Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"The Story So Far" - Part Three - "Against the Crypt"

"The Story So Far" is an ongoing series recanting the details of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that I've been running on and off since 2002.  Links to the previous entries can be found here:  

Prologue                                                      Part I                                                                  Part II

I've "fictionalized" the session reports in a likely-vain attempt to make them more "entertaining".   

And now, our story continues...

Solstice 21, 1492

At the crack of dawn the following morning, Rincewind rushed to the Strongholde Inn and roused his fellow adventurers.  After explaining Marlak's offer, the Fellowship had a hasty breakfast, gathered up their gear and struck off across town.  Upon arrival, our heroes were genuinely surprised when Rincewind escorted them into Legacy Tower without the use of blindfolds, secrets knocks or a vow of silence.  Bria, acclimated to the cult-like level of secrecy at the local thieves guild, was particularly taken aback.

The first four levels of the tower housed the most bizarre sights and sounds imaginable.  As if turned out, each floor of the tower was dedicated to a particular sphere of magical study.  Eventually they made it to the fifth floor, where Marlak himself was presiding over the school of Transmutation.  After congratulating the group for expertly serving the interests of the town thus far, the wizard quickly got down to the business at hand.

"Recently one of our members, an ambitious young mage named Andred, was caught practicing the art of necromancy, a forbidden school of sorcery here at Legacy Tower.  The day after he repented and vowed to go straight he vanished, taking a considerable amount of spell components along with him."

After puttering around for a little bit, Marlak came back with a map of the town.

"Andred was fascinated with the Hanan family crypt in the graveyard behind the Parish.  If the other sarcophagi in the area are any indication, the crypt will contain an ancient burial shroud of considerable value.  I believe that Andred is aware of this and he intends to steal the shroud."

"I've asked Moira, the Abbess, for permission to send an expedition into the crypt to recover any artifacts inside for study.  Up until now, she's refused my request and I continue to honor her decision.  Having said that, I don’t believe that Andred will harbor any similar pretenses."

"I need you to gain access to the Hanan family crypt and secure the shroud inside before Andred does.  In return for this service I’ll give each of you eighty gold crowns plus a diamond that I’m sure you can sell in town for at least fifty apiece."

Before they left, Marlak had one final plea:

"I feel somewhat responsible for Andred, so try not to harm the boy if you can.  If you could capture him unharmed, I'd be eternally grateful."

Although the group was ready to get started, Roman knew that their case would be difficult to present.  Sure enough, when they went before Moira to get her approval, the Abbess flatly denied their request.

"Absolutely not!" she told them in no uncertain terms. "First and foremost, today is Godsday. This is supposed to be a day of rest and worship, not grave-robbing!"

When pressed for details, she confessed to having an "odd feeling" about the stone structures that were already standing on this site way long before the first settlers of Bastion arrived.  She declared that "it’s a very bad idea for 'outsiders' to poke around" in any of these original structures.  She also made a startling confession to Roman.

"For years I lobbied for a church to be established in Castebridge but the Patriarchs in Footholde didn't want to construct a new building.  In fact, the only way they'd sanction a new diocese here is if we used one of the preexisting abandoned buildings."

This inspired her to glance around warily at the stone walls of the abbey.

"I really didn't want to move in here."

After the group promised to tithe their findings to the church and seek absolution for their sacrilege, Moira eventually gave them permission to delve into the crypt.

When the group got to the site, Lorelei noticed that the so-called "family name" of "Hanan" wasn’t a name at all.  After telling her peers that "Hanan" actually means "Refuge" in ancient elvish, the group wasn't sure if they should feel encouraged or terrified.  Lorelei definitely fell into the latter category, acting weary and agitated throughout the entire delve.

Their subsequent venture down into the crypt brought about new challenges.  Animated skeletons, poisonous vipers, and devious puzzles served to test the courage and wits of the Fellowship.  Despite the myriad of hazards, they managed to make their way through the deadly maze.

Arriving in the final chamber, our heroes found the place to be completely obscured by an unnatural mist.  Off in the gloom they suddenly heard an odd chuckle followed by:

"You’re not Marlak."

Despite the well-laid trap and a host of guardian undead, Andred was swiftly overcome by the group, already fighting together as a cohesive unit.  After trussing up the amateur necromancer, the Fellowship began to scour this final room from top to bottom.     

Just as Marlak predicted, they found a corpse wrapped in a burial shroud inside one of the sarcophagi.  Also present was a shield with a crude map etched on the inside.  Just before Marlak arrived on the scene to collect Andred and the shroud, the heroes made a quick rubbing of the map.

Flushed by yet another success, the adventurers returned to their respective homes for some much-needed rest.  En route, they happened to notice someone trailing behind them.  Bria identified this mysterious figure  as Erelos, an independent and opportunistic rogue with loose ties to "Slayde’s Place", the thieves guild in town.

When the group confronted Erelos, he immediately begged off, saying that he's been following the group's exploits carefully.

"I'm just a fan!" he protested.  "I'd be honored if I could join your ranks!" 

"Sorry, but we aren't excepting any new members right now," Roman said.

"Yeah," Bria added, feeling slightly defensive.  "Piss off."

After sending the cut-purse on his merry way, the Fellowship soon found themselves back at the Strongholde Inn, enjoying a communal dinner and swapping recollections about their latest escapade.  

Solstice 22, 1492

Excited by the promises of the mysterious map, the heroes held an early-morning strategy session at the Rambing Rogue.  Although the image on the shield was crude and the rubbing was even worse, it still clearly showed a cave with the words "magic statue" written next to it in ancient elven.  The map also depicted a strange-looking forest settlement where Castebridge is currently located and landmarks representing the Abbey and Legacy Tower.

Once again, the group noticed Erelos skulking at them from a nearby table.  After approaching him, he immediately started bombarding the group with nosy questions about the map and where they were headed.  Despite a storm of persuasion and threat, Erelos refused to leave until Falstaff, the tavern owner, made a move to summon the town guard!

The Fellowship, anxious to pursue this new quest, scrambled around town making final arrangements.  They got the diamonds from Marlak appraised, pored over an odd key recovered from the Crypt, identified Pol’s newly-discovered greatsword and paid back the promised tithe to Moira.  After all of their preparations were done, our intrepid explorers set off once again in search of adventure!

To be continued... 

Photo Credits:

Legacy Tower:  http://www.contadolucchese.it/Pagina%20Pievi%20Romaniche/Pieve%20Brancoli/Campanile_1.JPG

The Abbey: http://mw2.google.com/mw-panoramio/photos/medium/49618152.jpg

The Crypt:  http://www.lastinghamgrange.com/photogallery/photo26003/CRYPT2.JPG

Erelos:  http://www.reapermini.com/graphics/gallery/4/60148_p_1_mj.jpg

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