"MARK OF DEATH" - November 18th, 2000
The crowd had long since gone home, but Collin sat onstage and fumed. He couldn't get his cheap, old mandolin
tuned. The crowd hadn't noticed how he'd struggled with it all night. But Collin demanded nothing less than perfection
from his music and he realized he'd never be as good as he could be, working with such a cheap instrument. He looked
at his hat laying on the stage, 32 Trents, 12 Pals, and 2 Kerns sat at the bottom. Each represented a song, and
it had been a pretty good night. He'd be able to make rent again this week, and he might even indulge himself with
a beefsteak come Kempday, but he'd never be able to afford to bring Lilly to Greenmark...let alone Robert, on this
kind of take.
Collin began to pack away his instrument and coin, he still had to see the Barbarian Grasslander back to his room, and the smell from the corner table indicated he'd retched on himself, again! Collin shook his head at the Grasslander's endurance...at least 3 bar-brawls he'd started and won that night...and all the while filled with his own weight in mead! A shadow fell across Collin startling him for a second. Looking up he saw a hooded figure standing before him. The figure wore a cloak that would easily cost more than Collin could make in a year.
Laying a Citadel piece on the stage, the figure said in a voice hard to describe but most definitely genteel, "I have a proposition for you. I understand that you've come to befriend a small group of young people. I'd like to meet with you all at The Castle Bar on the morrow, say an hour before it's closing. I have an offer I feel you'd find most compelling." Collin tried to keep his eyes from widening two much at the sight of the platinum coin, and nodding mumbled, "I don't think that should be a problem." It was hard to tell if the figure wore a mask or was simply concealed by the shadows of the hood, but he continued, "Good, I'll look forward to our meeting. And please do try and have yonder friend patched up and sober by then." With that he seemed to simply melt from the room. Collin was sure he'd seen him turn to go, but batting his eyes the figure was gone. He'd let the Grasslander buy him one too many ciders he thought!
THE MEETING IN THE CASTLE BAR
The night that the party gathered at the CASTLE BAR was cold and stormy. Sleet poured down on the town of GREENMARK,
and the wind whipped at shutters and anyone willing to brave the storm. The howling of the wind was occasionally
interrupted by the crashing of lightning and thunder.
Inside the bar, the old black dwarf bartender named OCKROTE was serving up drinks, while a human bard calling himself MOONTREE played music in rhythm to the storm. Several climbers, still trussed up in their climbing gear drank at one table, while five low-merchants drank at another. The suit of armor referred to as the HOLLOW KNIGHT stood in the corner ever vigilant for unauthorized fighting or chaos to occur. A large sign hung over the bar with the words "No Spellcasting" crudely painted on it.
Some of the characters sat down at the only open table on the first floor, while COLLIN went to talk to Moontree. OREN went to the bar and spoke with Ockrote about any rumors regarding his stolen equipment. Ockrote was polite, but still patronizing in a subtle way. When Oren ordered a drink for VAX, his constant, and seemingly seen-only-by-him companion, Ockrote demanded that Oren pay for Vax's drink. Ockrote claimed that Vax was in the habit of not paying his tab…Oren acted surprised but would not pay for Vax's drinks.
Moontree sang a song about Javair of the Lost…a bard, who according to the song, "came upon the empty Azure Keep, played his harp, and woke it from its sleep." WIMBLE DOOMNOODLE began tinkering with the knee joint of the Hollow Knight, and GREMAG levitated the little gnome's tools out of his hands. A half-elf hunter named LAVIAN NIGHTGEM walked in out of the storm and sat at the bar. Collin made brief conversation with him, and discovered that Lavian lives out under the trees…and enjoys being one with the elements.
The hooded mage arrived and sat at the party's table. He ordered wine, and when tipping back his glass, his mask became apparent under his hood. It was clear that no one in the bar even noticed his arrival, including the Ockrote…until such time that the hooded mage LET Ockrote notice him. The hooded mage told the party that he sought there help on an important problem threatening the Azure Kingdom.
While the hooded mage was speaking, three heavily cloaked figures entered the bar and made their was through the crowd. Once at the bar, one of the figures grabbed Ockrote, pulled him face-first onto the bar, and began chewing on the back of his head. The three figures threw back their cloaks revealing the fact that they were actually ghouls.
The party jumped to Ockrote's defense…all except Collin who continued his conversation with the still seated hooded mage…who was sipping at his wine. Oren and ZEEK rushed the ghouls, while KERBOCH jumped up on the bar swinging his large bastard sword. The ghouls were dispatched fairly quickly…but the threat to the party and the Azure Kingdom had become very real.
The hooded mage revealed that an up-and-coming necromancer named GORIN ZACHIAN had huge ambitions in the Azure Kingdom. Gorin had studied under ALCALD VANDRUNAN at Gellhorn, City of the Dead. Gorin had contacts with the MAD DUKE OF BANTROTH and had supposedly secured the late SIR JAMES WINTHROPE'S dark notes on the demon lord RAKRON. Gorin had plans of establishing a vast Kingdom of the Dead, and the beginning of his plans would take place in the Azure Kingdom.
The hooded mage bestowed on all willing party members a mark of protection called the MARK OF DEATH. It was blood red in color, and must be visible to the undead you wish affected by the mark's protective magics. When asked how the party could contact him, the hooded mage said that he was very busy with many important matters, and that he would recontact the party at a future date.
Most important of all, the hooded mage told the party where to find Gorin Zachian's hidden lair. The party travelled
there the next morning. The travel time was 4 hours on foot, and due to rough terrain it would still take 3 hours
on horseback. There was evidence of the foundation of a burned and fallen church with solitary stairs leading up
into the air. An abandoned cemetary, a small damaged shed, and a caretaker's shack were also present. Kerboch recalled
that the hooded mage said that Gorin was living in the caretaker's shack.
First the party investigated some dug-up graves in the cemetary…but found nothing unusual (except, of course dug-up graves!!!) The old church foundation presented nothing of interest…so the party moved on to the care-taker's shack. Several party members made entry, while others set up a perimeter around the building. Suddenly lights appeared in the small damaged shack, and some of the party members moved in to investigate.
Inside the caretaker's shack, the Doomnoodle, Kerbach, Zeek, and Oren found a magical fire burning in the fireplace. This fire gave warmth, but did not burn. Piles of moldy dishes were present on the dining table, and the water from the storm outside dripped through holes in the roof. The characters made their way to the bedroom, and were suddenly engaged in combat with 4 female zombies that had been hidden in an old trunk, under the bed, and in a clothes cabinet.
Meanwhile, Collin, Gremag, and KIT investigating the lights in the old shed threw flaming bottles of oil through holes in its roof, starting a fire. Monsterous spiders the size of wolves burst from the small shed and attacked the party members.
After a few minutes of combat, both sets of evil creatures were killed…and the party began searching the care-taker's shack. Several potions belonging to Gorin were located hidden in a box in the clothes cabinet. A trap-door was found hidden under the carpet in the bedroom of the shack. Zeek and Oren in the lead, the party made its way down a huge ladder into the depths of the earth.
Once at the bottom of the 130 feet long ladder, Zeek and Oren found a room 40' x 40' filled with coffins only 3 to 4 feet long…children's coffins. Zeek headed for a door on one end of the room, and the party made its way into the room…BUT SUDDENLY, coffin lids began popping open and a multitude of child zombies began attacking the party. A large sarcophagus opposite the door burst open and a whirlwind of bone and decay with a female face began ripping at the party, screaming, "Leave my children alone…Mama Bones will kill you all!"
Kit had planned ahead and spent a lot of money on holy water. While Kerbach swung his large sword at the whirlwind, Kit threw holy water into the angry whirling death. Meanwhile, Zeek was pounding away on the door at the other end of the room trying to establish a get-away route, while Oren chopped down the child zombies with his large axe.
Mama Bones burst apart once the holy water burst within her…and the child zombies were hacked down one by one. The door was finally forced open, and a 20' wide x 40' long hallway with a door at its opposite end lay beyond. A winding path of footprints were observed to weave their way through the hallway…possibly avoiding some pit traps. The party carefully circumvented these traps. With doomnoodle in the lead, the party approached the door at the far end of the room. The little Gnome walked through a trip-wire causing a huge axe (4' long) to swing downwards on a large pendulum, barely missing Wimble Doomnoodle, and the party member behind him. Kerbach chopped the huge axe down to ensure it would trouble no one again.
On the other side of the door was a large round room with a dark hole in the floor in the center of the room. A horrible odor was wafting up from below. The room was heavily water damaged, and small hole were visible in the walls of the room. Kit and Zeek began investigating the holes, while Oren and Collin dropped objects down the dark hole to estimate its depth.
Zeek caved in one of the larger holes to prevent any critters from making their way into the chamber, while Kit threw a smoke-stick down another large hole…covering the hole to prevent the smoke from blowing back into the room. There was some arguing as to what to actually do…so each party member had his/her way. Meanwhile, Oren and Collin discovered there was a magically generated horizontal area of darkness hiding a spiral staircase leading down.
The party made its way down the spiral staircase into a round room 20' in diameter at the bottom. The floor of the room was littered with bone and human skin discarded like dry husks. A locked iron door blocked any further progress, and Zeek, Kit, and Doomnoodle were on the case…looking for traps and trying to unlock the door. Doomnoodle's hand was pierced by 6" long spikes that quickly extended and then retracted back into the door. Doomnoodle sunk to the floor, alive but poisoned. The trap was then triggered, and one of the party members struck the extended spikes causing them to bend, and no longer retract. The trap was foiled, and the lock was soon picked.
Once through the door, a 10' wide 20' long hallway led to a wooden door. The wooden door began to rise into the ceiling, and the iron door began to forcefully close. The party rushed into the hallway, while Zeek braced the door with his body and Kerbach stuck his short sword between the jamb and door on the hinge side. Zeek jumped free of the unstoppable door, and Kerbach's short sword was severely bent.
An owlbear was chained to the wall beyond the wooden door. The party attacked the owlbear with missle weapons, and the owlbear broke his chains…charging forward with a growling-screech! The warriors in the group met the charge and hacked the fearsome beast down. Gems were found in the owlbear's gullet, and Kerbach said he would take the hide on the way out.
Though another door the party found a large cavernous room, with a 20' wide black river flowing across it. An old wooden bridge allowed a path across the river. At least 8 rotting bodies were scattered about the room on both sides of the river. A soft humming or buzzing was evident…which suddenly became much louder as two swarms of carrion flies took flight. One half of the party attacked one swarm with fire and the flats sides of their weapons, while Zeek captured most of the other swarm in a large bag. Kit drank a potion she found earlier…hoping it would give her control of the swarms. Instead the potion summoned a new swarm of carrion flies that would obey her commands.
Half the party wanted to press onward into the tunnels, while the other half of the party wanted to search the rotting dead bodies. One of the searchers located a potion on one of the bodies, and the entire party decided to hold off moving on until the entire search was complete. Three potions and a jar of powder were located.
Kit scouted ahead, hiding in the shadows and moving quietly. She observed a necromancer's workshop…stacked high with coffins. Gorin was completing a spell, and a huge black amorphous mass was forming and undulating in the corner. A stack of paperwork was burning in an open coffin. Kit threw a crossbow back down the hallway to "signal" the party to come forward and commanded the controlled swarm of flies to attack Gorin.
Zeek made the first attemptst to attack Gorin, but the swarm of flies caused Zeek to retreat from his foe. As Kerbach and Oren entered the room, skeletons issued forth from the black amorphous mass…and attacked. Gorin appeared to be unable to do anything with the swarm attacking him…all of his effort focused on fighting off the huge biting flies. The skeletons attacked Oren and Kerbach, while Doomnoodle snuck into the room to try to salvage whatever paperwork he could from the burning coffin. Gremage cast spells to damage the skeletons from the shadows of the hallway, while Collin threw daggers. Kerbach, seriously injured, drank a healing potion recovered from a dead adventurer's body in room previous. He let his rage flow forth and attacked Gorin directly…while the skeletons that were left, and the black amorphous mass pushed the rest of the party out of the room and down the hallway. A fear spell caused Kerbach to run in fear deeper into the lair…and into a dead-end. Oren pressed his attack. Kerbach recovered from the spell, and he and Oren began moving in on Gorin. A spell was cast, and Oren and Kerbach fell into a bewitching sleep. Gorin set about the task of restraining the two helpless warriors. And Doomnoodle could do nothing but watch from the shadows…at least for the moment.
The rest of the party fled over the bridge, carrying a now unconscious Kit (struck down by a skeletons clawed hand) in their retreat. The black mass advanced, but while attempting to cross the old wooden bridge, its weight was too much. The bridge and the amorphous mass were carried away by the black torrent into the depths of the earth. With the bridge gone, Collin drank a levitation potion, and made his was across with a rope. With a crude rope-bridge established, the "exiled" party members made their way back towards Gorin, hoping to help their comrades.
Doomnoodle took advantage of Gorins inattention and quickly woke Kerboch from his enchanted sleep with a small cut from a dagger. Kerbach engaged Gorin in combat…while Doomnoodle woke Oren from his sleep in the same way. The battle seemed to still be going Gorin's way, when Doomnoodle dove onto Gorin, taking the brunt of a chill-touch spell. Doomnoodle was spent, and curled up in a ball on the floor moaning. Kerbach would not let Doomnoodle's actions be in vain. His bastard sword sung through the air, cutting deeply into Gorin. And he was dead….
The following are the notes recovered by Wimble Doomnoodle from the flaming coffin. They are on bits of burned paper scribed in Gorin's handwriting...
Well, that's the summary. I'm sure I missed some cool details…after-all, we played for 8 hours! ....Mark Stinson
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