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wilderlands

Adventurers

Character Class Description
Hagar the Hewer Dwarf level 1 Imagine Conan as dwarf.
Nolmbork Dwarf level 1 Portly, bald, red bearded, with an epic nose. On a mission to have a drink in every settlement in Wilderlands.
Celeborn of Revelshire Elf level 1 Hails from a distant community led by an Ent. Also potentially the ugliest elf you've ever met.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.

Maggotfeast 5th, Spiritday

“Surely there is something for us to do...”

B-team left behind in Hara was hard at work collecting intelligence, seeking new opportunities, and taking care of their newly acquired townhouse.

Myrna Blaxter offered one such opportunity to Flamthwynn and Barad the Bald. Hara's alchemist—queen's good friend if rumours are to be trusted—is concerned that Red Dragon is back on the streets of Hara. It is a highly addictive paste that leads to a zombie-like existence after sustained use.

The name comes from eye-wateringly hot belch that follows each consumption. A decade or so ago, Myrna was a member of an adventuring party that executed the brewers of Red Dragon, destroyed the recipe, and demolished their den.

She offered 800 gp worth of gems, as well as her friendship, if the party would check the old drug den for any trails.

Another opportunity came in a form of a distressed man knocking on the doors of their new home. The man sought Norwood Bode, previous owner. Hagar the Hewer and Derennan greeted him and learned that he wants to sell information about Klekless Racoba's whereabouts. You know, the notorious wizard whom had to flee Hara because of our brave adventurers and whom currently has a large bounty on his head (3 000 gp by Imrael to bring his head, 3 000 pp by Namelin to bring him alive). The man asked for mere 847 gp for this information.

Finally, Tamren dreamt the following, vivid as reality itself:

A circle of large stones atop a dark hill; a circle that runs in circles and circles; a black hole in the ground, broken round stone slab next to it; a seal of something that should be sealed; a spiral staircase covered with roots and bones and dust going deep, deep, deep; a dark hole, a blue mist, an army of many legged and many armed horrors; a pulse that makes you sick a pulse that makes you angry; a site where Paladin of Coriptis could find his glory—in life or death.

“You know what? Checking that den out could be some easy money. And it's just days walk away. Can't be that bad, right?”

Hagar assembled an A-team of Oberon, Nolmbork, Celeborn of Revelshire, and, of course, himself.

Maggotfeast 6th, Airday

“There!”

Indeed, there stood a large tree fitting Myrna's description. It didn't take a lot of searching to find a poorly concealed entrance next to it. Broken branches, an assortment of bushes and random detritus covered a solid wooden plank, which in turn covered a ten feet wide hole. A shaft led deep into the ground dropping fifty feet straight down. Old, rusty rungs were spaced along the shaft to allow persons to descend deeper into the earth. Some of the roots of the old tree have found their way into the shaft, making the descent difficult at times, and causing those lowering themselves down to be blinded to the room below.

The quartet descended, with Nolmbork leading the way.

Soon enough they entered into an oddly shaped chamber. There were doors the their left as well as right, and an expanse up ahead. The air was a mix of dampness and rot. Small animal carcasses littered the floor.

“Oh, my.”

Oberon's torch illuminated a rotting elven corpse impaled on a spear in the center of the chamber. Behind it were two more doors as well as an archway leading into a corridor.

Listening at the doors revealed very little. The corpse was in bad shape. Eyes, teeth, and tongue were missing.

“Watch out!” Nolmbork spotted a large spider dropping from above on unsuspecting Oberon. Luckily the fighter was agile enough to avoid the insect's bite. He squashed it without breaking a sweat. Then he pulled out the spear from the elven corpse, letting the latter slump down to the ground.

“Pssst, I heard something!”

Sounds of something hard hitting something soft could be heard from behind north-east doors. The quarter huddled up and opened the doors.

A corridor up ahead as well as to the right.

“Let's check it out quietly.”

Not even five steps in the party was rewarded with arrows to their faces. Celeborn took two hits, nearly dying in the process. He took out his sword and charged on into the darkness. Others followed.

They soon clashed against three pig-faced humanoids.

Celeborn ran into one holding a bow, took a swing, missed awkwardly, and then dropped his weapon. Hagar followed him, but was checked by an unexpected monster to his right. Pig-faced one was promptly turned into flat-faced one; dead on the floor.

Nolmbork challenged the biggest looking one, preventing him for chasing after wounded Celeborn. Brief but brutal skirmish ensued. The elf recovered a weapon from downed monster—which he recognised to be one an orc or similar breed. As he did so he overheard the other two discuss which one of them will get to eat elven ears.

Outnumber two-to-one, two remaining orcs had no chance. Celeborn cut down one in a single strike while others beat the other into retreat. Celeborn gave chase and stabbed it into its back as it tried to open the doors into the chamber whence the party cometh from.

“Let's frisk them!”

Two shortbows, 16 arrows, one spear, one solid wooden shield with metal rim, and eight gold coins.

“Aaaa!”

Celeborn just caught glimpse of Oberon falling through the floor in the corridor to the right of the doors.

Oberon rolled and tumbled until he hit a patch of cold soil.

“Huh...”

“Time to take out that ten foot pole!”

Hagar commanded everyone to stand behind as he taps the floor.

Nothing.

Nothing.

“Aaaa!”

Hagar's pole might have not been enough to get the trapdoor to open, but his heavy frame sure was.

He too tumbled down, nearly falling on Oberon's head.

Both found themselves in a very small area, barely five by five feet. The chute they fell through was at an angle they'd find impossible to scale without proper equipment. To their right were iron rungs leading some twenty feet above, terminating with a trapdoor.

“Listen, I have an idea!”

Nolmbork and Celeborn came up with ingenious plan. They tied orc corpse to the door handle on the opposite side, closed the doors, tied on the handle on this side, and then placed it on the trapdoor. Nolmbork the Engineer figured out the mechanism and how to keep it open!

Then they threw down excess rope. Nolmbork slowly descended, holding rope in one hand and torch in another. This was definitely a chute leading down, at an almost 60 degree angle. The fall was at least 50 feet long, if not longer.

“I am at the end...”

The dwarf gingerly sat down and then he let go of the rope, sliding down on his bum. Celeborn followed.

The duo found thyself in a very small area, barely five by five feet. To their right were iron rungs leading some twenty feet above, terminating with a trapdoor. Oberon and Hagar were nowhere to be seen.

“Uh, I might be too heavy!”

Nolmbork worried as one of the rungs squeaked under him. Hence he got rid of everything but essentials. Celeborn waited before climbing.

“I hear fighting sounds!” Nolmbork forced the trapdoors open, bursting into a chamber some twenty by thirty feet. There he found the other duo victoriously standing atop a pile of bones.

“Four dog skeletons and two bird skeletons animated when we entered. As you can see we successfully deanimated them.”

This chamber was full of doors as well. One to the west, one to the south, and one to east. But it was not doors that occupying Oberon's attention. No. It was a chest by north wall. Big iron padlock made it only more attractive. So attractive he took out his little axe and hacked it to pieces. The chest, not axe.

Inside was a rectangle of solid silver, roughly palm-sized. Its lightness suggested it might be hollow, but it had no hinges, nor any opening of any kind. Hagar inspected it closer. Ha! There was a hairline thin seam running around the whole circumference of the rectangle. But what for? Who knows; Hagar threw it into his backpack.

South door led into a short corridor, leading to locked doors, which Hagar battered down without even blinking thrice. Another twenty by thirty chamber, with a door on each wall. A ten feet wide fountain dominated the center. A small, winged cherub, spewing water from its mouth, was perched atop an evil looking gargoyle.

The moment Hagar stepped into the room, the water stopped flowing from the chubby cherub. Then the gargoyle and cherub rotated to face Hagar. Dwarf heard the following:

You take up thy knife And slice off my head Then you stand o’er me And weep that I’m dead

“Ooook?” dwarf stepped in and to the side. Upon entry, both Celeborn and Nolmbork heard the same cryptic message. The stone duo faced Nolmbork since he stood between other two characters. The elf separated to check on the east doors. Hagar took out his pole once more, and prodded the fountain statues.

The cherub sprayed both dwarves with viscous oil. And then gargoyle breathed fire upon them. The duo quickly rolled out of the chamber, while Oberon beat on them with a blanket. Celeborn hurried out of the room as well.

Backtracking into the chamber with hacked chest, the quarter went through west doors, eventually finding their way to the corridor with pit trap. They jumped over and then got the hell out of this place.

“There were no drugs here?”

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Ert Fighter level 1 Lean and dexterous fighter with disheveled hair and wincing eyes.
Algon Thief level 1 Handsome and friendly heartthrob; shifty at heart.
Hist Fighter level 1 Young, overeager, and clean-shaven. Muscles practically bursting out of his armor.
Tarkus the Promising Cleric level 1 Follower of Bachontoi, God of Red Wisdom.
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Brent Goose Cleric level 5 An eccentric, but charismatic, cleric seeking the Holy Bird. White robes and black cloak conceal his tall, frail and anemic frame. His eagle-like nose is exposed for all to see.

Maggotfeast 8th, Earthday

“Move! Quick, get into the temple!” Algon yelled at Briaron and acolytes standing guard outside.

A winged, large, black serpentine creature was incoming at great speed. Its horrible shrill could be heard for miles, waking Ert, Hist, Rashomon, Llyfed, and Dorn whom had been trying to rest during the day.

Two acolytes stood frozen; Algon, Briaron, and two others ran into the temple just as the black dragon flew over them.

House crew barred the shutters and closed the doors. Algon fled into the heart of the temple, where exhausted Camus sat on the floor. Brent Goose sat next to him, while Tarkus the Promising jumped up and ran to check where other two acolytes were.

Three clerics—Camus, Brent, and Tarkus—spent the whole day conducting a ceremonial ritual to close the Sinkhole of Chaos; a wound in the very fabric of reality festering in the heart of the temple. It should be no surprise that such endeavourment requires great effort; so much so that it left the clerics completely drained.

Tarkus ran into the chamber where one of the temple entrances was. then through the secret passageway connecting it to the other one, and then up to the stone slab acting as heavy doors. He pushed but it was so heavy!

Man of Law he is, he summoned all the strength he had left and pushed once more. As the doors opened he inhaled strong acidic smell burning his nose hairs. One of the acolytes laid on the floor, his flesh a bubbly, melted mess. Bones were exposed here an there. The man was still whizzing; his death was one of pure agony until his very last moment.

Illustration by kickmaniac

Unwilling to retreat just yet, Tarkus pushed his head out, looking for the other acolyte as well. This one was to the left; same horrible fate as the other one. The cleric let the doors slam shut. Then he ran back into the central chamber.

And what a sight had he encountered there! Algon “I'm hiding in darkness. What?” in a little alcove; Camus with a rejected facial expression sitting on the ground; Brent “I'm too weak to do anything” Goose; and others just standing there.

Tarkus the Motivational Speaker got the surviving two acolytes to join him. They ran back to the temple exit and dragged heavy stone bench in front of the doors. Then they went to other temple exit and prepared an ambush. If they go down, they'll do so on fighting terms!

Eons passed as everyone waited.

High-pitched shrill would remind them what they are waiting for.

Waiting they kept.

And then temple shook.

And then it shook again, and loud, breaking noises echoed throughout Ghinarian Hills.

And temple shook once more; and horrible scream followed.

And then temple shook for the last time as something broke into the entrance barred by Tarkus.

Algon, whom had came out of the hiding during on of the tremors, suddenly saw a flash of daylight to his right. A then a black, slithering, scaly mass filled the corridor.

There are no words that can sufficiently convey how quickly did these adventurers run out of that temple.

Standing at the edge of the cliff they could see Ert, Hist, Rashomon, Llyfed, and Dorn running out of the stone building to join them.

Tarkus and acolytes were helping Camus walk.

Algon decided to take the shortcut by scaling 40 feet down the escarpment. Still sweaty from the stress and panic, he slipped, lost footing, and fell. A wet, crunchy splash was heard by all.

Hist felt excruciating pain with every step; like his arm was melting. Ert on the other hand, felt certain weakness in his body. Adrenaline pushed them both onwards.

At this moment the party on the temple plateau learned what was the source of tremors.

A sixty feet tall eagle idol of Shang Ta had been toppled down. Its large body laid broken on the staircase: its head smashed to pieces. Wings were nowhere to be seen.

Night was about to fall any moment now.

Standing at the low plateau, they party discussed their options.

“Monsters here have a pattern. They attack us and then they leave. Maybe this one will leave too?”

“We are all wounded, exhausted, and now also without supplies. We should head back and live to fight another day.”

Tarkus and Ert decided to remain here and monitor the temple.

The rest lit up their torches and started their descent towards Ahyf. After few hours of march they found the safest spot and made a cold camp. They'd wait for Tarkus and Ert until sunrise.

The duo never came.

“Son, I cleaned your wound as much as I could. We have to get you to Ahyf as soon as possible. My notes and herbs and salves are there. I'll be able to help you there.”

Camus knew the situation was worse than that. Necrosis was already setting in. But he did not want to break Hist's spirit. Perhaps he misunderstood the young man, whom had stoically endured everything so far.

They descended from Ghinarian Hills on the morning of Maggotfeast 10th. A patrol from Ahyf accosted them. Camus was missing for more than a week and they were worried the man had fallen. No, they were not happy to learn two of their own died atop the hill.

Hist was rushed into Ahyf. His options were grim: wait next day until Camus had sufficient rest and prays for divine guidance or have surgery right now or decide how he wants to die.

“I will wait.”

On the dawn of Maggotfeast 11th Camus prayed to Thoth for divine strength to heal this young man dedicated to the cause of Law.

He laid his hands on the mans black wound.

He said all the right words.

He did all the right moves.

The scarring was gone.

But decay and rot was still destroying Hist from inside.

“Do what you have to do.”

“Can he operate with a mace?” someone less versed in surgical matters was heard.

Camus did his best.

It was not good enough.

Hist passed away due to great bloody loss following the amputation of his arm.

“How much longer shall we wait?”

“It's night, do you think we'd see it leave?”

The duo decided to retreat back to Ahyf as well.

They travelled without torches and with very little moonlight.

They too decided to cold-camp.

Much to their surprise, once the sun came up they were not where they expected to be.

Luckily for them, they could spot the temple summit a mile or so away from them.

Tarkus noticed Ert was shivering.

“Are you cold?”

“No, I'm hot... I'm burning...”

The duo hiked back to the temple; they reasoned they could find the trail leading to Ahyf there. Otherwise they'd risk weeks of meandering around the hills. Given they had no food nor water, that was a rather a risky option.

With great effort, little luck, and much hardship they party descended Ghinarian hills at the end of Maggotfeast 11th. Too hungry, thirsty, and exhausted to force march during the night, they decided to sleep and go on in the morning.

Sun woke only one of them.

Tarkus buried his friend and then dragged himself to Ahyf.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Ert Fighter level 1 Lean and dexterous fighter with disheveled hair and wincing eyes.
Algon Thief level 1 Handsome and friendly heartthrob; shifty at heart.
Brent Goose Cleric level 5 An eccentric, but charismatic, cleric seeking the Holy Bird. White robes and black cloak conceal his tall, frail and anemic frame. His eagle-like nose is exposed for all to see.
Hist Fighter level 1 Young, overeager, and clean-shaven. Muscles practically bursting out of his armor.
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Tarkus the Promising Cleric level 1 Follower of Bachontoi, God of Red Wisdom.

Maggotfeast 7th, Waterday

“Our enemies cannot see in the dark.” Hist perched and continued “We need not fear the night!”

“Whoever they are, they also had a whole day to prepare” Ert the Pessimist sighed heavily “and a good night sleep!”

“Might makes right. Shang Ta will bless our swordarms when it finally comes time.” Hist continued, unperturbed. His heart and mind were set on cleansing the fallen temple of Shang-Ta—even if it'd spell ruin to him.

And ruin did it spell already; for Hist's grasp of reality wasn't as it once used to be.

“Hail, friends! We come to help!”

Brent Goose, Algon and his retainer Briaron, and newly recruited Tarkus the Promising, arrived to reinforce the party just before the nightfall.

“I needed just one good gig to turn my luck around... how did I end up in this situation? Ah yes, too much alcohol and stupid dice, I'm sure that bastard was cheating... but here I am with but a few gold pieces to my name...” Ert lamented in his mind as he sharpened his sword.

A crude tripwire he set up earlier—some string and a pot full of copper coins—should awake them in case anyone tries to sneak up the stairs.

“We need to agree on guard duty schedule.”

“Everyone is already exhausted.”

“No fire; we sleep cold again.”

“Perhaps elves should take double shifts? They can spot anyone approaching us in the dark.”

Henceforth, the party had decided that Rashomon and Hist would take the first night watch; Rashomon and Ert second night watch; and Llyfed and Tarkus the last night watch.

Fourteen of them crammed into the stone house resting on the plateau just north of the temple. They closed and barred both of the shutters to the north west. Rashomon sat by the sole window looking to the south-east, scanning the environment for any heat signatures. Hist, and later Ert and Tarkus, has the door guard duty. Meaning they were standing just by them in case anything tries to come in.

The sister moons were shy tonight. Howla was completely obscured, while Vannis showed only her right half. It was poised to be a dark night.

Maggotfeast 8th, Earthday

“Hist, something is happening!”

Some time during his second night watch Rashomon observed patches of soil changing colour! Soon some thirty by thirty foot area became warm, pulsating. From it three bulbous masses appeared.

The elf fired an arrow into the darkness. He heard that familiar twang when an arrow hits something hard and bounces off.

“Brace yourself!”

Unwilling to take any risks, Rashomon did the right moves paired with the right words, and two of the three skittering bulbs were stopped in their tracks. The third one burst through the doors.

Now, although there were no lit light-sources in the house, Ert could still see a round black mass, roughly up to his knees. It rammed him, hugging his left left. And then it thrust something log and sharp into the warrior's leg!

Ert could feel the blood sucked out of him.

By now other adventurers slowly began to wake up.

Tarkus the Promising lit up a torch, both to offer light, but also to use it against whatever is assaulting them.

Illustrated by kickmaniac

“It's them, again!”

A giant, deformed tick was hanging from Ert's left thigh. Its hard shell was covered in purplish-spots. And its proboscis was deep into the fighter's leg.

CRASH!

“Huh, what, eh?!”

Algon and Briaron had a rude awakening as another large insect crashed through the barred window.

By now everyone was awake.

Brent Goose kept sending thoughts and prayers as he held torch in the north-east corner of the room.

The rest fought in cramped conditions, ultimately repealing the invading insects. Six of them in total. Hist slayed three, Dorn slayed one but suffered a prick himself, Algon and Briaron crushed one as well, and the remaining two were executed in their magically induced slumber.

“I want to circle the house!” Tarkus announced as he held up the torch outside. Rashomon joined him, while Llyfed went the opposite direction.

Just as he had joined the cleric, Rashomon immediately felt something was off. And then an arrow stuck him in his back.

“Fall back, fall back!”

The trio ran back into the house, and party closed the doors and all the windows shut. It was a stone house—no one could smoke them out!

And then they waited, poised to crush whomever is dumb enough to storm the front doors.

And waited.

And waited.

“Damn, they are just taking pot shots at us...”

“Just like the last night...”

“Brent, can you help with the healing? You know many divine prayers.”

“Sorry, it's bit complicated between Kadrim and me at the moment.”

“OK...”

All but those with guard duty tried to catch few more hours of sleep.

Sun came too soon. Everyone was still red eyed, sore, and hardly well rested at all.

“I'll spend the morning in meditation. I need to center my mind before I return to that horrid place.” Camus shared wearily “Buy me some hours and I'll be ready.”

At this moment all but Hist decided to sleep through morning until noon.

Hist sat on an improvised stool and stood guard by the window looking at the summit where the temple ominously loomed over all. A perennial, dominating reminder of horrors he had witnessed last time he was here. Horrors so horrific and horrible no one believes him.

He'd see a large, rotting bull pace around from time to time. By now he had convinced himself it was all an illusion. What else might it be? They haven't seen a single animal in a three-mile radius, and suddenly there'd be an undead bull trotting around? Come on, let's get real. Illusion. Illusion it is.

Wait. What is that? No... Who is that?

A large, blood-skinned man walked through the bull. He was high up, on the edge of the temple itself. He held a longbow as large as himself in his right arm.

The man grinned, pointed his finger at Hist, and mouthed YOUR HEART IS MINE. And then he fired an arrow. It lodged deep into Hist's shoulder.

The fighter shoot back, missing. Then he yelled, and soon all hell broke loose.

“Damn, what is this, a wagon station?! Have you no manners?!” Brent protested to yet another rude awakening.

Tarkus ran up to Hist, and started shooting at the large man with his sling. Llyfed opened the doors wide open, only to be shot at by another red-skinned man. Algon went through the back window, sneaked around the house, and then hit the other man from afar.

The giant with longbow laughed heartily as he was first stuck with a pebble, then an arrow. He stopped laughing as he got an arrow to torso.

Two barbarians turned around and fled.

The party charged out of the house, giving chase. Alas! Great majority of them was in chain or plate mail, and they had to run all the way around the mountain top before they could reach the stairs leading to the temple.

Ert was slightly disappointed to find his trap disassembled and enriched with relatively fresh turd.

Blood spots on the stairs confirmed that the barbarians were here moments ago.

“They are naked and fast. We can't catch-up with them.”

“They might be leading us into ambush anyway.”

“Let's cleanse the temple and get out of here.”

Rashomon, Llyfed, Dorn, Ert, and Hist decided to spend rest of the day resting in the stone house. Hist's wound was burning. It felt like his flesh was melting away.

Camus, joined by Brent Goose and Tarkus the Promising, went back into the temple. Yes, to the accursed spot where several weeks ago party fought a bull-shaped flesh golem. There they went to close the gaping wound; a festering wound; a Sinkhole of Chaos.

Camus commanded his four acolytes to guard temple entrances. Algon and Briaron spent their time sorting through all the debris, trinkets, and coins threw out from the temple just a day before.

They found 726 silver pieces, a vial with chunky green liquid, a rolled up scroll, and a wand-like object.

Camus focused his blessings on the heart of the temple. Even disgraced Brent was of help, as was Tarkus. All three of them could feel the temple rumbling and shaking and throbbing and roaring and screaming. Except that it wasn't the temple. It was the Sinkhole resisting.

A high-pitched shriek disturbed Algon.

He looked up, to the north.

A sleek, black, serpentine figure with large wings was flying southward with incredible speed.

“I have a feeling this one will be hard to avoid” he thought out loud.

But there was no room for such wishful thinking.

The beast was coming straight for Algon.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Ert Fighter level 1 Lean and dexterous fighter with disheveled hair and wincing eyes.
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Hist Fighter level 1

Maggotfeast 4th, Fireday

The blackest black.

The dreamless void.

The noiseless drifting.

Hist slept. But he was a shell of a man he used to be.

What he had witnessed at the defiled temple of the Shang-Ta left him a broken man.

But even broken men can be determined.

And Hist was determined. Oh, he was.

To return, and purge the temple of Chaotic forces, once and for all.

Alas, not everyone shared his grit and resolve.

Derennan left for Hara, carrying the party's valuables, scrolls, maps, and other treasure.

Others were nowhere to be found.

The elves showed up; weapons sharpened, spells studied. They too were eager to free the world of abominable energy festering atop Ghinarian hills.

Dorn, Rashomon's retainer, showed up as well. His gut was telling him a raise was coming. Either that, or he that he was gassy.

Ert, a veteran fighter whom had just arrived to Ahyf, joined them as well. Little did he care about tales of horrors lurking on the hills.

Camus, the Curate of Thoth, joined by four acolytes, was ready as well.

“I promised to accompany you there. If what you've told me is true, then we might have a much bigger problem on our hands than I've realised.”

Maggotfeast 6th, Airday

The sun was up.

The broken idol in their eyesight.

There was no wildlife; no sounds.

Camus ordered the acolytes to wait at the plateau below the desecrated temple, and then he joined the party.

As Llyfed stepped on the first stair leading up to the foundation atop which sixty feet tall stone idol of an eagle rests, he felt great misfortune is about to befell him.

The idol exploded, hurling thousands of head sized rocks in a three hundred yard radius. A colossal bull charged through the stone statue like it was made of driftwood, right down the stairs!

Llyfed yelled in surprise, and tumbled to the side desperate to avoid being trampled.

Ert looked in confusing as the elf clumsily threw himself to the side, and then rolled off ungraciously onto the dirt.

Hist, Rashomon, and Dorn looked worried. Although they haven't witnessed the same thing as Llyfed, they understood well enough what was happening.

It didn't help that they were all soon suffering from tinnitus.

Ert seemed completely unaffected.

The insides were as they left them.

Bare stone reeking of death and decay.

“These men were once Vicars of Shang-Ta. We should build a funeral pyre for them. Also, clean the central chamber. I cannot begin my ritual in all that filth, detritus, and other garbage.”

Elves dumped copper coins by the hundreds, right in front of the temple doors. They were smelly, filthy coins. Could be washed and polished with some effort, though.

The insides of the temple lit-up in a sickly green light.

Camus frowned, his broad shoulders tensed, as he grunted.

“This is much worse than I though. Much, much worse.”

Whole temple pulsated evil, chaotic energy.

“It might take me weeks, if not months, to throw out evil forces from here. And trust me, whatever did this, will not go out quietly.”

The party retreated into the dilapidated stone house on an elevated plateau just by the trail leading to the temple. Dorn and acolytes cleaned it as much as they could, and prepared it as a camping spot for the night.

“No fires. We lay low.”

Maggotfeast 7th, Waterday

First night watch: Llyfed and Hist.

Second night watch: Rashomon and Ert.

Third night watch: Dorn and Llyfed.

That was the plan.

Reality, though, was much different.

Dancing figures in the thick dark were spotted during one of the watches; followed by Hist seeing a large bull scratching its sides against the building; followed by everyone taking a position by one of the many open windows.

Tension could've been cut with a knife.

When one of them light up a torch two arrows flew into the building. Luckily, the only thing they hit was a wall.

The torch was immediately extinguished.

Party welcomed the sunrise after hours of being on watch.

No one had a good night's sleep.

Scouting the perimeter revealed very little. No signs or traces of anyone or anything. The broken arrows resembled those used by cannibal barbarians whom had killed Conly on these very hills.

A brief sermon was given for the fallen clerics. Their corpses emanated foul vapours as they melted in the bonfire.

Camus spent the day at the heart of darkness, praying and uttering ceremonial incantations, attempting to dispel great evil that besieged this Temple of Law.

Party spent the day cleaning up the stone house to the north-west of the temple. That one had functioning doors and three windows with shutters. A significant upgrade to the one they just spent the night in, which had six wide open windows, as well as broken doors.

Since they had no access to the water to wash off dried excrement and bodily fluids, the party had used some of the potato sacks to scrub off as much filth as possible.

By now everyone was suffering from tinnitus and headaches.

Camus emerged from the temple visibly exhausted. He was pale and leaned warily on his staff. Ert helped him to the stone building.

“Priest, which deity is associated with bulls? Who might've desecrated the idol? Are any local tribes known worshippers of any such deity? Others told me that the effigy was covered in coins. That doesn't seem very barbarian-like to me though, so likely the cult might hail from a more civilised place?”

“That's a difficult question to answer. There are as many barbarian gods as there are barbarian clans. I do know of the so-called Storm Bull god, who according to them had torn the world asunder, and out of the wound came Altanians, bright red like the pure blood of gods. Perhaps you could learn more in Forsetti's temple in Hara? They have many historic scrolls. But let me tell you something... whatever desecrated this place was powerful. The Sinkhole is fighting back. I don't expected it to go away easy. Listen, I'm exhausted and need to rest before continuing with the consecration ritual.”

The night was about to fall.

And it was about to be a dark, dark night.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Hist Fighter level 1
Brent Goose Cleric level 5 An eccentric, but charismatic, cleric seeking the Holy Bird. White robes and black cloak conceal his tall, frail and anemic frame. His eagle-like nose is exposed for all to see.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.

Redleaves 12th, Waterday

Llyfed picked up the torch dropped seconds ago by Hist and charged after the monster dragging the warrior into the darkness.

Taking a sharp turn to the right, into a narrow corridor, the elf caught up with the sickly naked man and cut him deep. The man yelped, dropped Hist at once, and fled into the darkness.

Llyfed dragged Hist back into the outer rim, reconvening with other party members.

“What do we do now?”

“We are two down, we should find an exit.”

“Do we know where it is?”

“The stone doors slammed shut behind us. We don't know where is the other exit...”

“Did you try opening them?”

Silence.

“No.”

“Listen guys, how about death or glory? We go to the center of the temple and either kill whatever is there or die trying!”

“Wow, this is a great plan!”

“Yes!”

And so they left behind paralysed Hist and Oberon in pitch black darkness in a temple whose walls weep blood.

Remaining heroes—Llyfed, Derennan, Rashomon, Brent Goose, and Dorn—went into the narrow corridor, which they theorised would lead into the temple's very core.

This was a weird, angular, corridor. It terminated in an oddly shaped pseudo-junction. To their left was shoulder-wide corridor and to their right was a ten feet wide corridor leading into darkness so black it seemed to suck in their torchlight.

Everybody—sans Brent—felt tension, sickness, and existential dread.

Llyfed threw in his torch.

Darkness engulfed it.

Tremendous bull roar shook the temple once more.

Unable to move nor act, Hist witnessed unspeakable horrors.

Oberon did not fare any better.

Dorn was gripped by horrific visions of death and destruction.

“Come on, no going back now!”

“But I'm sooo weak, sooo frail!”

“Come on!”

With a little bit of healthy convincing, Brent cast Light at Darkness.

Lo and behold, the solid blackness ahead of them begun to flake and disintegrate into tiny particles.

Inch by inch, corridor covered with coins, gore, and refuse uncovered itself.

A giant, bull-shaped abomination starred them down. Bones and sinew of various creatures wired together made for its body. A patchwork of different skins were fastened to its body with hundreds of coins with an orange sheen. Bulbous sacks hung all over its underbelly, clacking and clinging as the flesh golem swayed and heaved.

The mere sight of such unnatural creature, nay!, such abominable mass of raw Chaotic energy was too much for already tormented Derennan.

His sanity completely shattered, transforming him into a bundle of unrelenting furry. The dwarf gripped his polearm and charged the monstrosity.

And let it be known that this was no heroic charge. This was an irrational act of a deeply disturbed being; a cry for help; an attempt to reclaim that last bit of sanity hiding somewhere in the deep recess of his own mind.

Llyfed, our brave Llyfed, did not fare much better.

Elves have a different outlook on life. They see more than Humans. They experience more. They live more. They suffer more.

No mortal human can comprehend the horrors Llyfed saw when the Bull-God gazed into his eyes. In fact, even attempting to describe a fraction of his vision would drive any human being insane.

Rashomon tried to save his friend, but Llyfed just stood there, speaking nonsense. His gaze was distant, his motions lifeless. Rashomon pushed his friend away—into safety, he hoped—and joined the fray alongside the dwarf.

Dorn followed his Master. He has chosen the adventuring life, so he better prove his worth. That will surely warrant a higher paycheck once they manage to kill a God.

Brent his in a little alcove to the side, cupping his eyes. All the screams and yells convinced him it is a really bad idea to look at whatever it is that drove everyone else insane.

The flesh golem dominated the whole ten by ten area. It did not even try to evade Derennan's savage assault. Heck, it did not even acknowledge them. Dorn stabbed from the second rank. The bull was so large it was impossible to miss it. Rashomon came up close, hacking at the beast's deformed legs.

Walls around them were pouring blood, patches of flesh peeling off of it with every blow delivered.

Submitting to peer pressure and ridicule, Brent opened his eyes, took a few deep breaths, and then cast Protection from Evil.

He stepped around the corner.

What a sight!

Derennan, Rashomon, and Dorn were beating a pathetic, vaguely bull-shaped effigy made of bones stringed together with rope, leather, and sinew. Thousands of copper pieces underneath them clinked and clanked as the warriors jumped around energetically.

Slightly confused, but massively relieved, the cleric passed the swinging warrior and came to the side of the “bull.”

His attempts to convince others they are striking at inanimate collection of bones fell flat.

“Oh, what should I do?! I'm sooo weak, sooo frail?!”

Derennan, Rashomon, and Dorn watched in horror as Brent Goose curled his sleeves and tried to wrestle the huge abomination. Flesh golem shrugged him off like a fly, not even acknowledging the cleric's existence.

At this moment a naked man return, jumping Rashomon from behind. The elf turned his attention the the sickly man, ignoring the roaring bull for the moment.

“Have you tried turning, Cleric?!”

Brent called on Kadrim, God of Small Birds. Incorporeal tit on his right shoulder chirped, and a flash of bright light permeated the chamber.

Naked man cried in agony, tripped over, and ran off into the darkness.

Rashomon turned around, only to be surprised to see the demonic bull transformed into a disgusting pile of bones and rotting refuse. Dorn was equally surprised.

Derennan on the other hand was still frothing and going at the monster. He was blinded by rage, reduced to nothing but a mass of assaults.

Dorn abandoned the effigy and went to explore the passage behind it. There another naked man lied on the floor, gripping a scroll in one hand, and silver holy symbol of Shang Ta in the other hand. The fighter killed the man without thinking twice. Then he proceeded to ransack both the man's cracks as well as the alcove to his right.

Derennan eventually dismembered the bull-monster. To Rashomon and Brent it looked pretty much like the dwarf bust pinata wide open. Thousands of coins poured out of the effigy, covering the floor.

Dorn's eyes filled with glimmer as he started filling his sack with coins. He was a bit slow due to being picky and only going for the coins of silvery variety.

Rashomon went back to Llyfed, and led him to the entrance they cometh from. Derennan, shocked by his colleague's indifference to the temple folding into itself around them, ran into the unexplored darkness.

Brent fled for his life.

“Disappointed!” little tit cried, and faded away.

Just like Brent's ability to cast divine spells.

The party eventually found a secret passageway hiding the last naked man. They killed him. Then they pushed the stone doors open. Dorn and Rashomon returned to recover paralysed Hist.

“Look Kadrim! Look, I'm taking care of my flock! Look Kadrim!”

Brent cried to the air as he dragged Oberon outside.

Night was about to fall.

Shadow of the great eagle idol loomed over the party.

They retreated to shit and soot stained dilapidated house. Llyfed, now in control of his faculties, and Rashomon cleaned up the insides a little bit. Hist and Oberon unstiffened after few hours.

Nobody slept.

Everybody was haunted by horrific visions. Bull-God was chasing them.

Red-eyed, sleep-deprived, and paranoid, the party set out towards Ahyf with the first ray of sun.

Cannibal barbarians were behind every tree, every rock, every bush.

A large, deformed bull was always on their trail; just at the edge of the horizon.

No matter how quickly they moved, they could not stop.

Except there was no one there but them.

At the end of second day, the party found the safest spot they could.

Another night of unspeakable horrors, scarring them all.

Some resorted to praying to Shang-Ta, since they recovered four holy symbols from the desecrated temple.

On Redleaves 15th, at the cusp from dying due to exhaustion and sleeplessness, the party stumbled into Ahyf.

All but Hist and Derennan went for the Belching Vicar and Swordsman's Citadel tavern, whichever had empty space to house them.

Hist and Derennan went straight to Camus, the High Priest of Thoth. They informed him of everything.

“It is worse than I feared. And as I told you before you set out, merely killing these foul creatures is not sufficient. Friends, found a Sinkhole of Chaos. It is a scar on the land; a blight. It will continue to fester and attract forces of Chaos. Until it bursts.”

The duo pleaded for help, especially in alleviating the horrific visions haunting them. Camus sat in deep thought. He studied some of the parchment and books from his shelves. Then he shook his head.

“Friends, you have been touched by Chaos. This is not a curse. Nor is it a disease. This is a burden, a wound. I'll pray for you.”

Fighter and dwarf excused themselves and wearily went for the exit.

“We will go sleep now. We shall return and finish what we started. If we don't die from exhaustion first.”

Camus sighed heavily. Then he slammed the table with his large hands.

“I shall go with you. This must be stopped.”

The adventurers collapsed in whatever accommodation they have found. They slept for three days straight.

Except Brent.

“Look, I'm caring for my flock, Kadrim! Look!”

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Brent Goose Cleric level 5 An eccentric, but charismatic, cleric seeking the Holy Bird. White robes and black cloak conceal his tall, frail and anemic frame. His eagle-like nose is exposed for all to see.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Hist Fighter level 1

Redleaves 11th, Airday

“Is everyone back at full strength?”

“Seems so!”

“Then let's head back to that Shang-Ta temple.”

“How about we don't follow the trail this time?”

“Sound like a good idea.”

“We should cut across, straight up to the summit.”

“Sounds like a great plan!”

What could go wrong?

Redleaves 12th, Waterday

Oberon successfully led the party up the scenic Ghinarian Hills. They spotted a tall, totem-like stone idol of perched eagle on one of the summits.

A watch later and they reached the temple's entrance. They approached from the east, stopping some two hundred feet away.

The lay of the land was as follows.

The party stood on a plateau overlooking the sea to the east, with temple to their west.

The temple, a windowless stone box sixty feet wide and long and twenty feet tall, seeming chiseled into the hilltop was straight in front of them. Staircase carved into the rock led to its base. It was a rather sharp incline. Shang-Ta idol towered atop the stone building. Its left wing was broken off.

A simple stone building rested atop a twenty feet tall escarpment to their right. Behind it was another escarpment, also roughly twenty feet tall.

To their left was another escarpment, roughly forty feet tall.

“Let's check the smaller building first...”

The party led by the elven duo, Llyfed and Rashomon, carefully inched towards the weirdly shaped house. The window openings revealed filthy insides. Heck, even outsides were filthy, nay, desecrated with streaks of soot and dried faeces.

The doors fell down at the first sign of provocation. Little of value was found in the dilapidated building. Several broken figurines of eagles were piled in the corner, covered in excrement.

“How about you stay here, and watch our back?”

“I'm not staying here alone!”

The party descended back to the plateau and went for the broad staircase leading to the temple.

Walking closer to the idol they could see how damaged it really was. Cracks and fissures covered its stone body, one whole wing was knocked off, and the beak looked chipped as well.

Llyfed, Brent, Oberon, and Hist saw the statue spring to life, crying out in pain as darkness engulfed it and a sea of deformed humans plucked at its wings and body.

Rest of the party looked in confusion as the aforementioned adventurers stood like paralysed, mumbling nonsense whilst staring at the sky.

Once everyone was back to their senses, they decided to follow narrow stairs leading to their right, to second tier plateau surrounding the peak.

By now everyone had noticed noticeable lack of vegetation and wildlife. Everything was unnaturally quiet. Patches of ground were soft, covered with sickly purple grass.

A stone building lied to the west, overlooking north-west portion of Ghinarian hills. Dorn was left behind to guard the stairs, while the others, led by Llyfed, approached the building.

Simple wooden doors were shut closed. The window shutters were closed as well.

Too focused on sneaking up to the house, Llyfed failed to notice that he was sinking more and more with each step. Three large insects, reminiscent of large balls with legs, oozing purple ichor ambushed him from the ground, surprising the elf.

Llyfed's superior armour class combined with Rashomon's Sleep spell saved his life. The party quickly dispatched the giant ticks, and then rolled them off the escarpment.

Investigating the house revealed little besides more foul waste, a primitive painting of a bull's head, and sacks of something rotten. Entrance was booby trapped. The trap was obvious and shoddily made, so Derennan disposed of it with little trouble.

“This must be the resting place of those cannibal barbarians we've encountered a week ago.”

Something of value was found when Derennan broke into a locked drawer of a heavy desk. There he found 211 silver pieces as well as velum scroll. Unrolling it uncovered what looked to be a regional map with Xs at specific spots. Compass rose was stamped in bottom right corner.

“Let's get to that temple!”

As they approached Derennan suffered the same vision as Llyfed, Brent, Oberon, and Hist did. Simultaneously, Hist, Brent, and Oberon were momentarily pulled into hellish landscape as giant eagle screeched whilst naked men broke its wings and carved its body.

Elves used the opportunity to investigate the base of the idol. An arrangement of broken iron spikes, mallets, and sledgehammers were strewn about. The broken stone wing laid on the south side, effectively blocking passage.

Once everyone recovered, the party made their way around the ledge by the temple's base. There they found two smooth stone doors. Listening revealed nothing.

Hist forced his way in, nearly falling on his face as large stone doors swung open. They swung shut as quickly as they opened.

“Huh? A visitor?” someone asked him in pitch black “Have you come to pay respects?” the person sounded like they have a lot of difficulty speaking.

Rest of the party barged in, inserting crowbar under the stone doors as to prevent them from closing. Sudden burst of daylight blinded the man whom had been speaking to Hist.

What a sore sight he was! Naked, scarred, with sickly green, almost transparent skin revealing his atrophied muscles. He reeked of rot and refuse. The man was sitting on a stone bench by the south wall.

“Aaaaa!” he screamed as he ran to his right, into the dark corridor.

The party spent a moment to investigate the chamber. There was little to find besides stone bench and narrow corridor in the south-east corner. Derennan could spot that this was a finely constructed temple, despite its extremely simple lines.

Pushing on, down the dark corridor revealed a t-junction. Hist took the lead. Peeking into the unnatural darkness to his right was rewarded by an intensely violent vision. The giant eagle, now pinned to the ground by countless deformed figures, was mercilessly beaten and stoned. Finally, a silhouette of giant man with bull's horns appears. It plucks out the eagle's eyes.

Hist finds himself unable to see as streams of blood pour out from his eye sockets.

As this happens, Dorn yells to the party. A naked man with rotten teeth and crazy eyes is standing outside. The man giggles as he pulls out the crowbar. Doors slam shut as Derennan curses. The dwarf runs up to the wall and desperately seeks for an opening mechanism, finding none.

“Damn!”

“Ignore that junction and push on!”

Adventurers interpret that as splitting.

Dorn and Brent stay behind to watch the doors whence they cometh from. Rashomon and Derennan stand by the junction. Llyfed, Hist, and Oberon move all the way to the end of the corridor and then turn, pass another junction and stop by yet another turn.

At that moment everyone but suffers from violent visions, losing their chance to act. Hist begins frothing from his mouth as he cries blood once more. Confused and enraged, he assaults Llyfed. The elf manages to deflect all the blows and calms down young warrior, despite suffering himself.

Suddenly a small tit lands on Brent's shoulder.

“Save your flock. Or perish with them.”

Brent feels warm and fuzzy for a second. Heavy fog that clouded his mind seemed lifted. Knowing without knowing, he realised Kadrim has blessed him with the following prayers: Light, Protection from Evil, Speak with Animals, and Bless.

While Llyfed was busy evading Hist's attacks, a naked figure with pale green sickly skin emerged from the dark corridor and flailed at Oberon. Fighter deflected the first blow; deflected the second blow; but failed to evade naked man's bite; he fell to the ground, stiff as a board.

Dorn turned around to face another naked man, deflecting all attacks.

“Will you come to my aid at once!” he yelled back at the party.

Brent casts Bless on area just south of him. Himself, Rashomon and Derennan were affected.

A tremendous bull roar filled the temple, shaking it to its very core. The roar reverberated off the walls, like it was coming from all the directions. Rashomon picked up that it came from the corridor to his left.

And then walls begun crying blood.

“I think I screwed us.” Brent giggled.

Derennan took a shot a the green man attacking Oberon. His arrow landed well enough to send the creature fleeing, leaving a trail of purplish droplets. Dorn slayed the nude attacker.

“Good riddance!”

Rashomon cast Magic Missile, just in case something big comes around the corner.

Hist and Llyfed propped paralysed Oberon against the wall. Then they proceeded west, to the end.

Hist reached the corner and peeked around. To his sharp right was a diagonal corridor covered with hundreds of copper pieces reflecting bits of torchlight. Main corridor extended further north. Hist could see another t-junction just at the edge of his torchlight.

Derennan suddenly felt sick to his stomach. Like great weight had been placed on him. He braced for charge.

Llyfed run up to join with Hist only to find a naked man, frothing from his mouth, silver eagle hanging around his neck, crouching on the fighter sprawled on the ground.

Man's chest was completely open, the wound roughly in the shape of a bull's head. Llyfed could see straight into the gaping hole. There was no heart.

Naked man dragged Hist into darkness.

Llyfed followed.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Conly Fighter level 1 Young man with brown hair and eyes. Carries a shield with large acorn symbol.
Algon Thief level 1 Handsome and friendly heartthrob; shifty at heart.
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Barad the Bald Magic-user level 1 Bald, beardless, chinless, and lazy-eyed.
Hist Fighter level 1
Rashomon Elf level 1 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 3 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Brent Goose Cleric level 5 An eccentric, but charismatic, cleric seeking the Holy Bird. White robes and black cloak conceal his tall, frail and anemic frame. His eagle-like nose is exposed for all to see.
Oberon Fighter level 3 A tall, supple hunter adorned with bones and horns of his prey.

Redleaves 3rd, Earthday

Two weeks flew by as the adventurers recovered moved into their newly acquired home, a respectable townhouse in a nice part of Hara.

Norwood Bode, the former owner, kept his word and introduced the party to:

  • Eval Strikker, the proprietor of armory just next to them. He primarily manufactures chainshirts for the garrison, but will always find time for Norwood's friends.
  • Bindon Sweettooth, the host at the Shoreside Club, a private club mostly frequented by the local nobility and army officers. Norwood warned the adventurers to invest into their appearance—”Easier to get sensitive work that way!”
  • Haermond II, the castellan of Hara, whom did recognize some of the adventurers for their previous help with a sensitive issue. They accidentally ran into him at the Shoreside Club, so Norwood used the opportunity to flaunt his connections.

Few, more entrepreneurially inclined members also invested in gathering rumour and intelligence. Here is what they learned:

  • Gnomes of Ractuan are livid. Several barges of raw material sent to Hara went missing. They've recently sent a delegation which demanded immediate action or they'll stop doing business through Hara. Haermond II is already stretched thin, but this is Hara's lifeblood, so he is likely to weaken all other posts to resolve this.
  • Another patrol went missing at the Midnight Goddess Hills. “Eaten alive by horrors beyond human imagination!” “The Circle must've been broken!” “Nonsense, it is those damn jungle barbarians...”
  • Namelin has been on a spending spree. They hired most of the available capable fighters. The rumour has it they also financed nearly 70% of all assassination contracts in the last eight months.
  • “An ancient idol of Shang Ta, the Windgod, rots away on the slopes of Ghinarian hills. Peasants speak of desecration, violation, and evildoing. Surely someone looking for divine favour could do worse than taking care of it...”

They also spent time studying the map they've recovered from the burial mound Zarifa had sent them to.

Playing sages, the adventurers suspected the tall mountain might be one of the peaks of the Castellan Mountains looming over Hara from the west. Consequently, they spent a full day researching the books at the Wizards' Guild, records at the Forsetti's Temple, and frequenting taverns for local tales.

This is what they learned after a full day of investigation:

  • Castellan Mountains effectively split Altanis in half. Crossing them is a treacherous undertaking even for the most prepared. Those that survive the climb still have to deal with venerable dragons, marauding stone giants, and orcs of Arang-Tok.
  • Madcat Mountain, the closest one to Hara, is named so for the twin spires that jut out of the peak of this mountain. The summit is approximately 10,000 feet in height. It's best to scale them in spring.
  • There are no significant records of graveyards. Life in Wilderlands is too short and brutal to keep track of such trivialities on a large scale.

Rashomon recruited Dorn, a veteran fighter, while Conly and Algon recruited four commoners for menial tasks like carrying treasure and not getting in danger.

Ever since Brent Goose has returned from the ruined tower he found himself followed by a flock of small birds. They poop on him on every occasion. Brent also found his magic impotent; his prayers either not working or producing subpar results.

“Hey guys I'm in trouble with my god. Can we go kill the things in the mountain from my vision?”

“What vision?”

“I had a vision of some guys hissing at me.”

“That's very vague. How about we go take care of the ruined idol of Shang-Ta?”

“That works too”.

They arranged a transport on barge carrying livestock to Ahyf, the settlement closest to Ghinarian hills. It was a fine party, counting eight adventurers, one retainer, four porters, two draft horses, and one wagon.

The expedition had arrived on Ahyf, a trading village by the sea, in the last daylight watch of Redleaves 5th, Spiritday. They slept with animals for 1 copper piece per person.

Redleaves 5th, Spiritday

Ahyf is a large trading village where merchant ships take over goods shipped from Hara as well as anyone else who comes to barter. The gnomes of Ractuan and the humans of Hara both ship their goods down on coastal barges to Ahyf every month to the market.

Warlord Briaron ensures that the trade goes undisturbed, at least in Ahyf, that is. Once you sail you are on your own. Camus, the Priest of Thoth, is well respected and acts as the local judge.

Meek Brent was too afraid to seek audience with him, even after seeing the crane-like bird at the entrance of the temple. He'd rather pray to the stone than dare speak to a man of true conviction.

Hist, on the other hand, politely queued to be granted audience with Camus. There was a long line of peasants asking for divination, advice, help, blessing, and who knows what else.

“How can I help you, son?”

“We heard there is a sacred site nearby that has fallen into evil hands. We came to purge it. Could you tell us more?”

Although Camus failed to show any signs excitement, he explained that many temples on Ghinarian hills were abandoned in recent years. Locals report sightings of undead, but he doesn't believe them to be true.

“It's most likely the crazed, cannibal barbarians. They bathe in blood, reek of rot, and act irrationally. It's easy to confuse them for brainless undead. The only thing they have in common is their shared hatred for the living.”

“You will find the idol facing east. It is very similar to the one in Antil, but nowhere near as grand. Oh, you've never been there? Well, it is an upright statue of an eagle spreading its wings.”

“Three priests tended to the idol back in the day. Send them my regards if you find them. Or end their suffering, if they've turned to evil ways. You have my blessing. Now go.”

And they left.

The party started their slow ascent up the Ghinarian hills. Those were gentle, wet hills stretching from the Cedarwade in the west all the way to the coast and the Cape of No Return in the east. Beautiful and pastoral hills give a breathtaking view of the sea.

Hist and Oberon navigated the party using the priest's instruction to follow the old, serpentine trail leading to the idol of Shang-Ta.

Redleaves 6th, Airday

“Huh, he didn't mention this...”

A barricade of cut down trees stood some hundred feet ahead of them, blocking path forward. They were currently marching on a fifty foot wide path. A natural rocky wall was to their right, roughly five feet tall, while a sharp fall was to their left, also roughly five feet deep.

Four red-skinned human-shaped figures stood behind the trees.

“Hey, what's this?” one of the adventurers yelled.

A volley of arrows was the reply he received.

“Well, that's not nice.”

The party responded in kind. They found that the barbarians were using their cover effectively.

“Watch out!” Derennan informed the others of three more attackers, coming from below! They were scaling the cliff, daggers in their mouths, showing of rotting teeth.

A brutal skirmish ensued. Llyfed managed to kill two with his expert marksmanship; Oberon managed to drop his bow but Brent picked it up for him; Conly got badly wounded but was saved by Algon and Hist; Derennan was flanked and repeatedly stabbed by two of them, he tanked them both.

With three down, the barbarians begun fleeing like animals. Those behind the barricaded run up the hills. One that fought Derennan jumped off the hill, to the lower plane, and made a run for it. The other one was surrounded and had nowhere to go. He took amazing amount of punishment.

Bleed profusely, he turned to the dwarf, cut open his pants, grabbed his manhood with his left hand, and cut it off with his right. Then he chucked it at the shocked dwarf—whom failed to evade the unexpected projectile. Floppy parts just splooshed against his plate armour, and then fell down to the ground.

The lunatic then disembowelled himself, throwing his innards at his feet. Finally, he turned to the side of the cliff and jumped on his head.

Half-dead Conly did not get a chance to heal. In fact, he didn't even realise when he died. It was Oberon who spotted another red-skinned figure standing atop the hill to south of them. The man was a good distance away from them, but his laughter echoed all around them.

He even made a little celebratory dance as he hit Conly in the neck with his arrow. Then he flipped the party and disappeared out of sight.

Little of value was found on the corpses of the ambushers, a mere eleven gold coins. The party put the wounded and dead into the wagon and returned to Ahyf to heal.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Derennan Dwarf level 3 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Barad the Bald Magic-user level 1 Bald, beardless, chinless, and lazy-eyed.
Rashomon Elf level 2 A dangerous looking elf.
Llyfed Elf level 2 Thin and balding elf whom also happens to be Rashomon's friend.
Conly Fighter level 1 Young man with brown hair and eyes. Carries a shield with large acorn symbol.
Algon Thief level 1 Handsome and friendly heartthrob; shifty at heart.

Willowind 13th, Earthday

“I must return. I must.”

Derennan recruited Rashomon, Llyfed, Conly, and Algon. Together they would head back to the burial mound.

Barad decided to skip the expedition to the place where a horrific skeleton with flaming beard turned Basson into a lifeless husk whilst another skeleton cleaved stocky Gwendin in half.

Could anyone have blamed him?

Either way, the adventuring party returned to the mound with little difficulties. The only encounter of notice was a disgruntled bunch of gnomes entering Hara.

Derennan led the party into the mound through the secret entrance he discovered last time. They cautiously descended, painfully aware that their former allies might have transformed into new, potent adversaries.

Gwendin's two chunks begun to rot, attracting maggots and flies. Basso still looked like a sun dried raisin—raisin with grotesquely deformed face of horror, that is.

“I'll stand and watch guard at this intersection. An army of skeletons marched through the doors to the south last time. I don't want them to surprise us.” the dwarf announced.

“Uh, have you recovered all the valuables from your former associates? They don't need them anymore...” Algon inquired charmingly.

Llyfed and Conly descended further down, stepping over the remains of their friends. They carefully inched into the chamber with sarcophagus.

Nothing assaulted them.

The sarcophagus was half open.

A headless skeleton in chainshirt laid in it.

The elf poked it.

Nothing.

Conly poked it.

Nothing.

Conly relieved it of valuables: a chunky necklace with blue sheen and ruby stone, a large gold ring with ruby stone, and a nice looking silver brooch.

He put the ring on.

Algon screamed.

Rashomon turned in time to see a skeleton dressed in glistening chainshirt holding stone slab like it was nothing. An unreal flaming beard adorned his skull.

The undead flung the slab to the side, and tried to jump Algon. The thief evaded it just in time for Rashomon to cast Magic Missile at the skeleton.

Derennan' prediction came true. A horde of undead poured out of the south corridor.

The dwarf gingerly placed the torch on the ground.

Then he gripped his polearm and held his ground.

Algon ran up to him, preferring to fight greatsword-wielding skeletons over the scary life-sucking skeleton.

“Fall back into the crypt, three of us can surely beat him!” Conly yelled at Rashomon.

The elf obliged, taking a few steps back. He made sure to spray the skeleton with holy water as he did so. Alas, the undead was more than happy to follow, tackling the elf to the ground.

It knotted its unnaturally chilly skeletal fingers around Rashomon's neck, and then leaned in for a deadly kiss. The elf could feel life essence being sucked right out of him. It felt as if someone plunged arms right into his stomach and was churning his insides.

Conly and Llyfed witnessed Rashomon withering in front of their eyes.

“Agh!”

Derennan destroyed several skeletons, but one finally managed to get to him.

The dwarf was badly wounded.

“Will you forgive me if I run?” Algon asked charmingly.

“Do as you wish.”

The dwarf stood his ground.

Cough cough!

Rashomon rolled, coughing violently.

The skeleton crumbled to dust as it went for the second kiss, which would've surely had spelled the elf's end.

Llyfed propped him up whilst Conly ran out to help Derennan and Algon. He saw a properly bloody dwarf holding a number of skeletons at bay.

The party quickly disposed of the remaining undead.

“We are here for the red ring.” Derennan reminded everyone.

“This one?” Conly asked, showing a thick, ill fitting gold ring with ruby stone on his index finger.

“Probably.”

“Let's check what the other guy had!”

Indeed, the other guy had treasure as well: a golden necklace, a copper bracelet, and a silver bracer.

They also found a chest with 4 000 electrum pieces, and another chest with 7 000 copper pieces. They also found a well preserved parchment with squiggly lines and an x on it.

“We have one more thing to do. Pass me the oil and torches.”

They threw bassos shrivelled husk into the sarcophagus, and doused him with oil. Derennan threw in the torch.

“We are done here. Let' head back.”

The party partied hard at the Circled Star Inn, their home for the last few months.

“W-we should go straight to that old guy and buy his fucking house, right now!”

“What, in the middle of the night?!”

“Yes!”

“No, I don't think that'd be a good idea.”

“Yeah, that'd be a bit weird...”

“OK, OK, we do it tomorrow then... Bartnederer! Another round!”

Willowind 14th, Fireday

Norwood Bode, a middle aged man with slivers of white, warmly received Derennan and his friends. After a bit of friendly haggling they reached a mutually satisfactory agreement: the party would pay 3 500 gold coins, and he would vacate the building within two weeks.

And what a nice home they bought themselves! A lean, two-story building, with 30 by 20 feet base. Its half-timbered construction has been infilled with concrete rendered with white stucco giving it a bright, airy appearance. The terracotta tiled roof, pebble floor, and wattlework interior walls gave that homey country ambience.

“These walls hold many stories.”

Norwood used to run an adventuring party, a successful one at that if one is to believe him.

“I see there is only six of you here. Let me tell you that twelve of us called this place home for many seasons. I hope it serves you as well. Let me show you one more thing...”

A surprise—and a welcome one, at that—the building also has a cellar with vault, protected with two iron-barred doors.

Happy with their deal, the party was ready to head to Zarifa Pilter.

She made them wait, again. For hours.

“The clown is back! And the circus grew even bigger!”

A buxom, lithe woman slithered for her greeting.

Rashomon kept his mouth shut, unlike Llyfed.

“A bald elf, with rotting teeth? Why are you even addressing me?” she fired back.

Algon opened his mouth, but alas, made the situation even worse.

“I cannot believe it! Even when you partner with humans you manage to find the biggest imbeciles?” another stab by her.

“Well, intelligence is not a trait commonly present in those that undertake dangerous delves.” Derennan the Diplomat and Businessdwarf defused the situation once more.

“Why is that child wearing what is mine?”

“Conly? Oh, he is merely safeguarding the ring for you.”

Zarifa peppered them all with casual insults and slurs as she inspected the ring. Her cold, blue eyes began sparkling as she announced that yes, this is the ring she wanted them to retrieve.

By now the elves were giving her a death stare, which only seemed to amuse her further.

“Now, could you explain the deal you proposed last time. About the treasure we recover.”

“Yes, could you state it more directly?”

Zarifa rolled her eyes so hard she spent the whole foyer spinning.

“Direct?! Direct?! You imbeciles!”

“You bring me treasure first. I give you a good offer. Direct enough?!”

“Can we get it appraised elsewhere first?”

“Where? Doral the Lazyeyed? Don't make me laugh! If you want to shop around then our deal is off!”

“But what if you give us cutthroat price...”

“Just because I despise you doesn't mean I don't like good business. I'll always give you two options: 30% of appraised value paid on hands within a week or 65% of sell price if we represent you in a bigger market. The second option takes between three to five months, but will always be a bigger payout.”

“Can you follow all these numbers? Are your little minds spinning?”

“No, not at all. You know, I'm something of a mathematician myself.” Barad the Bald spoke.

Zarifa sized him up, without her signature snark.

The party proceeded to complete the negotiations, signed a contract that could cost them their balls, and banked 1 400 gold coins for jewellery recovered from the mound.

“You seem like a learned man.” Zarifa playfully clawed Barad's arm “Tell me more about that green cloak of yours. It is quite a statement piece.”

“Oh, I'd love to. You see, when I was in Antil, I got invited to this very private party that I had to arrive costumed...

She listened to him with the attention of lustful barbarian.

“How would you like to spend the night at the Pleasure Palace?”

“Oh, lady, I couldn't possibly afford such a fine establishment!”

“This stay would be on the House...”

“I'm in! Godspeed fellow adventurers, see you tomorrow!”

“Bah, better him than us!” elves grumbled on their way out.

“Talk to me wizard! Now that we got rid of that idiot friends of yours we can speak like learned people...”

Barad soon discovered that Zarifa is a raging sapiosexual.

He barely survived the night.

Discuss at Dragonsfoot forum.

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Adventurers

Character Class Description
Derennan Dwarf level 2 A dwarf hailing from Western Wastes.
Barad the Bald Magic-user level 1 Bald, beardless, chinless, and lazy-eyed.
Basso Halfling level 2 A stable boy whom got tired of shovelling horse shit.
Gwendin Cleric level 1 A follower of Bondor, god of swords, carrying a sacred silver scimitar.

Willowind 7th, Waterday

Brent Goose, Llyfed, Basso, Gomm, Derennan stood in front of Doral, Hara's jeweller, all sweaty and dirty after their five day expedition to the ruined tower and back.

“Yes, these seem like globes of pure silver. You could probably get between 500 and 2000 gold coins for each.”

People of Hara observed the party with great interest as they made their way to the jeweller. There is no doubt that the word of their newly found riches is spread fast.

Since each orb weighted 172 lbs, carrying them required great effort, leaving little means to defend oneself. And they had nine.

“Tell you what. I'll offer you 500 gold coins for one right now!”

“Make it 800 and you have a deal. I hope we can have a long and prosperous business relationship.” Derennan countered.

“500 and I'll appraise your next haul for free.”

“Fine but you’ll need to accommodate us while my companions run some errands. We’ll be in your shop until they return.”

“Of course, be my guests. Perhaps I could interest you in some of the wonderful rings and necklaces I have on display?”

Basso leaned in to take a good look at the necklaces.

“Ya these look mighty pretty if you don’t mind me asking do any of these have any sort of special properties?”

“They make all the women fall in love with you!” Doral leans towards Basso and adds “Yes, even the halflings!”

Painfully aware of their situation the party decided to use their proceeds from one silver ball to procure wagon, two draft horses, and twenty mercenaries.

Basso, the stable boy, went looking for horses, while Gomm ran to the Fighters' Guild to find some muscle. The rest stayed at Doral's store.

An hour later, the halfling returned with horses and wagon, while the thief brought along three ill-equipped, but tough looking, men.

They purchased nice silk sacks from Doral, put a 30 inch silver orb in each, and then loaded them up in the wagon. And then they began looking for ways to liquidate them.

Dwarven armourer turned them down, for he had no use of silver. “Too soft to protect you from stabs.”

Human weaponsmith couldn't afford one. “Do you know how long it'd take me to pay it back!” he stopped as he counted fingers on both of his hands “This much!”

“Brent, what about that girl of yours? The one from rich family that became your cultist–erm, follower?”

Indeed, that connecting was sufficient to gran them access to the Pleasure Palace, a private club for wealthy merchants, travellers, and nobility. It was also a home to Pilter family, third richest one after Imraell and Namelin.

Derennan and Basso took it upon themselves to lead the negotiations. Rest of the party found a safe spot by the city walls and waited there.

Short duo was first made to wait an hour or so. Then they were let in, quickly scuttled to upper floor, and led into an opulent foyer. There they waited for an hour more. Basso was increasingly aware of how filthy and unrepresentable he was. He tried to clean himself with some spit.

Suddenly a lithe, buxom woman stepped into the room. Her long blond braid was like a whip; her piercing blue eyes like two daggers. She wore a dark blue dress and a face full of contempt.

“I am Zarifa Pilter, the oldest daughter of Pilter. I do not approve of my sister's foolishness, nor that cult of yours. State your business, midgets!”

The duo did not allow her insults to sway them. They presented their case with conviction, and spoke in great detail what kind of dangers they had to overcome in order to return them to civilization. They might've exaggerated a thing or two.

Either way, although Zarifa's disposition remained unchanged, she was professional enough to offer a representation agreement. She would take the orbs—should they pass quality control—to Tarantis or City State of the Invincible Overlord and sell them for an attractive price. It'd be commission based, for 40% of profit.

She believed each orb could fetch anywhere between 1500 and 2500 gp. The process would take three to five months to complete.

Negotiations were long, filled with jabs and racist insults from Zarifa, but Derennan was unrelenting. He read every line and all the small text.

“What is this here?! We are liable for all expenses even if you lose the goods?!”

“Oh! So you can read!”

Finally, a good deal was struck to satisfaction of both parties.

“Do you often go to dangerous places and return with such interesting objects?”

“Yes, that's what we do for living.”

“Then I have another deal to offer you. If you come to me—first thing after each expedition—to look over the interesting goods, we will represent you for 35% commission.”

“Deal!”

“Beware. Should I learn you went to someone else first I will have your balls removed. And I'm not talking about your silver orbs.”

“Understood!”

The duo went to shake hands with Zarifa, with the dwarf saying

“Pleasure doing business with you.”

The steely woman rejected their approach, rebuffing them “No, not at all.”

They could feel her icy gaze on their back as they were leaving the chamber.

“How about 4000 gold coins for seven orbs, right now? Cash on hands.” she shoot just as they were to close the doors.

The duo agreed. They will be paid after all the orbs have been tested, which was to take a week.

“Guys, I think we need to get ourselves a base of operations!”

Willowind 12th, Waterday

Derennan spent a week recovering and healing up.

Basso, on the other hand, hit the streets looking for properties on sale!

This is what he found, from cheapest to most luxurious:

  • A 150 square feet dilapidated cottage in western Hara, just behind the Fighters' Guild. The family there fell into destitution after husband was slain. They were all sold into slavery and their cottage is being sold for 100 gp.
  • A 400 square feet, single story cottage in northern Hara, flanked by Thieves' and Assasins' Guilds. The planks are still drenched with blood of previous inhabitants. 250 gp.
  • A 800 square feet, two story townhouse in east Hara next to Imraell's mansion and other important establishments. Owned by an adventuring party which left for far away lands. Current owner has decided to retire and is selling it for 3800 gp.
  • A 1200 square feet, two story villa with terrace, by the river. Previous owners was a merchant who gambled it away. It is available for 5400 gp.

Basso took copious notes so he can report the news to rest of the adventurers.

“Let's collect our coin from Zarifa.”

“Sounds good.”

Derennan, Barad the Bald, Basso, and Gwendin went to the Pleasure Palace. The reception was as chilly as before, but all the coin was there.

“How would you like to fetch me a ring? A nice, gold ring with a big chunky ruby attached to it? Some of you might die, but that's the risk I'm willing to take.”

“Sounds like a job for us! Say more.”

Zarifa produced a parchment with map to the burial mound of long forgotten barbarian king. It was just few miles west of Hara.

“Try to avoid attention from the locals. They still think this dead guy means something.”

The quartet loaded up and marched west.

“It should be right here.”

“See, a mound straight ahead.”

Indeed, a simple earthen mound laid lazily in front of them. It was covered with bushes and overgrowth. A copse of woods sprouted by its east side.

The party circled the mound first. The copse had footprints of a large canine leading off into the woods. The only entrance was on south side, a simple slabs of stone acting as pillars.

Heading down, they discovered a weird looking skeleton. It was vaguely human-like. It was taller, with weird legs, and canine shaped head.

The corridors were simple packed soil framed with stone slabs and wooden pillars. They were narrow, barely five feet in width. Any dwarf would be insulted with shoddy construction.

Following further down, Basso activated a crude axe trap. Just as he stepped of the last stair, he felt something soft. An axe sprung from the ground, hitting him in the chest. Luckily, he was a stout halfling so it meant nothing to him! Nothing!

Moving on the party decided to explore the t-shaped junction before checking the closed doors. Another set of stairs. East were leading up, to a plinth with a basin. West were leading down, turning into darkness.

This time Derennan took the lead. He went up the stairs, pressing each stair with the polearm. Basso followed behind.

“Seems safe?”

The moment he stepped off the last stair, three openings revealed themselves on the basin. A spray of thick, oily substance covered both the dwarf and halfling.

“Are we dead?”

“No, it doesn't seem so.”

Well lubed duo descended back down, and backtracked to the closed doors. To be honest, it was more of a stone slab blocking a passageway than real doors.

Derennan carefully removed the latch and then prodded the slab open. He felt something was off, hence he quickly jumped to the side. Basso did the same. A big flash was seen; no sound whatsoever.

“Wow, that could've blinded us!”

The chamber was completely empty. Dwarf theorised it might've been a temporary chamber to house excavation tools and similar.

Deeper they went, taking the west stairs. Now they found a corridor with long stone slab with carved figures of warriors fighting.

Another stone doors were to their left, a t-junction in front, and stairs leading north. Checking the doors revealed a room full of upright skeletons holding greatswords.

“Let's close this one, yes?”

The junction split into stairs leading down straight ahead, and leading up to the right. A relief of warrior with wild hair holding a greatsword above his head was just at the bottom of the stairs.

“The stairs leading up surely lead to secret exit!”

Indeed, the long, winding passageway terminated with a round stone slab, very similar to the one they've seen on the north entrance.

“Should we open it now?”

“No, we don't want anything coming in. Let's head back down to that relief.”

At the bottom of those stairs were two stone slabs, each mortared shut. Basso scrapped the mortar off of the east slab. He could feel unnatural cold as he worked. Then he pressed his shoulder, and forced the slab down.

Pushing with great force, he tumbled forward, stepping over the slab, and landing in a simple chamber. A skeleton with flowing red beard, dressed in an expensive looking chainmail, stood in front of the opened stoned sarcophagus.

Basso hit him, but his weapon bounced right back off of it. Then he felt terrible, terrible coldness as the undead grasped him with an iron grip.

“Gwendin! Pass me your silver scimitar!”

Alas, still recoiling from the horror, this time he missed. The roaring undead did not miss. Everyone witnessed Basso shrivelling in front of their eyes. It looked as if the undead sucked the soul right out of him!

Gwendin picked up her holy scimitar and faced the icy doom.

“Derennan! We must flee!” Barad cried as horde of greatsword wielding undead poured out from behind them.

Dwarf and magic-user quickly ran up the stairs, towards what they believed to be a secret exit. They poured some oil and set in aflame.

Gwendin, locked into combat with the undead that wasted Basso, failed to spot incoming horde. By the time she realised there was someone—something—behind her, it was too late.

Skeleton cleaved her in half.

“You stood there bravely, daughter.”

Booming voice echoed.

A powerfully built man with blue skin and long white hair towered over Gwendin.

“Prove yourself worthy or spend an eternity suffering.”

Gwendin stood on top of her corpse; an angel of bright light; holding two burning scimitars.

“Take vengeance. You have thirty seconds.”

That was all the instructions she needed.

Her first attack did not connect—this incorporeal form took time to get used to.

Her second attack turned the skeleton into a pile of bones.

Her third attack beheaded the skeleton with red beard.

“You did well, daughter. You shall spend an eternity in my harem.”

Derennan protected their back while Barad ran up.

“Oh, no! The doors are stuck! Oh no!”

They didn't even budge under the magic-user.

Derennan chucked more burning oil. This was a narrow tunnel; he could fight the skeletons one by one.

First one burned to crisp. Second one was shattered to pieces.

“Switch! Maybe you can force them open!”

Slam!

They move a bit.

Slam!

They move a bit again.

“Oh no!”

A skeleton jumped out of fire, swinging at Barad.

The chinless wizard miraculously dodged.

Even more miraculously, he managed to knock off the skeleton's head with the pommel of his dagger.

Accidentally? Deliberately?

Doesn't matter, result was the same.

Slam!

Derennan flew out as the stone slab tore through overgrowth.

“We must flee now; but we shall return to avenge our friends!”

Barad knew a thing or two about that, having just recently fled a major city in the Barbarian Altanis.

Will he have it any better in Hara?

Discuss at Dragonsfoot forum.

#Wilderlands #SessionReport

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