GM: Jim Dugger
Players: Mark Daymude (Mitsu the Monk; Ventros, Priest of St. Cuthbert)
Rachel Sandrock (Anya the Elven Wizard)
Jim Davenport (Dibly the Rogue, Log Writer)
Mike Steiner (Bull the half-orc Barbarian)
"Bad things have bows too." - Anya
"I wanted to take the boat." - Bull
"Oooh! I can climb!" - Bull
"Normally, small is better than big." - Bull speaking on Monsters
May 15, 2265 Old Empire
A week has passed in the fair city of Endhome. Our heroes have licked their wounds, hocked their loot, and enjoyed the pleasures of idle hours. Dibly is especially reluctant to leave the warm embrace and bed of Fillamina the smith's daughter, but when Bull comes to collect him, he leaves her with a kiss and a surprise present of a simple silver necklace.
When they regain the King's Road Tavern, Dibly is pleased to see his compatriots in good spirits and fine shape. All have been practicing with their new weapons and are eager to venture forth once again. They order ales and shepherd's pies as they settle around their usual table in the corner to discuss their plans.
"I've heard that the Green Tree Bandits are still at large," comments Ventros.
"Not surprising. The local militia couldn't find them if they were rooming in this very tavern," says Anya. "It almost makes one wonder if they have an arrangement with the powers of Endhome. Either way, they aren't something I think we should mess with." The others nod in agreement. Political protection or great skill, both would be difficult to defeat.
They had learned a thing or two about the politics of Endhome since their last adventure. the city was mastered by three families, who rose and fell with fortune's waves. This day found the Quinchinos, the Pulantis, and the Gaspars sitting in the tallest chairs.
The Quinchinos were local favorites, grown rich off the legendary bandit past of their patriarch, the elderly Filippe. Endhome embraces their dashing thieves and brave scoundrels, almost in defiance of the more proper and lawful authorities who hold the city in their firm grip. The Quinchinos were now businessmen of many stripes, willing to sell cheap and make deals. They were also known to cross the written laws, if it suited their purposes.
The Pulantis were the eldest ruling family, having held a high throne for most of the last two hundred years. They were the backbone of the militias and embraced law as their shield as well as their weapon. The heads of the family were not well known, enigmatic at best, and their purposes could only be guessed at. People who asked too many questions found themselves consigned to the city dungeon or just disappeared entirely.
Lastly, the Gaspars were an immigrant family, come to Endhome not thirty years earlier in the last wave of newcomers. Excellent seaman and hagglers, they quickly established themselves among their own community. Wealth and power raised them to be one of the Three, even though the other two families looked down upon them as dirty foreigners.
"I did hear some quiet talk by the docks a few days past," adds Dibly. "It followed the same story we've heard many times, that the northern hills are filled with caves. But I am led to believe that these are not just hills with holes in them but rather the grown over ruins of a truly ancient city. They spoke of vast tunnels and chambers under the earth."
Bull raises his eyebrows. "Sounds like quiet and hidden places, secret places. Places where people hide their gold," he says with a grin approaching glee.
Mitsu nods, "That is intriguing. We should attempt to learn more if we can. A place of that size must be approached with caution and preparation." Although Bull appeared crestfallen at the delay, the group agreed to follow the monk's advice.
Anya and Dibly ventured to the Wizard's Academy. Dibly waited outside again while Anya entered the ornate fortress. He passed enough copper and silver to be generous to the locals and kept his ears open.
Anya was met inside the entry hall by Rodrigo of the Grey Cloak, the man she'd spoken with before. He was very polite and warm with her. It did not take elves long to understand the more animal natures of humans and it was quite obvious that he was taken with her beauty and would be greatly pleased to lie with her. She noted this to herself for later consideration.
After discussing the possibility of teaching at the academy in the future, Anya offered up the required payments and entered the guarded libraries of the Academy. She had expected a dank dungeon with the tang of protective magics covering the delicate papers and tablets. Instead she was led into the largest room she'd ever seen, with spiral stairs and balconies ringing the room three levels above the floor. The roof was open to the sky and pure sunlight poured in over the rich wood furniture, the vibrant colored marble artwork, and the hundreds of precious tomes and scrolls.
A few others sat or walked in the library but Anya did not hear them at all. In fact, even though she could hear the soft brush of the wind and the songs of birds, she could hear no other sound. She tried to speak and found herself silenced.
'Fascinating,' she thought. 'The perfect protection against malicious spells and accidental readings of magic scripts. It also creates a quiet, studious atmosphere ideal for concentration and contemplation.'
Anya made her way around the shelves ringing the main floor and then explored each of the balconies. It did not take her long to see the organization pattern. The tomes and scrolls were gathered by subject on the same shelves. If a tome discussed other subjects, a leather ribbon with their primary location was left on the shelves of the secondary topics.
Anya spent the afternoon in the Library but was unable to unearth a single mention of a lost city north of Endhome. She firmly concluded that knowledge of the city had been carefully removed from the Library's collection. That sort of crime against open knowledge could only have been perpetrated with the acquiesence of the Academy's Headmaster, Stylus Kant.
She gave Rodrigo a distracted farewell, gathered up Dibly, and headed back to the King's Road Tavern.
Bull was not interested in digging out secrets as much as the others, so he did what he often did when bored. He walked the streets of Endhome, watching people and looking for fun. But even Bull couldn't help but learn some things as Endhome is a firm teacher.
As he neared or transgressed the slums of the city, it was easy to see that the streets, homes, and poor shops were precisely divided by fierce rivals, gangs of youth and brutes who kept their own brand of law and order where the Pulantis didn't bother to go.
It was also in the slums that he heard whispers of the poorest disappearing, stolen from the streets by the devotees of the Goddess of Death & Magic. The fates of these homeless vagabonds could only be guessed at, but it did mean that doors and shutters were locked up tight almost everywhere after sundown.
Mitsu reflected on the possibilities of a lost city and listened to Anya's failure at the Academy. He nodded and then urged her to join him. They walked from the King's Road Tavern to find his fellow monk, Hamel. If there was anyone who would know more about this, it would be his compatriot in the pursuit of pure knowledge.
They found themselves sharing stillwine and cucumber sandwiches with his friend. Anya appreciated the calm gentility of the monks' order and habits. Much calmer than most of their brutish race.
After speaking with them about topics of little substance, Anya broached the subject of the lost city. Hamel's eyes twinkled.
"Barakus is what you seek," he said with a grin. "You'll never hear that name spoken aloud in Endhome, except by monks such as we, uncorruptable and resolute in the purity of knowledge."
Mitsu returned the man's smile and urged him to continue.
"There is little to know," he added sheepishly. "It was an ancient city that was once ruled by wizards. It fell ages ago and disappeared beneath the trees and long grasses of the north hills. There is a legend, though; about a powerful sword to defend the city. Not clear if this sword was meant to defend the city and failed, or if it lies their yet, waiting to repel invaders from something the city's rulers felt dearest to protect."
Dibly failed to find anyone who'd ever adventured into the northern hills. The orcs of the area provided a pretty convincing reason to never go there.
Once they regrouped at the King's Road, it was agreed that they should seek out this Lost City of Barakus and learn what they could about it.
An engaged discussion developed about the best way to reach the northern hills. They all recalled only too well the various creatures that beset them the last time they ventured toward the hills.
"Take a boat," declared Bull firmly. The others looked at him questioningly. "River goes up to hills. Take boat and float up to the hills. Simple, good plan."
After much discussion, the group agreed to at least look into Bull's suggestion. They found an old man who seemed willing enough to take them northward in his small punt. His fee was quite large (10gp) but the lands the river winds through on the way were not well inhabited.
The group talked about it more, weighing the benefits and problems of the voyage. They would be protected from land creatures and could use their bows to defend the boat.
Anya reminded them, "Bad things have bows, too!" in the tone of a patient teacher with slow children. Quiet thought quickly turned them away from the old boat man and back to their old route.
The march north was easy, maybe too easy. The main road appeared unmolested. Their camp at the Y was quiet and the second day followed much the same. Spring was in full blossom across the fields and Dibly could easily spot various animals tending to their newborns.
On the third day, Dibly signaled the march to a halt with a hand signal. Up ahead, he'd spotted movement in the bushes. He ignored Bull's complaint from behind him "I wanted to take the boat!"
They quickly discovered two huge rats, vicious bastards that attacked the party. Dibly struck one with his longbow before they reached the party. The rats bit Bull and Mitsu. Anya and Ventros then put a quick end to the ugly brutes.
After pushing the rat corpses into the brush, Ventros looked at the rat bites and discovered that Mitsu's was turning dark red with some sort of foulness. Unfortunately, the priest was unable to heal the infection.
They quickly made camp and decided to head back to the city in the morning to get Mitsu healed. In the middle of the night, Bull senses something coming from above. Luckily we'd made cold camp. A rush of air blew through the camp and all fled to the brush except for Anya who stood their calmly, watching the starlit sky.
And then it swept over them from the west, a huge creature with vast wings and a long tail, not one hundred feet above the ground. A wave of heat rolled over everyone.
This solidified our decision to flee back to Endhome, which we did with haste the next morning. A priest of St. Cuthbert directed us toward the Temple of Solanus, where, for a large contribution of 200 gp, Mitsu was healed of the rat's poisons.
We rested and regrouped for a few days before striking north again.
Night of the first camp we were surprised to hear wolves in the distance. It had been many years since most of us had heard of wolves in the region.
The second day of march we reached a place where the trail entered an area that looked like it had been disturbed lately. We used caution with Dibly and Anya looking carefully without entering the area.
Finally, we decided to avoid it entirely, allowing Bull to scramble up and then help others up with a rope. We bypassed the area by a hundred yards before Anya slipped on the rocks and made a loud clattering. We heard ambushers moving behind us so we ran for better cover.
Orcs from the Bloody Hand charged out of hiding. Bull roared at them for the Bloody Hand were a hated rival of his own Hooked Tooth clan. The Battle of the Rocky Road had begun!
Ventros and Dibly fired arrows at the charging orcs, Dibly slaying his. Bull became enraged over the ambush by his enemies, yelling orcish obscenities at them. The orcs reached the party and battle was joined. Each of us slew an orc that day, with Bull claiming twice that number.
With his anger barely contained, Bull went to each fallen orc and cut off a souvenir for himself. Dibly concentrated on more important things, gathering things of value from the orcs, their armor and weapons mostly. A quick search of the ambush site revealed nothing further.
Dibly packed up the loot in neat bundles for carrying and they continued their march.
That night brought them to camping in the hills. The night passed without incident and they quickly began searching the hills for some sign of the lost city. They were rewarded after only a few hours search by finding a cave-like opening, man-made with lots of dirt erosion on it. Careful examination showed that a few people had recently used the entrance, people wearing human-sized boots.
We prepared ourselves and delved into the darkness…
The cave led to stairs which wound deep under the hills. They opened into a vast chamber with an open floor revealing level after level of similar floors descending into the darkness. Crypts lined the walls and four doors were spotted. Each door led to a mausoleum in varying states of decay.
While exploring we were discovered by hobgoblins, perhaps guardians of some sort on patrol. Battle was joined around the yawning opening. Dibly was shot by one hobgoblin off the bat and fell gasping to the floor. Ventros ran to his side, pulled out the black-fletched hobgoblin arrow and healed the wound.
We pressed forward to reach them, getting struck by their well-aimed arrows. They did grievous wounds to us, causing us to imbibe our sacred potions of healing. Bull finally reached their leader, killing him and causing the others to break and run.
We looted the leader's body and sought defensible refuge in one of the mausoleums. We were bloodied and shaken. We left the dead hobgoblin inside the outer mausoleum door to slow down attackers and set watch at the inner door.
As we slept, ghouls came to feed on the corpse of the hobgoblin leader. Battle is joined once again with Dibly and Bull slaying the two undead monsters.
We settled down to rest again and made it to what we believed was morning alive.