Chris (Tiberium), Coby (Warin), Matt (Barron), Brian (Pyrzifal), Dean (Thic Duc), and Mariel (Leah) are returning cast members.
As we left the party, they were trying to figure out how to escape the comfortable room with food delivery and a vast selection of casual reading materials. Oh, and an animated skeleton. Meanwhile, in Restenford, Leah was drinking herself into a stupor after the baby incident, and Malag woke up in the Adventure Capitalist’s safe room with a really bad feeling about his friends. Malag was joined shortly by a portly priest asking whether he knew Tiberium. Apparently, the paladin had been asking about the Keep at Bone Hill, and the acolyte (whose previous answers had been miserable) had done more research and talked to his superiors about the matter. They had given him a scroll with spells to help out, including Speak with Dead, Remove Curse, and Exorcism. The scroll contained the instructions “Speak with the undead master of the keep first. Redeem him if you can. Destroy him if he cannot be redeemed.” It also contained, in a different hand, a confusing note about pushups.
In the distant past the keep on Bone Hill was founded by an adventurous cleric by the name of Rothman. He swept into the region with his party of friends in search of treasure and power and do-gooding, and found all three in spades. As his holy power waxed, he built the keep, driving the monstrous humanoids of the region well beyond the borders of his authority. Yet he was always in search of a greater challenge -- and a greater treasure. The people who lived under his protection because as much a burden to his resources as a community to be protected, and he grew to resent the time he spend tending to the care of those who lived on his lands without the resources to protect themselves. The situation was exacerbated by an ongoing war against the nearby tribes of bugbears, gnolls, and monstruous humanoids who sought continually to recapture their territory from the forces of good and order. Eventually, concerned about his growing callous attitude, the deity he worshipped sent him a test. A young mother fleeing from bugbears brought her newborn baby with her to his keep, and in the harsh conditions of a siege, the child soon fell ill. She begged for his aid in curing the child of the disease. As she was poor and fleeing from invasion, she had no money to offer the customary donation to the church in return for the clerical aid. Rothman refused to aid the child, saying the healing power would be better spent maintaining the strength of the warriors manning the walls. However, the wizard of his group (going by the name Baltezin) stepped forward and suggested a compromise. Instead of demanding immediate payment for curing the child, the child's blood and brain would be harvested -- gradually, in small samples, to be sure -- for use in magical potions to aid their soldiers and adventurers, as such materials are necessary in the preparation of some advanced reagents and are understandably hard to come by for those not inclined to murder. Rothman agreed that this young child should give of his body to serve the power of his friends in return for his life. In payment for his callous demand and lack of mercy, the deity cursed Rothman and all who served him to live only on the blood and brains of newborn infants until the day should come when Rothman begged forgiveness on the symbol of the deity his actions had so defiled. As the one who suggested such a terrible thing, Baltezin's fate was to forever hunger for the warmth and compassion of life that his cold heart lacked.
After collecting Leah (who was drowning her baby-killing sorrows at the nearest bar), the pair bought horses and set out for Bone Hill with the scroll.
The rest of the party tried to figure out how to leave the room they were magically trapped in. They were having little success, though Thic Duc was able to break the chains holding the slowly regenerating skeleton to the wall. This did not enable the undead creature to leave the room, but at least he could stretch his leg-bones.
On the way from Restenford to Bone Hill, Leah and Malag met Lenny and several other individuals driving a cart full of loot. Lenny passed a large, impressively-bound book to Malag and asked him to pass it on to Barron. Eventually ariving at Bone Hill without further incident, Leah and Malag camped overnight at the foot of the hill (using a different campsite than before) and climbed the path upwards in the morning. With Malag to explain the hammer statue to Leah, that obstacle was easily bypassed, and Leah was able to follow the party tracks down into the dungeon beneath the keep, all the way up to the door to the room where they were trapped.
Malag opened it, and immediately walked in, closing it behind him without a word.
Leah opened the door, feeling a momentary dizziness that passed with a shake of her head. But Pyro had already gone bounding ahead into the room, so she sighed and followed.
Inside the room, the party gathered the new information together. Warin told the new party members about his experience with the wraith, which still chilled his soul. Malag passed along the history of the temple and the scroll the acolyte had given him. The party immediately begin to discuss their ideas for asking the right questions using the Speak with Dead spell on the scroll. They figured Remove Curse would not manage to break such a powerful curse, but might free one of their friends from being stuck in the room or have some effect on their craving for brains. And Exorcise seemed like a last resort – it might free the spirit from the skeleton, but it would neither redeem that spirit nor banish it – merely place it into another object, perhaps a more portable one if well chosen. Eventually they decided on the right questions.
Asked “How to put you to rest?”, the skeleton replied “I was cursed by my deity after falling into wicked temptation. My acolytes are cursed to bring me the brains of children which feed my continued cursed existence. Find the nest of those acolytes, and bring me my holy symbol that I may make amends to my deity.”
Asked “How to abolish the evil in the Keep?”, the skeleton wrote, “Bring me the holy symbol and I will go to my god, ending the curse. Confront the wraith with my fate and the symbol of my redemption. The wererats are lost to evil and must be slain.”
Asked “Where can we locate the nest of the acolytes?”, the skeleton wrote, “I don’t know? Within a few days travel, I suppose. The babies they bring are mostly human.”
Asked “How can we remove the curse on the room?”, the skeleton rolled invisible eyes in empty sockets, and pointed to its previous answers.
After much discussion about how to phrase a question regarding treasure, (without technically asking a question), the skeleton wrote, “Beware falling into the same trap that got me here! I’m going to volunteer this advice because apparently you need it.”
Malag also passed along the spellbook to Barron. It contained the following spells: 1st Level
Charm Person Detect Magic Jump Magic Missile> Protection from Good Read Magic Identify Sleep Shocking Grasp
Darkness 15' radius ESP Invisibility Levitate Detect Invisibility Magic Mouth Ray of Enfeeblement Wizard Lock Tenser's Hunting Hawk
Dispel Magic Fireball Gust of Wind Fly Protection from Normal Missiles Feign Death Monster Summoning I Leomund's Tiny Hut
Ray's mnemonic Enhancer Wizard Eye Rary's Spell Enhancer
This gave Barron an idea. Though he could not cast Dispel Magic from memory, lacking the experience and power as a wizard to do so, he could read the spell directly from a written source… like a spellbook. Laying the book out and carefully reading from it, barely controlling the powerful forces he was invoking, he managing to free several party members from the spell holding them to the room.
The wererat tracks the party was following eventually led them to a small valley between four hills, with a cave entrance at one end. As Warin prepared a healing spell on his friends, he was struck in the helmet by a sling stone – wererats were on the tops of the two nearby hills! The party split up; Barron and Leah to one hill, Tiberium and Pyrcival to the other. Thic Duc, with a human and bugbear baby in each arm, ran as far as he could from the fight and taught the children how to hide from danger.
Barron borrowed an arrow from Leah and muttered words in the language of magic over it, then handed it back. Leah took aim with her bow and let fly. The arrow sped outwards – and transformed into a hawk with silver talons mid-flight! Between the hawk, Barron’s daggers, and Leah’s arrows, those two wererats were swiftly dispatched. One of them tried to flee, but Leah’s arrows moved faster than a fleeing wererat.
Meanwhile, Pyrcival made it to the bottom of the hill without being hit, but failed to climb it. Tibierum, seeing the problem, rushed to the back of the hill looking for another path; he found a series of subtly hidden footholds that reduced the difficulty of the climb. He made it to the top, rushing to attack the wererats. One of them dropped his sling and took up a sword, the other let fly with the sling bullet he had already been whirling. It bounced off Tiberium’s armor, doing more damage to his pride than anything else. Tiberium swung his sword and left a nasty slice in return, startling both of the creatures, who were used to their fast healing against most weapons.
Seeing the blood drawn enraged the wererat whose sword was out, and he dropped the blade in favor of primal teeth and claws while the slinger drew his own blade. Tiberium swung again, striking down his opponent, but the large wererat who had dropped his sword earlier now seized Tiberium’s arm in its dirty claws and bit down fiercely into his arm between the protective armor plates. As the paladin fell to the ground, the wererat whispered viciously, “Soon you will join us, brother!” With his last waking breath, Tiberium yelled “Paladin immunity, bitch!”
Pyrcival had managed to climb the hill and draw his sword just in time to see his young charge fall. Rushing forward, he engaged the remaining wererat to prevent him doing more harm. The pair of warriors danced the dance of blades with no result for a few minutes, before Barron’s hawk sped downwards and wounded the creature. The wererat viciously seized the bird and tore it apart, just in time for Leah’s arrows and Pyrcival’s sword to end the creature’s life.
With all the wererats dead, the party regrouped, discussing their plans for exploring the cave below where, hopefully, an ancient holy symbol could be found.
To be continued…
For reference: 200 cp = 20 sp = 2 ep = 1 gp = 1/5 pp Treasure: 0 gp (0 gp each)
Base xp for showing up (total): 600xp 4 wererats: 700xp Roleplaying bonus for everyone (each): 400xp Total: 3700xp (617xp each)
Roleplaying moments and quotables
"It says to exorcise... will pushups do?"
Dangling Threads of Fate
Who was the strangely well-dressed gardener Gunnar spent time over roots and vegetables with? No one has checked recently to see if the Princess is still in her castle Malag has been left with the Adventure Capitalists for work on restoring his non-brain-eating condition How to invest your ill-gotten gains...