Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Session 5: Gwyddno's Tomb

Having recovered from the harrowing adventure in the ruins of Gogledd Keep, the party felt they were finally ready to pursue the quest laid upon them by the sinister mage-priest, Frasck, to obtain an opalescent sphere from the renegade sorcerer, Sothiss.

Millenia past, a star fell from the sky, destroying the de Danann city of Murias, leaving only a massive crater in the Mac Morne Highlands.  Some time later a dwarven expedition from Khelekdor began to excavate the crater for the star metal, known as Murian steel, which could be used to craft fantastic weapons and armour.  After many years of excavation, shipments of Murian ore stopped arriving in Khelekdor, and the expedition was never heard from again.  It was just at this time that treacherous dwarven Thanes rebelled against the Overking, resulting in the fall of Khelekdor and its seizure by the Horned Prince, Drufarodd and thus, the expedition to Murias was entirely forgotten in the wake of greater events.

It is within the dwarven mines of Murias, that Sothiss has made his lair and the party must seek out the renegade mage and slay him to absolve Jin's debt to Frasck.

The party followed the Ildanach River north for many days, into the highlands, on their way to the town of Glen Morag, the nearest settlement to the Crater of Murias.  One night, the party's rest was disturbed by the unearthly howls of some type of beast in the distance.  As the minutes passed the braying became louder and greater in number.  Some manner of beasts were closing on the encampment.  The party spent long minutes debating whether to flee or prepare to fight whatever was approaching.  As the braying became louder and clearer, Caitlin blanched, recognizing the howls from Caemric folklore: darkhounds, the vanguard of the Wild Hunt.  The party opted to run for some standing stones atop a distant tor, hoping that the sacred ground might ward them against the evil fey that now clearly had their scent.

The race was on.  During their desperate run to the standing stones, the party chanced a look behind as they crested a hill, and saw, a mere half-mile behind them and closing quickly, a large pack of darkhounds, bestial phuka, and redcaps led by a pale rider on a black horse with flaming hooves.  This frightening sight gave the party the desperate energy for the final push to the standing stones.  Having reached the top of the tor, Theon and Bvar searched around the rocky outcrops for wood with which to build a bonfire, while Jin cast light spells on boulders to fully illuminate the tor for the fight to come.  Suddenly, Bvar cried out and vanished.  Rushing to where he was last seen, Theon found a hole that had crumbled beneath Bvar's feet, tumbling him unceremoniously down a steep slope into a dark cavern beneath the tor.  The rest party squeezed through the hole, joining Bvar in the cavern below, and pulled a rock over the hole to hide it.

The cavern was, in fact an entry chamber to catacombs below the tor - possibly a funereal  tomb for someone of importance.  Ancient script of an unknown language was written on the chamber walls, and a narrow passage led from the chamber deeper into the catacombs.  Following the passage, the party soon found that it branched in many directions.  They opted to follow the southernmost branch and eventually found a door that was jammed shut.  Throwing his weight heavily against the door, Bvar burst it open and stumbled into the room beyond and only his sharp reflexes saved him from falling to his death as a trap door concealing a deep, spike filled pit, opened beneath him.  The room contained no less than sixty burial niches containing the mouldering remains of ancient warriors.  The party thoroughly looted each of the niches and were enriched by the gold coins left for the dead to pay for their passage to the underworld as well as jewelry, an ancient greatsword, and a tattered banner that was later discovered to be the battle standard of The Thrice-Damned Legion that fought in the great de Danann War.

The party continued meandering their way through the catacombs, eventually proceeding down a long passageway ending in a stone-arch.  Suspicious of further traps, Jin summoned an unseen servant to precede them down the passageway.  Their suspicions were validated when, halfway down the passage, the unseen servant triggered a pressure plate in the floor.  The party's precautions availed them little, however, as the pressure plate triggered a barrage of poisoned darts fired from the wall along the entire length of the passage.  While Theon got his shield up to protect him from the darts, Bvar was struck in the neck, and Jin was punctured by three darts; the effects of the poison were felt immediately, weakening Bvar and Jin.

The stone arch at the end of the passage was inscribed with more of the unknown script, including a rune inscribe on stones on either side of the doorway.  The chamber beyond the doorway contained a large stone sarcophagus with a lid carved in the likeness of a warrior.  Arrayed around the sarcophagus were ten stone slabs, and upon each of which lay the ancient remains of warriors clad in mail hauberks and tattered red cloaks, clutching spears in their bony grasp.  A fresco painted on the chamber walls depicted a king with a golden crown bearing sword and scepter standing atop a mound of enemies on a battlefield.  The king was ringed by soldiers in red cloaks warding him with their spears against and advancing horde of phuka and redcaps.  This scene was much like that described in the lay, The Last Ride of Gwyddno.

Again suspecting a trap, the unseen servant was sent ahead into the chamber, and once again the party's suspicions were justified.  Just inside the door the servant triggered another pressure plate causing iron bars to drop from the archway, sealing the room.  Bvar, despite his great strength, was unable to lift or bend the bars.  Theon began pressing on stones in the doorway's arch, particularly the two runes inscribed on the sides.  When one of the runes was pressed, the bars raised back into the archway.  Careful to avoid the pressure plate the party entered the chamber, and Theon approached the pallet to inspect the remains of the warriors.

Suddenly warriors sat up, their empty eye sockets glowing with red light, then stood as one and advanced upon the intruders, spears at the ready.  The party panicked at the sight of ten skeletal warriors bearing down upon them and Jin fled to the archway, triggering the reset trap, which dropped the bars once again, locking them in the tomb with the warriors.  Theon called upon the grace of Lir and half of the undead warriors fled before him and cowered in the far corner of the tomb.  The remaining five were quickly dispatched and the last five were also sent to their final rest.

Careful to avoid damaging the lid of the sarcophagus, a party member stood at each corner and they slowly lifted it off.  As they did so, large blades scythed out from each side of the sarcophagus and thrust out at each end - all missing the characters who were standing just beyond the reach of the blades.  Within the sarcophagus lay the remains of a king who bore a gold crown upon his head and an ancient bronze-hilted broadsword upon his chest.  The scepter was no where within.  Since the tomb appeared to have lain inviolate, and since the Lay of Gyddno described him buried with scepter and crown, they party reasoned that the scepter must be concealed within a secret compartment in the sarcophagus.  Searching it carefully, they did find such a compartment containing the scepter of Gwyddno.

After completely looting everything of value from the tomb of the Llanvirnesse's first High King, the party left the catacombs in the safety of daylight and continued on their way to Glen Morag.  Upon their arrival they took rooms at the local inn, and noted the odd looks that many of the town's residents gave them, pointing to many of the looted items openly displayed.  Concerned that the locals would take them for tomb-robbers, the characters quickly retired to a single room and elected to stand watches through the night.  Soon after they retired soldiers knocked on their door, telling the party that their chieftain, the king of Morag required their company at his manor.

Hastening to the chieftain's manor, the party met with King Cormac, who offered them refreshment and demanded to see the Caemric artifacts that they had found.  The party showed him everything they found and Cormac immediately recognized the sword, crown and scepter of Gwyddno.  He confiscated these items, offering the party gold, land and titles in recompense and additionally promised to outfit the party for their foray into the crater of Murias.  An accord having been reached, the party spent the remainder of the night as guests in Cormac's manor and the next day an investment ceremony was held at which they swore to uphold Cormac as their liege in exchange for land and title in his realm.

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