southern door.

July 13, 2006

Surrender and Recapture

The Mokers eagerly boarded the boat to take them back to the Bloody Vengeance. When they pulled alongside, the first mate called for them to send up the chest first. They demurred, wondering if this was really Scarbelly痴 intention. But when Scarbelly痴 own head appeared, repeating the command this did not make the party more willing to comply. They feared that the chest was their only bargaining chip and if they lost that, then the pirates would have no compunction in stranding them. Mezezar then threatened to drop the chest into the briny depths. Ten heavy crossbows balanced on the edge of the gunwale in answer to that threat. Ke-tant prepared to strike at the sailors who had rowed them back and Mezezar jumped overboard, holding the chest beneath him in the water while he kept his other hand on the rim or the rowboat. The crossbows loosed and Ke-tant was struck with several bolts. Mera and Obur could only stare in shock. Before Ke-tant could act again, more bolts thudded into him and he fell.

Mera and Obur were warned by Scarbelly not to continue the foolishness of their companions. Since they made no move to attack, Scarbelly then told them to retrieve the mojh and the chest. As the mojh came up from beneath, his first cry was "Never give them the chest" or words to that effect. Despite this, his companions managed to take the chest and give it up to the first mate. They were then disarmed and all of their equipment was removed. One by one, they were taken and bound and put into the hold of the ship. Ke-tant was taken somewhere too. The ship set sail again shortly afterwards.

After some time, Mera asked for a parley with Scarbelly which was agreed to. She could not persuade him to release them with all of their equipment, but he did agree to set them ashore, despite being insulted with her quip of "being tied up like dogs". Two days after they had re-boarded the ship, the Mokers were set down on a beach, Ke-tant still in the leather sack in which he had been held. The first mate directed their attention to some of their equipment that the pirates had left against a small rocky island in the bay. Mera waded out to fetch it and realised that all of the magical items had been removed, along with the coinage. Obur healed Ke-tant, so that he awoke and could stand. The Bloody Vengeance sailed off to the east.

From a bluff to the north, they could see that Khorl lay about ten miles to the north, the spire of Du-Nor made this obvious. They set off in this direction and reached there as evening fell. As they walked through the south gate, one of the watch who was on guard stopped them and summoned a contingent of his fellows to arrest the party. They were brought to a watch post under suspicion of murdering Councillor Verlaine. The Mokers were understandably surprised at this news and protested their innocence. This fell on deaf ears. Luckily for them, Brother Egil arrived shortly thereafter bearing some sort of writ from the Council that allowed the Mokers to be taken off in his company while they awaited trial. Apparently High Priest Thuron was a member of the Council and had some influence. Egil痴 news was not good though. He told the party that Lucius had again been taken and that he needed to be rescued. He implied that the only way of finding out about the cult was to follow the leads that they had discovered about the sewer entrances.

Soon they were slogging along dark and dingy passages while trying to avoid slipping into the muck. Although they were almost stymied by a floor to ceiling grating, the Mokers arrived at the supposed passageway indicated on the map. They found a door in the wall and stepped through into a strange room with a wooden ceiling. When the door shut behind them and would not open even though Egil was on the outside, they were not overly perturbed. When the rocks began to fall from above and the whole room shook with the workings of some mechanism, they became more concerned. However, the floor tipping seemed to trigger some survival instinct in them. Ke-tant led the way in smashing open the door by which they had entered, and soon the party had extricated themselves from the chamber with the help of ropes, nimbleness and strength.

Mezezar was suspicious as to Egil痴 authenticity. Obur scanned the ground for his tracks and led the group back along the passage to another wall. Here they found a door which they managed to open. A dark passage led ahead of them and the Mokers wanted to track down the identity of those who wanted them out of the way.

June 29, 2006

The Chest with an X

The Mokers stopped pondering and opened the chest, taking out some gold and silver coins as well as two scrolls, a potion and a cloak. Mera used her skills to attune to these items and discover that the cloak was magical and that it would help protect from harm. She took this herself. The two scrolls were give to Mezezar, one of which was clearly a scroll of Gusting Wind, the other they could not decipher until a spell was cast that could read the magical writing. The potion would harden the skin of the imbiber to make it more resistant to blows. Obur took this.

Leaving by the other door, the Mokers came to the stern of the ship and a room that had once been the galley. This room was also covered in webbing, but they realised that a patch of this was less thick than the rest and that it concealed a trap door leading down. On the other side of the room an obvious staircase was choked with debris. This, the Mokers tackled, clearing a path upwards into the sterncastle. After a noisy, sweaty effort the party emerged in the cabin above and took their bearings.

This cabin did not suffer from the webbing of those below, but it did have large piles of broken furniture, crates and decking. A crude stone altar had also been installed against the rear wall, this altar was inscribed with runes which Mezezar identified as being connected with a god of vermin venerated in the south, but as they moved into the room a huge centipede swept out of one of the rubbish piles to attack. The Mokers were all able to approach the creature and land blows on it, so it fell fairly quickly. Searching the debris, the Mokers managed to find a tattered journal and pieces of a cargo manifest. These indicated that the ship had been bound for the Free Cities of the South bearing grains and wine out of Khorl.

The party went back down the stairs and uncovered the trapdoor to the deck below. When they opened it they could see a ladder immediately below them leading into shallow water about ten feet beneath. Lowering a lantern, they could make out crates and boxes along the port side of the deck, which seemed to have no divisions, being open to the hull on all sides. They could see here that the ship listed slightly to port as the water there was waist height, but shallower to starboard. Ke-tant climbed down to investigate but slipped on the wet wood and fell to the deck with a splash. Before he could raise himself up properly, he was enmeshed in a web of sticky strands that had been thrown around him. Mezezar just managed to make out two humanoid figures with long arms and spider-like heads at the edge of his vision towards the prow. He identified them as ettercaps. Obur jumped down to help Ke-tant and Mera ran along the deck above to see if she could come upon their assailants from a different angle.

The Mokers down below suffered a frustrating time or breaking free of webbing only to be caught again repeatedly, until Mera above managed to open the hatch and release a hail of metal on one of the creatures. The other moved forward to attack the giant who had freed himself and was swimming forward in an attempt to avoid further entanglement. Obur痴 crossbow began to be put to use against the creatures and Ke-Tant managed to land a blow. Mera came down from above to lend support and eventually the creatures were killed.

The Mokers quickly searched through the chests and crates, finding the one marked with an X. This they opened, revealing the blue metal casket within. They also found a jewelled belt and a necklace which they thought might be valuable. The shifting of the ship increased while they were below, so the party gathered up their prizes and headed back to the Bloody Vengeance.

March 21, 2006

The Emperor of the Waves

Pressing on through the companionway, the Mokers opened doors into a number of unoccupied cabins. They passed a raised platform that was covered in webbing that presumably lead to the deck below, but they left it unmolested. Their mere presence stirred up another swarm of spiders, so they beat a hasty retreat back up the stairs and laid another oily fire trap for the unthinking arachnids. When this swarm was dealt with, they returned below and found their way to the front of the ship. This large cabin contained two oddly shaped cocoons of webbing suspended from the ceiling. When the party approached the cocoons began to twitch and spin on their cords. Taking no chances, the Mokers smashed them with their weapons before anything could emerge. When they were done, two creatures fell out dead on the floor of the cabin. They had once been sibeccai and seemed to wear the uniform of Scarbelly痴 crew, but they had been overcome by spider-life and now in place of eyes had thousands of tiny arachnids crawling around. The party was glad that they had dealt harshly with them. They found no chests or other things of value here, so they proceeded towards the stern.

In another cabin that spanned the width of the ship, they found two more cocoons. The floor below these was decorated with a circular pattern or glyph drawn in blood and the room itself was cleaner than the others that they had encountered. At the foot of the starboard wall sat a wooden chest. The Mokers did not hesitate to destroy the contents of these cocoons, though they took rather longer over the chest. Mera cast a spell to detect the magical aura痴 coming from it and indeed she discovered that there were four separate faint auras, though she could not distinguish them. They pondered whether it was safe to open the chest.

March 14, 2006

Pirates’ Ships

Mezezar awoke in his room in the Green Grain, more rested than he had thought he would be. After preparing his spells for the day, he set off in search of his companions. He went in search of the nearest watch post to the bricked up house and when he found that it was on the border of Scurvytown, he thought that he better not go there alone. After coming across a loresong faen selling food from a stall on the street, he made contact with a litorian mercenary who agreed to act as his guard. With this insurance, Mezezar made his way to the watchpost and asked about the other Mokers. The watchman on duty looked through his ledger and informed the mojh that his companions had been released by Councillor Verlaine. Somewhat confused by this, though grateful, Mezezar wrote a note of thanks to Verlaine and delivered it to the Council offices in the old city. He then went back to the Scholar’s Quill to await his friends, or any other developments.

Mera had found refuge in the warehouse where she had eluded her guards. After a rough night spend curled up in amongst the crates and barrels, she stole a long cloak that hung from a row of hooks by the door and crept out into the city again. She made her way back towards the temple and Egil’s house to see if she could see any of her companions arriving there, or in the hope that Egil might emerge so that she could talk to him without being seen. After a couple of hours there, she thought that the Scholar’s Quill might suit her purposes better, so she found herself a suitable vantage point and waited.

Obur and Ke-Tant awoke in the bilges of a ship. They were aching from their beating and uncomfortable in the slight swell. What remained of their last meal, ended up colouring the bilge water that lapped around. Once they had steadied themselves, Obur used whatever channelling of the green that he could to ease their wounds. Then they turned to face the exit. A couple of steps up took them to a wooden door which was unlocked. When the opened it, a sibeccai guard looked down on them cordially enough and called up to his shipmates to inform the captain that they were awake. In a few moments Scarbelly, the captain they had questioned about Lucius, appeared in the doorway.

Scarbelly, it transpired, had been hired to dump the two in some southern port, but when he had noticed who it was had fallen into his hands, he felt somewhat more kindly disposed to them. He was offering a choice to them, where they would have to provide a service to him and he would locate their companions and set them all down near Khorl to go their own way once the task was complete. When he mentioned that he also had their gear, which he would return the deal was sealed. Yoval, the captain’s first mate, set off into Khorl in a rowboat accompanied by four of the crew. They headed for the Scholar’s Quill and asked for Mezezar. Mera had noticed them going in and realised that they were from Scarbelly’s crew, having contemplated splitting the skull of one of them with her crossbow a few days earlier. She waited outside. Mezezar came down from his rooms and talked to the abrasive Yoval. He was persuaded to go with them to the Bloody Vengeance when he could see no reasonable alternative.

On their way through the city to the docks, Yoval and his men spotted someone shadowing them. When Yoval asked Mezezar what was going on he claimed ignorance, so Yoval and two guards continued on while two others went off to ostensibly obtain some supplies. Mera decided to follow the main group and was surprised and overwhelmed by the two sibeccai five minutes later. She was unarmed, injured and unprepared, so she submitted to their directions and joined Mezezar in the boat. Soon the four Mokers were all united and they heard from Scarbelly about the mysterious haunted ship that his crew were too superstitious to board. He had obtained information about a chest that had been on that ship when it sailed originally for the south, but it had not arrived. Now it had returned to the waters near Khorl, drifting slowly, with strange lights coming from below decks. The Mokers were to bring the chest back to Scarbelly, he felt sure that they would not be able to open it. All other items that they found on the ship they could keep. The Mokers agreed.

Two days of sailing later, the Bloody Vengeance arrived near the mysterious vessel. The Mokers got in to a rowboat which was crewed by four of the sibeccai. Scarbelly lowered down a number of potions and supplies to them, telling them to return what they did not use. Soon the Mokers stood on the main deck of the ship. The craft had seen better times, its main mast was gone, only a few feet of a jagged stump remaining near the large metal grille that covered the cargo hold. The decking itself was damp and slippery and seemed to be rotting in places. The party had to walk upward to reach the door under the forecastle as the deck sloped away behind them and to port. The door to the cabin was warped with sea and wind and took Obur’s efforts, after the others had failed, to haul it open. The whole room was covered in cobwebs, but they could just make out a desk near the back of the room and a set of stairs leading down to one side.

The Mokers paused and lit a torch to try and clear the room of the webs, but when they set the flame to them, only those in the path of the flame shrivelled, the entire web did not catch. They were not surprised though, that their efforts disturbed a large spider which dropped to the floor near them and attacked. It did not last long. The painstaking clearing of the webs continued so that they made a free path to the desk and to the stairs, but they heard a muted scuttling and scrabbling which made them withdraw to the open deck as a swarm of smaller spiders boiled up from cracks in the decking and attempted to crawl all over the party. In response the Mokers followed the withdraw and burn policy, charring areas of deck where they had recently stood and taking a large proportion of the arachnids with them. When several oil flasks were spent, the Mokers had dispatched enough of the small creatures for the remainder to be no threat.

The party re-entered the cabin and searched the desk, finding a sea-chart of the eastern sea and the location of the southern cities. They took this with them. Next the group headed for the stairs. At their foot they came across an opening which was covered in fine webs. They burned through this, but attracted the attention of two more large spiders. These they dealt with, but Ke-Tant was bitten by one and its poison weakened him.