Return to the Tomb of Horrors

The City that Waits

The denizens of Skull City abandoned their evil enterprise, and the Sidmouth Slayers made a temporary base there.

Now, the secret of Acererak’s Amulet of the Void was revealed. With the Amulet in the adventurers’ possession, and a portion of the physical remains of the demilich, the Great Green Face served as a portal to another realm. The party passed through the portal and emerged in a strange city.

They stood on an iron walkway, spanning a void between towers. A stone obelisk stood on the walkway, inscribed with a message from Acererak. This was the City of Moil, a haphazard array of varied towers reaching up into black clouds riven with silent lightning; below, it seemed that the towers were built upon darkness itself. Acererak’s rhyme claimed that those who would seek him in his Fortress would need to overcome several challenges here in Moil. There was no return portal.

The party followed the walkway towards one of the towers. “Bacon” Barrowburrower, with the ability to understand any language thanks to a permanent Tongues spell, could read the runes over the entrance to the tower: “Tower of Portals.”

The interior of the tower consisted of narrow bridges and a central support column, with three platforms arrayed around the central support. The party cautiously approached the uppermost platform. It bore an archway filled with mist. On one side of the archway was a circular depression with three hand-shaped indentations in coloured tiles. The colours matched runes scribed atop the arch. Bacon read the runes: “Tower of Health”, “Hub”, and “Periphery”. Bacon discovered that placing his hand in the appropriate indentation changed the colour of the mist to match that of the runes and the tiles. A short discussion led to the party agreeing to attempt travel to the “Periphery” using this portal.

It was not a wise decision. The portal did lead to the Periphery of the City, but Moil was a demiplane and travelling to its edge placed the party at a planar boundary, falling towards infinite blackness. They had mere seconds to respond. Fortunately they thought and acted quickly. Kito activated his boots of flying and raced to catch Helka, who had no means to save herself. Shortly had a ring of levitation, which he used. Bearcloak used his own magic. Bacon pulled out the Glass Griffon and activated it, holding on for dear life! With the immediate danger over, the party looked for solid ground. The nearest walkway was 200 feet away. But the danger wasn’t over yet. Flying through Moil’s skies were swarms of tiny negative energy creatures. These swarms flocked to the Sidmouth Slayers as they fled towards the walkway. Each touch of the swarms drained life energy from the living. Bacon cleverly bought some time with a Wind Wall spell, whilst magical fire was evoked by his allies. By the time most of the party had reached the walkway, one of the swarms had been dispersed. One swarm still surrounded Shortly, who was bringing up the rear. But Shortly managed to protect himself with a Death Ward. The swarm could not feed on him because of his spell, and flew off to seek other prey.

Now the party was in a different section of the City that Waits. The Tower of Portals could not be seen. They proceeded to the nearest tower. Outside, in front of a granite door, a message had been scratched into the stone: “Ware the Darkweaver in her lair – D”. This Darkweaver had been remarked upon in Acererak’s rhyme on the obelisk. The party decided that they did not wish to face her yet. They retreated towards another tower.

This next tower also bore an inscription over the entrance, in the strange runes that only Bacon could read: “Tower of Discipline.” Entering the tower, the party found that it contained many prison cells. One of them held a cocoon within a metallic frame. The cocoon held a humanoid prisoner, frozen solid and long dead. Around his neck was a brass vial, that Shortly located within the silk cocoon by using a near-forgotten magic item that he owned, a Rod of Metal and Mineral Detection. The vial contained a scrap of paper, with the characteristic runic script. It said “Interrogation unto Admission”.

Further on, the party found a more mobile occupant. An executioner, replete with headsman’s hood and axe. He stood before a chopping block. As the party gazed upon him, unsure if he was alive, he spoke. Although only Bacon could understand the words, they nonetheless had an effect upon Kito. The headsman was telling Kito to place his head upon the chopping block. Kito resisted the urge to comply, and the headsman advanced with axe raised.

A short battle followed. It was evident that the headsman was not truly alive, but was a sophisticated construct resistant to most weapons. It could not overcome the combined might of the heroes, and it dissolved into a puddle of flesh-coloured goo. Its axe and hood remained, as well as a large obsidian key. The party took their prizes.

The key opened the way into another section of the tower. There, they found a living prisoner within a cell. She was hooded and her arms were chained to the wall. This woman first thought that Acererak had come to pay her a visit. When she realised that it was not he, she pleaded for aid. The party hesitated, and in her impatience the prisoner voiced a magical compulsion. Both Helka and Kito were enchanted. Bacon held the key, and was invisible. So Helka chopped down the obisidian door with her mighty greataxe. Shortly temporarily paralysed Helka with a spell. As Bacon took up his lute, hoping to counter the enchantment, Kito went into the cell and broke the silver chain holding the prisoner’s hood in place. Removing the hood, he looked straight into the face of a medusa! Both Kito and Helka avoided being turned to stone. Bacon then successfully countered the medusa’s enchantment, and furious at having been controlled Helka raised up her axe and moved to strike down the prisoner: but this time, Helka did not resist the power of the medusa’s legendary stare. Shortly and Kito avoided the potent gaze, and the poisonous snakes that formed the medusa’s hair, and attacked. The medusa pleaded for her life, but her enchanting voice did not prevail against Bacon’s lute-playing. She won only a pause as the party asked her what aid she could give; they were not persuaded of her usefulness or loyalty, and ended her existence. Two strange items were found upon her person: a petrified heart and stomach. Bearcloak restored Helka to flesh. The party also found a torture chamber, with another frozen corpse. This corpse also bore a brass vial, the scrap of paper within said in the runic script of Moil: “absolve”. The party left the tower.

The next tower had two entrances, but the party approached it from the lower of two walkways. Instead of runic script the entrance bore a symbol, a humanoid wrapped in bandages, entwined by two snakes that faced each other.

In this large tower, the party entered a wizard-locked storage room filled with a random assortment of containers. They took a number of unidentified liquids. They encountered an undead creature that seemed to radiate cold. Most of the party had some protection against the cold, and those who did not were able to obtain protection with their own spells. The undead tried to attack, but was easily knocked down again. But the party had no way to destroy it, as it kept healing. Eventually, it was decided that the best solution was to simply stay away from it.

Elsewhere in this tower, the party encountered a bizarre surgeon, seemingly part man and part machine. Gliding down from a high ceiling, upon a serpentine metallic arm, the surgeon attempted to operate! With many scalpels and a pair of whirring circular saws it cut into Helka! Even the mighty barbarian could not long withstand such treatment. As her allies came to her aid, and the recalcitrant patient resisted, the surgeon gassed the party with a powerful anaesthetic. Only Helka and Shortly resisted. Shortly got all of his sleeping allies out, except for Bacon who was invisible. Helka fled. The surgeon glided out of his infirmary, looking for his patients. Shortly caught him in a Blade Barrier, and Helka finished him off with a retaliatory strike, despite suffering many wounds herself. The sleeping Sidmouth Slayers could not be roused, and so the wakeful party members resolved to put them to bed in the infirmary, heal their wounds, and wait….

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Battle for the Black Academy

The Sidmouth Slayers regrouped and resupplied at the Mines of Moderheim. The inner workings of the Barrowburrower clan came to light, as it transpired that Barack had in fact been matron Bathilda, come to bring her boys home. Both Borus and Bacon were restored to life, as was the noble paladin Kito. Bathilda took Borus back to Barrowburrower Hill, whilst Bacon stayed on to complete his College’s mission.

The monk Michonne decided to depart the group, perhaps needing time to process the horrors she had borne witness to. She was replaced by a mighty barbarian woman, Helka.

Whilst the party were planning their return to Skull City to deal with the evil necromancers there, Kito had a thought. All the students admitted to the Academy were marked with a skull tattoo, created by a sentinel statue. When the party had entered the Academy previously, Bearcloak was marked by the statue whilst the others made do with make-up to simulate the tattoos. Kito concentrated on Bearcloak’s tattoo, and sensed a powerful evil. Bearcloak offered a theory: it must be that the tattoo is itself an evil brand. He suggested that after the Academy was dealt with the tattoo should be removed somehow. Shortly’s suspicions were aroused though. He asked Bearcloak a question: how many elven magic swords did the party find in their early adventures against the goblins of the Stagwood? In answer Bearcloak teleported away, trying unsuccessfully to steal Shortly’s bag of holding as he went.

Checking the bag of holding’s contents, Shortly found that the Amulet of the Void was missing.

What had happened to Bearcloak? The party tried scrying him, but this did not work. They then used a Commune spell and learned that Bearcloak had been possessed by the vampire mistress of the Black Academy, Ferranifer, and she had returned to the Academy.

The Sidmouth Slayers wanted to lose no time getting to the Academy to recover their erstwhile companion before Ferranifer could re-establish her defences. Rather than wait until the morrow and prepare specific magics they bought potions and scrolls, and a series of teleports later came once again to Skull City. They made their disguises and tried to quietly move through the city, but Ferranifer had at least had time to put her servants on alert and the party were quickly spotted.

A battle ensued at the Academy entrance.

A number of necromancers stood outside of the Academy, and when Ferranifer’s thrall Leon sounded an alert they began throwing spells. The party closed, but were caught in a cloud of noxious vapours that choked them and obscured their vision. As they exited the cloud, skeletal nagas emerged from the Academy foyer.

Bacon summoned a sleet storm, preventing those still inside the Academy from seeing what was going on outside. It also served to slow the progress of the pair of undead naga who had not yet emerged. The naga in front used their own dark magics, fatiguing the heroes and draining their life energy. The foul undead proved resistant to the party’s magic and to many of their weapons. Fortunately though, the naga were a less significant threat in close combat, although they possessed dangerous venom.

Instructor Ngise, one of the Academy’s leaders, had been thwarted by Bacon’s sleet storm but used a dimension door spell to outflank them, gathering to himself a couple of rogues to protect him. From his vantage he aimed a deadly spell at Kito, but Anubis protected his holy knight.

By the time Leon emerged from the sleet storm, the handful of necromancers outside had been slain but the nagas were still engaging the party. In a fury, Leon struck down Kito with his deadly black blade. But it was probably an error for him to then take on Helka as well. The barbarian avenged the paladin, slaying Ferranifer’s servant.

Bacon used summoning magics to try to turn the tide in the party’s favour. He used a powerful magic item that had been taken from Acererak’s crypt to conjure an air elemental and send it against Instructor Ngise. He then summoned a dire wolf, as Bearcloak/Ferranifer and Academician Drake (the other leaders of the Academy) joined the battle.

Shortly was exhausted by the nagas’ evil magic, and injured by a lightning bolt. But he managed to save Kito’s life with a potent healing spell.

Bacon’s elemental swept up Ngise and one of his guards in a whirlwind. The powerful wizard was ill-equipped to deal with this foe. Whilst he eventually managed to blast the elemental to destruction with fire and magic missiles, the elemental by this time was high in the air, and Ngise fell to his death. One surviving rogue fled into the city.

Bacon’s dire wolf did not fare so well. Emerging on the other side of a stinking cloud spell, the wolf faced both Bearcloak/Ferranifer and Academician Drake. The two necromancers slew the wolf with Vampiric Touch spells, fortifying themselves in the process.

Helka leapt through the fog and sleet, into the Academy foyer. Meeting Bearcloak/Ferranifer and Academician Drake, she employed her mighty axe. The wizards responded with deadly force, and whilst Helka withstood the assault, she was blind and close to death. She staggered back outside, temporarily defeated.

After another summoning spell was interrupted and ruined by a bone naga’s magic missiles, Bacon brought a new ally into the fight: The Glass Griffon, recovered from the Crystal Tower of Devral. The Griffon engaged one of the naga in a deadly grapple. Bacon then made his way inside the Academy foyer and goaded the two enemy wizards.

Ferranifer had had enough time since she possessed Bearcloak to learn a good deal about the Sidmouth Slayers. Only Helka was an unknown quantity. She knew that Bacon was very agile, but not hardy. She gambled that she could kill him outright with an empowered evocation. But luck was with the halfling, and he dodged the blast of cold. He was less lucky against her follow up, and was struck blind, like Helka.

Kito tried to approach Bearcloak/Ferranifer, but found that a new magic thwarted him and he too was forced to retreat.

Now, only one bone naga remained, and it was locked in a struggle with the airborne griffon. Shortly healed Helka, restoring health and sight. The dwarf then brought Kito and Helka back in to the Academy foyer with his own dimension door spell.

For a couple of seconds, as Helka’s axe swung down, Bearcloak tried to take in his surroundings. He realised that he was back in Skull City, in the midst of a battle. He recognised some of his allies. And then, despite all of his magics, Helka’s mighty axe felled him. (What nobody knew at this point was that Helka’s magic circle against evil, from a potion she had consumed, temporarily suppressed Ferranifer’s possession).

Academician Drake realised that he stood alone against three powerful warriors. Although the Academy held other students he could call on, some of them quite skilled, these foes had beaten Ferranifer, Ngise and Leon as well as the bone nagas. They were also responsible for the destruction of the golem that guarded the city, and Morrow’s Children, the dark nagas who patrolled the walls. Drake teleported away.

Bearcloak was dying. Ferranifer’s evil spirit still possessed him. Shortly stopped the bleeding, and the group placed Bearcloak in manacles whilst stripping him of all equipment. Bound, gagged and unconscious, Bearcloak/Ferranifer was removed from Skull City as the party teleported out.

Shortly carried out an exorcism under the light of the sun. The Amulet of the Void, that had served as receptacle for Ferranifer’s soul, was stored in the bag of holding. When her spirit was driven out of Bearcloak it was left with nowhere to go, and was permanently destroyed by the pure light of the sun.

With the threat of the Black Academy ended, the Sidmouth Slayers might now be able to make use of the message on the Amulet of the Void: “The Face of the Fiend Does More than Devour; With the Least of My Form, ’Tis the Portal to Power.”

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Facing Acererak

The Sidmouth Slayers waited for their comatose members to stir. After an hour of supine slumber, all were recovered, and the party pressed on. They followed a secret stair down into a narrow crawlspace and emerged into a corridor that ended with a metal wall that featured three small slots arranged one above the other.

Some experimentation led to three blades being inserted into the slots, and the metal screen slid aside revealing a great pillared hall.

The party entered. Bacon was first. He felt a southerly breeze. He investigated one of the stone pillars, and immediately drifted up into the air, to be carried by the breeze towards a great green face high on the wall to the north (like unto the face of the fiend near the dungeon entrance). Kito activated his flying boots and intercepted the halfling, then attached himself with a rope.

The hall featured three doorways to the north, a raised dias with an ebony throne to the south, and in the far southeast corner a glowing gem in the midst of charred ruination.

The northern doors each glowed with a coloured light. The first one that the party opened revealed a small room with a mummy lying on a bench. Various divinations revealed nothing, so the party entered in order to search the materials and perhaps recover the very large amethyst from the mummy wrappings. This, however, caused the spell that held the mummy in stasis to end, and the undead creature attacked. It could only injure Kito before it was destroyed, and Kito’s divine protection preventing him succumbing to the feared curse of the mummy.

The second door opened revealed another small room, empty save for dust. The third led to a chamber full of swords and shields mounted on the wall, with another door opposite. These armaments animated to prevent further passage. Whenever an adventurer crossed the threshold, another set of weapons joined the fray. It was a frustrating battle, but eventually every sword and shield lay broken on the floor. Beyond, a miserable chamber held dust, bones, and a magic flail left by some long-ago victim of the tomb who had become trapped here.

No further exits being apparent to the north, the party turned to investigate the throne and the glowing gem. Bacon’s conjured unseen servant could safely manipulate the gem, but when Kito sensed for evil he was almost overwhelmed. This was the strongest evil aura he had ever encountered! The party resolved to leave the gemstone alone.

Upon the throne there was a crown of gold, and a sceptre of electrum. The throne featured a silver inlay in the shape of a crown. Bacon put the crown on his head, and sat upon the throne. Apart from feeling very regal, Bacon also immediately knew that he could not be levitated by the columns whilst he wore the crown (although that magic had now expired and he was released from Kito’s rope); and that the crown could not be removed save by the use of the sceptre. Bacon also saw the throne room as if by the light of the bright summer sun. The throne could be moved, but nobody could learn how. Bacon touched the sceptre’s end to the golden crown – but chose the wrong end of the sceptre to use . The potent cursed items utterly destroyed him. Nothing remained but ash. The crown and sceptre lay once more upon the throne.

Bacon’s shocked companions gathered his things and the ash that constituted his mortal remains. The “door” into the throne room was gone, only a featureless wall in its place. To proceed, the party must either teleport out, risking demonic attack again, or work out how to get the throne to move.

Michonne put on the crown, sat upon the throne, and touched the sceptre to the silver crown upon the throne. She chose the right end of the sceptre, and the throne sank into the ground, opening up another passageway. Michonne also correctly used the sceptre to remove the golden crown from her head.

The room that the Sidmouth Slayers now entered was built of many precious and rare materials. A stairway led up to a pair of mithril portals. Upon the stair was a large brass key. The portals were featureless save for a hemispherical indentation, and a small hole in the centre of the indentation. Kito led the way. He tried to pick up the brass key, but could not. He became convinced that doing so would cause a great calamity. Shortly however, simply took the item from the floor. Now, try a key or use the sceptre upon the mithril doors?

The party made the right choice, and the doors swung silently open. Beyond them lay a crypt, and in the crypt a granite sarcophagus that bore the name “ACERERAK.”

A thorough search of the crypt found a hidden button on one of four demonic iron sculptures. Pushing the button with a long wooden pole caused the sculpture to glide to one side, revealing another passageway beneath. Kito opened the sarcophagus to be certain that it did not conceal an evil undead. It held only dust, bones, and a broken staff. He sealed it up again.

The party did not wish to proceed any further without a trapfinder. They elected to teleport out, choosing for their destination the ground outside the city of Kalstrand. As before, a demon came with them. This one was much stronger than the one that followed them to Skull City. A long battle ensued. Both Kito and Michonne came close to death at the demon’s hands as it grappled them in mighty pincers. Only dimension door spells from Shortly and Bearcloak rescued them. The party regrouped, and rushed the demon, finally destroying it.

Without the means to resurrect Bacon, the group recruited a replacement trap specialist- a third member of the Barrowburrower halfling family. And they returned to the tomb, via the means used previously.

Once back in the crypt, Barak Barrowburrower opened up two iron chests. One was filled to the brim with semi-precious stones, the other with platinum coins! Vast treasure! The merchant-priest Shortly was suspicious, and used the Gem of Seeing he had obtained from the Gargoyles. It showed him that the platinum was really copper, the gemstones only cheap quartz. A trick! Now, following the guidance in Desatysso’s Journal, the party descended into the hidden passage. As per the Journal, another secret door was found closeby. It opened only to the Gold Key.

Beyond, a small chamber empty save for a metal plate in the floor, and a keyhole in the plate. The Bronze Key opened this lock, and the whole floor rose upwards. Barak quickly jumped off before he could be crushed against the ceiling. Now, another mithril door barred the way. But this one had no keyhole, no indentations. It opened easily to a simple push.

This was the true tomb of Acererak the Eternal.

In a small chamber filled with dust, as well as gemstones and other treasures, a bejewelled skull sat atop a stone bier. Unwilling to await a fate similar to that of the band of adventurers that had come before them, the Sidmouth Slayers rushed in to attack. And the skull arose from its resting place and howled!

Acererak the demilich proved resistant to most attacks. It withstood blows from Michonne and Shortly with only minor damage. Barak could not harm it with weapons, but employed holy water to some effect. Only Kito, armed with the holy scimitar Marag and using the full power of his god Anubis, the Guardian of the Dead, could cause great harm to the demilich. Acererak defended himself with terrible force. Only Bearcloak’s magic saved Michonne from utter destruction. And Kito, after smiting Acererak with all his power, was consumed: his body mouldered to dust in an instant, his soul sucked into one of the gems in the unholy skull. Desperately, the remaining adventurers pressed their attack. When the demilich sank to the bier, quiescent, to fully devour Kito’s soul, it was momentarily vulnerable and that moment was all that was needed. Shortly’s magic hammer smashed the skull to pieces….

The survivors gathered Acererak’s treasures and their comrade’s remains. They found the second half of the Amulet of the Void, that Desatysso’s Journal spoke of. They left the Tomb via a series of phase doors, and rather than face the necromancers of the black academy they teleported back to Bearcloak’s barge, and sailed back to Kalstrand.

PC deaths: two.

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Into the Tomb

The would-be lich slayers rested in the room where they destroyed the monstrous gargoyle. Nothing disturbed them as they rested, so the following morning they pressed onwards. The first set of doors led round in a circle, going nowhere. The next set of doors led into a featureless 10’ square room. But surely there must be a way on? As with much of Acererak’s tomb, there were secrets to be uncovered….

Bacon went to work, but was subjected to repeated arrow attacks from within the very walls. Shortly and Kito came to his aid, thinking to literally shield him from attack. After a fashion, this tactic worked. Whilst they could not block up the walls, they took a share of the attacks. In this way Bacon was given time to work, and uncovered one secret door after another. He led the party into another great hallway, and once free of the network of trapped chambers Shortly healed their wounds.

The new hallway featured walls painted with the images of varied monsters, each holding or standing atop a coloured disk. Three of the disks were found to be illusory, covering narrow crawl-ways. The party first tried the northenmost crawl-way. It led to a chamber with another gargoyle-creature. But this one remained inanimate, and in fact was missing one of its four arms which lay on the floor in front of it. The three intact arms each had an indentation in their open hands. The indentations fit the shape of the opal gems found with the animate gargoyle. Shortly decided to try placing those opals in the indentations. He put three of them into the gargoyle statue’s hands and immediately they were crushed into powder! The hands opened again. The party were aghast! What was Shortly thinking? He was supposed to be a greedy dwarf merchant-priest, why was he destroying treasure? But Shortly was convinced that there was some purpose to this, and placed three more opals. These were likewise destroyed, much to everyone else’s chagrin. Shortly was determined. He stubbornly continued with his plan and placed three more stones, which were also destroyed. At this, the rest of the party left. Shortly had clearly gone mad. With some reluctance, and still certain that there was some reason behind this room, Shortly followed them out.

The next crawlspace to be explored was a much longer tunnel. Both Kito and Shortly struggled through it on account of their bulky plate armour. The tunnel brought the party, via a hidden door, to a strange chapel. The walls of the place were decorated, not unlike the hallways. They featured pastoral scenes and a range of holy symbols. The symbols belonged to many gods of Good, yet all of the people in the paintings were clearly rotting, dead or undead. An altar glowed with a cool blue light. And a single skeleton lay on the floor, its outstretched arm pointing towards an archway filled with orange mist. A path of red mosaic tiles led from the secret entrance to the altar. Bacon tried the altar, to see what secrets it might hold. It blasted a wide bolt of lightning down the aisle. Fortunately the only adventurers in line of the bolt were Bacon and Michonne, both very quick on their feet, and they avoided harm. The altar now turned a fiery red. Rather than probe further, Michonne took the skeleton’s advice and passed through the misty archway. For a moment, she questioned her life’s path: all those years of training and sacrifice, were they really worth it? Both her mind and her body felt twisted and contorted. But she remembered her training well, the point of conditioning body, mind and spirit to achieve perfection! Beyond the archway was a small empty chamber. Her fellows called after her, was she alright? “Yes, I am fine.” She replied. Bacon followed her through the mist. He too questioned his life’s path, as both body and mind felt distorted. His brother had taken a quicker, easier route through life whilst Bacon dedicated himself to gaining admittance to the Fohlucan College. But Borus was dead now: his path might have been quicker, but it turned out to be much shorter also. Bacon knew that he had taken the right path. On other side Bacon and Michonne searched for hidden exits, but finding none they returned to the chapel. Bacon probed the altar again (with everyone else giving him a wide berth, and Shortly bestowing a fire resistance spell upon him). Sure enough, the altar exploded with fire, and then glowed blue as it had before. A little more experimentation showed that it went through a cycle of fire and lightning. Nothing was to be gained. Where next?

Bearcloak’s keen elven eyes saw something the others had missed. Upon a section of wall there was a small hole – a slot – and just above the slot was an inscribed ‘O’. Kito tried depositing a coin in the slot. He heard it fall, but nothing happened. Then the party remembered the rhyme they had found in the entrance hall. “If shades of red stand for blood the wise will not need sacrifice aught but a loop of magical metal—you’re well along your march.” Very reluctantly, and only after tying a thread around it, Shortly dropped a magic ring of swimming into the slot. Shortly tried immediately to pull the ring back out using the thread of fabric, but it came back without the ring: as stone ground against stone, and a section of wall lowered into the ground revealing a passageway beyond!

The passage led down a corridor that featured three doors. Behind each door was a pit trap. With clever use of an unseen servant spell, Bacon opened the doors whilst avoiding the pits. Beyond these traps, at the end of the long corridor, was a door with three locks. Bacon and Bearcloak between them determined that the door was covered by an invisible wall of force. Rather than use Bearcloak’s disintegrate spell to blast the wall of force, the party retraced their steps. In making his way back over the first pit, Kito saw a crudely hidden door in the bottom of the pit. Again the party recalled Acererak’s rhyme: “Two pits along the way will be found to lead to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall.” They opened the door. And found a stairway leading down.

Always careful to check the way ahead (after falling down a pit trap in the entrance to the tomb), Bacon found a secret door off the stair. The group decided to take this new hidden route. It led to a long-abandoned laboratory where everything necessary for mummification of the dead could be found, albeit in a state of decay. Three large vats held murky liquids, two of which smelled vinegary. A detect magic spell showed a magic aura within the second vat. A test with a wooden pole verified the acidic nature of the vat’s contents, so a protective spell was employed upon Bearcloak who fished around inside the vat and retrieved a golden device that appeared to be one half of a key! Where might the other half be? Fishing in the first vat found nothing. The third vat held not acid, but an enormous ooze! It grabbed Kito and crushed him. Meanwhile the rest of the group tried to give aid. Michonne sprang in to attack, but misjudged her swing. Others employed magic, and Bearcloak’s staff of fire proved its value again. Kito was badly injured, but was saved. Inside the third vat was the other half of the golden key!

The exit from the mummification lab led down stairs, over a long pit, to another chamber. This one held rotting furniture, funerary offerings and numerous coffers and trunks. Two drab, green-brown tapestries hung down from the ceiling. Stepping on the floor, Bacon found that it was suspended and unstable. But his balance was good and he kept his footing. Examining one of the hanging tapestries, Bacon discovered it was not what it seemed! The tapestry collapsed into a vast mass of green slime, completely covering Bacon! It was fortunate indeed that Bearcloak recognised the threat. “Get it off him! Burn it!” screamed the wizard. Bearcloak used his staff again to burn the slime away before it could dissolve the halfling. The second tapestry was similarly treated, being pulled down by an unseen servant and burned with flaming oil. The first tapestry had concealed an exit, and now the party ventured on.

A crossroads presented three choices (once the hidden pit was crossed). South led to a false door with a spear trap. East led to another pit, with a door beyond. The party passed the pit and the door and came to a chamber filled with gold-and-silver mist. Warily, some of the entered the mist. It affected Bearcloak badly. The wizard’s mind became that of an infant child. He was helpless. Shortly, who had not entered the mist, stayed outside and guarded the feebleminded elf. The rest pressed on through the mist and came to a small grotto, occupied by a fey sirine. Elspeth, the sirine, was quite taken with Bacon’s music and asked him to stay with her. He declined, but played some more for her upon his lute. Elspeth allowed Bacon to look inside one of her two sacks. When he did so, both Elspeth and the second bag disappeared. The sack that remained contained a pair of magic bracers. All left the grotto and rejoined Shortly and Bearcloak. What to do with the idiot wizard? Shortly’s spells did not help, but he thought that a heal spell might do the trick. That would have to wait till the next day though, so the group made camp as best they could in the cold stone corridor.

Their rest was soon interrupted. Two undead shadows came straight through the door. Only Kito at this point was asleep. Bacon began a load and raucous song so as to wake him! Mere shadows did not present a threat to such experienced adventurers and Shortly easily destroyed them with the power of his god, but the shadows were only scouts. They served a necromancer from the Academy, who flung open the door with his magic! He stood on the other side of the pit, ready to attack. Shortly gathered Kito and crossed to the necromancer using magic (both Kito and Shortly saw things during the instant that they dimension doored to the wizard). Kito struck out with Marag, his intelligent holy scimitar. “SMITE HIM!”

Marag grievously wounded the enemy wizard. Michonne leapt the pit easily and struck the wizard, but the wizard did not fall. He conjured a thick, acidic fog about himself, and vanished. The fog injured the adventurers and hampered their movement. They looked for the necromancer. Michonne saw something moving out of the pit and through the mist. Bacon summoned three dire wolves, and using more magic to speak with the animals he commanded them to seek out the enemy with their keen scent. They tracked the necromancer into the sirine’s grotto. Desperate, the enemy blasted the wolves and several of the party with a cone of cold spell, killing two wolves. He then sealed himself inside the grotto. Bacon thought to root him out and used a stone shape spell to open the grotto wall. But the necromancer was really gone this time. Rather than rest in the tomb again, the party decided to teleport to the surface. Now they realised the danger of such a plan: something followed them out the other side!

A battle ensued in the Skull City hovel where the party had teleported to, with a demonic toad-like creature. Marag again proved very effective: “SMITE IT!” Now the party could properly rest.

In the morning, Shortly again tried many spells in an effort to cure Bearcloak. None prevailed. Shortly tried a divination spell, to seek advice from his god. “The remedy lies but beyond the threshold.” was the cryptic response. What was the threshold? Kito decided to carry Bearcloak outside, and ask the market traders for remedies. But it turned out that the threshold was merely the doorway to the hovel. When Bearcloak breathed the air in the sunlight, his mind was restored. He was rather shocked to learn what had happened to him, and how much effort it had taken to try to restore him. The group decided to stay in their hovel another day so that they would return to the tomb at maximum strength.

Rather than risk pulling in another demon, Shortly teleported the group to the catacomb of the Academy, a short walk outside the tomb entrance. They retraced their steps. They had to go through the gauntlet of arrows again. Shortly decided to try the gargoyle statue again (everyone else rolled their eyes at him). The last opal gem was also crushed – and now the statue spoke! “Your sacrifice was not in vain. Look to the fourth to find your gain.” The fourth arm now held something, but it fell to the floor when Shortly moved the arm and he could not see it. He felt around on the floor, and located a small, invisible disk. He took his prize. A bit of experimentation suggested that this was a Gem of Seeing.

Before they went back to the strange chapel, the party tried the one hidden crawl-way they had not been down yet. It led to a room with three chests. Bacon set to business. Each chest held a sort of trap. The first summoned a bone golem. It caused a few wounds on the party before they destroyed it. The second contained a swarm of vipers. These bit several party members, and caused Bacon some harm with their venom, before being burned away with magical fire. The last chest contained a crystal box with a magic ring. Bacon discovered a trap that would go off if he moved this box, and avoided the trap with the old switcheroo trick. The box and the ring were added to the party’s treasures.

The party returned to the crossroads. This time they went north. A secret door hid a secret trapdoor, with a spiral stair leading down. The Sidmouth Slayers pressed on down the corridor first. They came to an airtight double door. Opening it released a gas, that knocked out both Kito and Michonne. Then, a stone juggernaut rolled down the passageway towards them! The rest of the party dragged Kito and Michonne out of the path of the juggernaut, but could not wake them up. Bacon summoned an elemental creature to try to burn the stone juggernaut, but instead the elemental Thoqqua got crushed.

The party retreated away from the juggernaut’s lair, and waited, hoping that their sleeping companions would soon awaken…….

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The Tomb of Horrors

The party attempted to return to the catacombs via a teleportation spell, but Bearcloak’s chaos magic went awry! The Sidmouth Slayers found themselves in a different tomb, immediately set upon by undead wraiths. Rather than fight the wraiths, they escaped to their intended destination with a second teleport spell from Shortly. For his error perhaps, Bearcloak suffered a deathly touch from a wraith.

In the Academy catacomb, the party again faced the guardian Iron Golem. But this time they were well prepared, and the golem fell to a combination of Bacon’s druid magic and Michonne’s mighty blows. Now the party could find out what exactly the golem guarded.

A secret door! Which led to a long passageway, with another door at the end. Bacon was able to discover that the door held a spell that would trigger upon opening, but he could not dispel the magic. He elected to use an unseen servant to open the door whilst his fellows cowered in the catacombs! The magic trap altered gravity in the corridor, and Bacon fell. Injured, but relatively intact, Bacon waited out the magic. He found that the door at the end of the corridor was false: it was just a trap. But where was the way onwards?

Shortly’s dwarven stonecunning prevailed. Another secret door lay in the corridor. Opening this led to a chamber filled with lit black candles. And off from this chamber lay three tunnels going deeper into the hillside…

The first tunnel led to a double door. Bacon bravely investigated, but set off a trap that caused a section of wall to move – he had to act fast to avoid being sealed in. Bacon returned to the chamber where his fellows waited, his unseen servant trapped behind the new wall. Bearcloak briefly considered employing a mighty magic to create an ethereal tunnel through the new wall, but the party decided to look into the next tunnel first.

And discovered the true entrance to the Tomb of Horrors!

A 20 foot wide tunnel featured plastered walls covered in artwork depicting human and animal-headed slaves toiling in fields. Other pictures included a wizardly workroom, a prison cell, and two figures resembling Kito’s god Anubis (Guardian of Tombs) holding a chest between them. The floor was covered in mosaic tiles and featured a red pathway leading onwards down the tunnel.

Some experimentation with the chest, that actually protruded into the tunnel, yielded nothing. Bacon fell into a pit trap – whilst shallow, the many spikes in the bottom of the pit wounded him severely and were coated in deadly poison. Bacon narrowly survived, and Shortly neutralised the poison. Bacon carefully examined the rest of the tunnel floor and found several more pit traps, as well as a verse hidden in the red mosaic tiles. [I will add the verse as a separate document later].

At the end of the tunnel was a great green fiendish face – it’s gaping mouth was perfect blackness. To one side of the fiendish face was an archway filled with thick mist that could not be seen through. The party decided to search the corridor again.

Kito’s probing uncovered an iron door behind the painted depiction of the prison cell door. Beyond was a short corridor, ending at another door. After carefully checking for more traps, the party opened this door.

A demonic four armed gargoyle-like creature occupied the next chamber, and it launched a ferocious assault upon the group. Kito fell unconscious as the party (literally) chipped away at the monster’s stony hide. Shortly employed a powerful healing spell on Kito, whilst Bacon strengthened him further. When the monster turned its full attention on the cleric, and almost felled him too, Kito launched a series of devastating smites with her holy blade and the horror was reduced to rubble.

The party recoved the gem-studded collar that their foe had worn, with another short verse hidden within it.

They decided to rest…

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The Catacombs

The Sidmouth Slayers returned to the Black Academy. They disguised themselves as best they could, hoping to look like necromancers and that their fake skull tattoos would be good enough to pass casual scrutiny. Baldur Barrowburrower (henceforth known by the nickname “Bacon”) used his wildshape ability to assume the form of a pig in order to maintain the charade that Bearcloak used to get them out of the lecture theatre on the last visit.

The party decided to go straight back to the hall of sarcophagi that they had found hidden behind the Hall of Petition. They first checked that the entrance could be used from both sides so as not to trap themselves in.

This Catacomb contained nearly a dozen different sarcophagi, mounted vertically in alcoves. It was difficult to decide which one to examine first. They settled on the stone sarcophagus styled as an axe-wieleding dwarf. It had two emerald eyes that radiated magic. Bacon examined the sarcophagus for traps and triggered one – a thick green mist issued from the sarcophagus and filled the hallway. Standing right in front of the sarcophagus, Bacon and Kito (the paladin) got a full blast of the gas and were instantly petrified. Their first real exploration of the Catacomb and two of the party were turned to stone!

Fortunately Shortly, a cleric of Vergadain, had a spell that might work to undo petrification. A quick prayer, and his comrades were restored.

Several more sarcophagi were trapped. Bacon avoided some of them, and suffered wounds from others.

A sarcophagus that featured three laughing children hid a secret door that led to a room containing three coffins – and two vampires! The third vampire had previously been defeated when he attacked the party on their barge in the swamp, and could not return home before dawn. These two did not prove a significant threat to the experienced vampire slayers, although they caused some wounds.

The vampires’ crypt held another secret door, this one leading to a prison. A score of pathetic humans were chained up, dangling from the ceiling and walls by wrists, ankles, or hair. The party freed the terrified prisoners, but then could not decide how to get them out of their cell. Surely more vampires or necromancers would come for them? And it would not be possible to just march the prisoners out of the Academy, past the foyer where the vigilant Leon kept watch. The party left the prisoners with food and blankets, and Kito summoned his celestial mount and left a light to guard them. The party promised to return.

The next secret found was a room containing a single prisoner. This prisoner was chained to a bed. It was a hideous vivisect, with limbs from several different creatures. It moaned and wailed. When the party removed its cloth hood they saw that it was part human. Unable to restore the creature, Shortly put it out of its misery and crushed its skull with his hammer.

Then, the party found a secret door inside an iron sarcophagus. Bacon got poisoned by a trap on the trigger but he resisted. Beyond the door lay a sumptuous salon. A magic tea service contained warm blood. Surely more vampires? There were two doors leading away, one at either end of the salon.

Bacon examined and then opened one of the doors. He found a curious library, only 10 feet square but 30 feet high. Levitating 20 feet in the air was a beautiful ghostly-pale woman. She beckoned to Bacon, but he resisted her will and shouted a warning. Bearcloak put a spell of flying on Michonne, who raced to do battle. She struck the levitating undead. The Mistress of the Academy tried to strike back with a spell, but could not touch the agile monk. Michonne was joined by Kito, flying using magic boots. The vampire successfully hit Kito with her spell, draining health from the paladin to bolster herself. Then, Shortly advanced and used an attack spell that blasted the vampire mistress with divine light. Bearcloak followed, and boosted by his chaos magic he hit the vampire with a disintegrate spell of such power that she was reduced to mist. Strangely, the mist seemed to enter a jewel on a talisman that the Mistress wore, which fell to the ground with her other possessions.

Bearcloak immediately set to investigating the library. He was sure that this place contained the Mistress’s own research into Acererak and the Tomb, but it would take many hours to glean her secrets. This was time the party did not feel they had.

The second door off the salon led to a bedchamber, just as well appointed as the salon. Bacon searched it, and found that a dresser held a magic al trap that he could not disarm. He conjured an invisible magical servant, and left the chamber, then commanded the servant to open the dresser and trigger the trap. The door of the bedchamber slammed shut and a fiery explosion destroyed everything in the chamber. When the fires died down and the door was opened again, all that was left was ash. A thorough search turned up no items, but yet another secret door.

Beyond this secret door lay the vampire mistress’s crypt. It was guarded by a flaming skull, which flew into the air exclaiming “I am Death, and you have found me!” A short melee was painful for the party because the skull blasted powerful flames at everyone who struck it, but the party nevertheless destroyed the skull. The crypt contained the mistress’s coffin, which was destroyed by the party, as well as three magical tomes.

The first tome explained how to make a bone golem, similar to the one that guarded the entrance to skull city.

The second tome was called “The Blood Codex”. It explained how an arcane caster could transform herself into a free-willed vampire.

The third tome was Mistress Ferranifer’s spellbook.

All of these tomes were very interesting to Bearcloak, although Kito sensed strong evil from the Golem Manual and the Codex. All three books were placed in the party’s bag of holding.

The Sidmouth Slayers considered resting in the Mistress’s rooms or even in the prison. But they decided to finish their exploration of the Catacombs.

The last of the sarcophagi to be examined turned out to be an iron golem, armed with a magical scythe. It attacked, and breathed poisonous mist in front of it. The party had a golembane scarab that had proved useful in defeating the Bone Portal earlier. Shortly put it on. But even when Bearcloak managed to slow the golem with a powerful lightning spell, Shortly came of worse in an exchange of blows. The party decided to retreat. Bearcloak covered them by placing a wall of force across the corridor, and the adventurers returned to the prison. They then teleported back to their barge, managing to take 5 prisoners with them, and began to make a plan to defeat the iron golem on their return.

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Skull City and the Black Academy

The Sidmouth Slayers stood at the entrance to Skull City. Their fallen comrade Borus was unceremoniously stowed in a Bag of Holding (albeit out of a genuine concern that his remains would be interfered with if left behind, and nobody wanted to have to face zombie Borus).

Suddenly a rat the size of a dog approached the group. How curious that a single dire rat would attack a group of armed humanoids. Yet the rat did not attack: instead it transformed into a halfling that bore some resemblance to the fallen Borus. He introduced himself as Bolder Barrowburrower, and called the party to follow him quickly before the City sent more defenders.

Bolder had been in the City for two days. A member of the Fohlucan bardic college, he too was investigating the Tomb of Acererak as the potential source of a continent-wide increase in undead incursions. Bolder allowed himself to be “captured” by Skull City slavers in order to be brought in to the City, then used his druidic powers of Wild Shape to escape easily. Unfortunately his gear had already been sold off by the slavers in Skull City’s market.

Grieving for his dead brother would have to wait. Bolder asked that his brother’s body be kept safe in the extra-dimensional Bag of Holding and took what gear he could make use of. Bolder and the rest of the party shared their knowledge and made plans to infiltrate the City.

The first thing they needed was dark, heavy cloaks to conceal themselves, particularly the paladin Kito and the dwarf Shortly (whose mithril plate armour would draw a lot of attention). A visit to the market was required, whilst Kito stayed in an abandoned hovel at the fringe of the City. His companions returned with cloaks, and Bolder traded some of Borus’s gear for a more suitable weapon for himself at a peculiar trader in magical items.

Before approaching the focus of the Black Academy, the party scouted the rest of the City. It featured stone single-storey hovels at the outside, with more imposing two and three storey buildings closer to the plaza and the Academy. The whole was surrounded by an extensive graveyard. Dozens of market tents clustered close to the plaza, dominated by one larger black tent. At the outskirts the party met a crazed, blind necromancer and his animated cat companion. The blind man raved and babbled, occasionally lucid when questioned about the mural he was scratching at. Shortly took some notes from the mural, and the party moved on to the Academy.

The whole City was quiet during the day, coming “alive” at night. The occupants seemed to be a combination of ruffians, vagabonds and necromancers. Approaching the Academy during the day, the party found a handful of cloaked figures and a single warrior clad in a suit of bone armour and bearing a black greatsword. The warrior informed them that they could petition for admission as students of the Black Academy, but none could enter before nightfall.

At night, the Sidmouth Slayers returned and claimed that they were the servants of the great elf wizard “Darkcloak” (their companion Bearcloak). Leon, the bone-clad warrior, directed them to the Hall of Petition within. Entry to the other halls and classrooms was forbidden. The party passed within.

The Hall of Petition featured a great granite statue of a skeleton, with glowing red eyes, in an otherwise empty black chamber. It challenged the “petitioners” to place their hands in its and be judged. After some prevarication, Bearcloak decided to submit to judgement [as an NPC the actual decision was left to the players to make].

The statue scanned Bearcloak and judged him worthy. The gaze of the statue burned a tiny black skull symbol onto his forehead. Bolder found a secret switch behind the statue, that when used swung the statue aside and revealed a passage beyond, into another hall that was filled with sarcophagi. The party entered the secret hall. A dozen or more sarcophagi, of varied stone and iron designs, filled alcoves along the hall. There were no other apparent exits. Magical auras were seen on two of the sarcophagi. Rather than explore the hall of sarcophagi further the party decided to venture into the rest of the Academy.

They entered a door that they heard voices behind, and found themselves in a large lecture hall with a class underway! A score or so of students listened to a wizard demonstrating the finer points of zombie locomotion and functioning. The lecturer brusquely admonished the party for being late and bid them take their seats. The party complied and listened to a two hour lecture, very disquieting (and yet informative!). They whispered small talk with some of their fellow students.

At the end of the lecture the students began to file out. But the lecturer noticed that Bolder did not have the skull tattoo showing the status of a bona fide student of the Academy. At his challenge, Bolder activated a ring of invisibility. This was perhaps unwise. Numerous wizards began spellcasting. Concerned at a potential escalation and being uncovered, party members offered excuses about being servants of the great Darkcloak. The lecturer, one Spence, called on Darkcloak to discipline his servant – kill him and reanimate him as a zombie, it would make a fine practical demonstration from a competent mage. This met with great approval from the class. Darkcloak had to think fast. Could he come up with a ruse to save his new ally? He began a spell and hoped that Bolder would realise that it was not a lethal attack. Bolder trusted the elf and did not resist the spell. And then Bolder became a pig! “A couple of weeks as a muck-dwelling pig will teach him a lesson, and then I shall torture him for good measure!” The class was in uproarious laughter at the punishment! Although one or two of the students wanted bacon (a rarity in a city with no apparent animal life and certainly no farms). Indeed, Bacon was to become Bolder’s new nickname.

The party retreated to their hovel at the edge of town, leaving the Academy amongst much cruel laughter, calls of “Bacon!” and “Scratchings!” following them. They needed to find a way to mimic the skull tattoos. Another trip to the market acquired inks, and they made the best job they could.

Next time, Darkcloak and his fearsome servant Bacon will return to the Black Academy…

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Arrival at Skull City

There have been two sessions since the log was last updated.

The Sidmouth Slayers, having purged the vampire plague of Pitchfield, resumed their quest for the Amulet of the Void and dread Acererak’s Tomb.

The party took Bearcloak’s Barge (formerly known as Payvin’s Pearl) downriver into the Vast Swamp. Bearcloak had to pay the barge sailors a premium to convince them to take the journey. Once into the swamp proper, it was a cold and unpleasant job. Shortly, cleric of Vergadain, employed a powerful divination to help guide the boat to its destination.

En route, a huge frost-breathing hydra attacked the barge. Between savage bites and blasts of cold it almost finished off several party members. The beast fought a running battle, disappearing back into the swamp to heal its wounds, but was eventually overwhelmed.

In the night, a vampire attempted to steal aboard.

Bearcloak had protected the barge with several spells, one of which triggered an alarm when the vampire, in gaseous form, came on board. Having lost any chance of surprise, the lone undead was swiftly dispatched. At last, after nearly a week in the swamp, the boat came within sight of a walled settlement surrounding a low hill. Shortly’s divination said that their objective lay within. The group anchored the barge and considered their options.

Michonne, a monk with a preference for direct action, tired of planning and marched off towards the city. That made the party’s decision for them. The rest followed, but Michonne was fast on her feet and was leaving them behind. When the rest caught up, Michonne had been ambushed by a pack of ghasts lurking beneath the surface of the bog. With her allies Michonne sent the ghasts to their final rest.

The heroes now faced the Bone Portal of Skull City: a great grinning face of bone was the only notable feature in the black stone wall that surrounded the city. The party approached, and the bone face spoke a challenge: “What is the Sign?”

Nobody was sure what this meant (although, with hindsight, the party now have a good idea). Somebody gave an answer, but it was not correct. The bone face grew, unfolded, transformed, and in its place stood a colossus barring the way into the city. It laughed an insane howling laugh and smashed its huge bony fists into the nearest foes, causing terrible wounds. The party gave battle.

Bearcloak reasoned that the Bone Portal was a golem of some sort, and Shortly remembered that he carried a magical scarab that could help to fight golems. He healed his wounds, and passed the scarab to Michonne. Michonne attacked the golem and found that her fists could now hurt the thing, although it was still difficult to land a telling blow. The golem laughed again and Borus Barrowburrower was paralysed with fear (it could have been worse, if he were not a bold halfling).

Whilst the party engaged the Bone Portal, other defenders of Skull City came to join the battle. Three Dark Naga came out of the walls (which had tunnels bored throughout); these Naga cast offensive spells at the intruders. Bearcloak successfully disintegrated one of the evil serpents, and Shortly halted the other two with a spell of his own.

Next, two vampires came out of the darkness, one of them in the form of a dire wolf. The vampire wolf bit Shortly. Things started to look bad.

Kito, paladin of Anubis, had little hope of harming the golem but was particularly well suited for fighting undead. He left off the Naga and joined battle with the vampire wolf. The wolf bit him, but a righteous paladin with a holy sword was too much: the vampire was forced into mist form. Meanwhile, the second vampire found that Michonne was too slippery a target, and she crushed her undead attacker with some help from Borus, who recovered his senses long enough to loose off a volley of arrows. Shortly was badly wounded and suffering from energy drain. He escaped from probably destruction at the golem’s bony hands by Dimension Door-ing into the air! This cunning plan gave him several combat rounds outside the reach of the remaining enemies, as he safely floated to the ground courtesy of a magic ring he wore. He used this time to heal himself, and to blast the Naga to destruction with divine fire.

Only the mighty bone golem remained to obstruct the party’s progress. But Borus was paralysed, Shortly, Michonne and Kito were all sorely wounded. Only Bearcloak was unharmed, hidden by his magic. Michonne was harming the golem, but she couldn’t go on trading blows and come out on top. Shortly and Kito bravely came to her aid. The mindless golem struck out indiscriminately, and then Michonne landed the final blow. The golem collapsed into a heap of bones. Rather than enter the city, the party retreated to their boat to nurse their wounds.

Although, unbeknownst to the Sidmouth Slayers, Skull City sent out parties of rogues to look for the attackers who destroyed their golem, those rogues did not find the boat moored an hour’s journey from their walls.

And so, the next morning, the heroes returned to Skull City. The portal was replaced by a pack of zombies, that Bearcloak removed with a fireball from his staff. But they were not the only defenders. The mother of the Naga, Morrow, was present with the rest of her children. They lurked in the walls, and sensed the party’s approach. Whilst one Naga drew the party’s attention, Morrow and her other daughter lurked invisibly and buffed themselves. The decoy strategy worked, and whilst the lure was blinded and almost killed, she bought time for her dark family to employ more magic: a fog cloud obscured and separated the heroes, whilst magic missiles targeted Borus (whose mind had been sensed by the telepathic Naga). Then, Morrow threw her deadliest magic at Borus, a Phantasmal Killer spell. Whilst this was not sufficient to kill the brave halfling, it did cause him injury. Morrow’s last daughter blasted Borus with fire, and the halfling fell dead.

If grief and vengeance, the Sidmouth Slayers engaged the two remaining Naga. Morrow’s last daughter was killed, and the mother sorely wounded before she retreated with magic.

We leave the Sidmouth Slayers once more standing at the entrance to Skull City.

PC deaths: 1

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Vampire hunting

The Sidmouth Slayers decided to return to the basement of Count Hazendel’s manor. Bearcloak, their elf wizard, attempted to teleport the party directly there. But Bearcloak’s chaos magic wasn’t strong enough to transport the whole party, so Borus Barrowburrower, halfling rogue, was to make his own way in by stealth.

However, the guard on the manor house had been more than doubled since the party’s last visit. Borus was invisible, and an experienced rogue, so he thought he could sneak past the elf guards in the grounds. Elf ears and elf magic thwarted him, and the guards let fly a volley of arrows. Borus was sorely wounded and thought discretion the better part of valour. He fled using a potion of fly, and retreated to the inn to lick his wounds.

The rest of the party waited a while for Borus to rejoin them, but when he didn’t show they started investigating the cellar. Shortly (the Dwarf merchant priest) had learned from a Commune spell that there was still a secret to be found.

Kito, the paladin, tinkered with the strange pipe-organ in the main room of the cellar. He wasn’t much good at playing it, but both Kito and Shortly thought that some of the notes sounded wrong, like the air travelled too far. Some experimentation, aided by Bearcloak assuming gaseous form and going inside the pipe-organ itself, and a combination of “wrong” chords caused the weird instrument to reconfigure itself and reveal a passageway and a stair leading down. The party had found a secret way into the city sewers.

Pitchfield’s sewers were clearly old, but in good order (apart from the slime). The party used a sewer exit to return to the surface and look for Borus. They found him at the Inn (Thomas’s Tackle) and patched up his wounds, then returned to see if the master vampires were lurking somewhere in the sewers.

A rambling journey through the sewers turned up a small gang of ruffians. They were no match for experienced adventurers. Their leader, under some duress, revealed that his gang was part of a Thieves’ Guild working for “immortal masters.” After a failed attempt to break into the Guild building above them, the party unceremoniously handed the surviving gang members and stolen booty over to the city guard, and resumed their search.

Eventually the party reached a recently-collapsed section of sewer. They burned away a patch of green slime and Bearcloak transformed into a dragon to tunnel through the collapsed section. On the other side, the sewer tunnel was full of mud and moss. The party prepared for trouble.

Swarms of rats and bats were fended off with a wall of fire. When the flames died down, at the end of the muddy, mossy passage the party spied a group of merchants and craftsmen with a couple of warriors. They obviously did not want the party to advance, and brandished a variety of weapons. Borus dropped one of them with a single arrow, and injured a dwarf warrior. Shortly ruthlessly called divine fire down, and killed all of the merchants and the two warriors. Kito was disquieted, but could not deny that the small mob seemed unlikely to want to parley.

A hidden doorway was found, and it led to a small room in which an elderly man sat upon a stool, reading a book by lantern-light. An iron-barred door was visible behind the old man.

The party could not get much sense out of this Gabor, who insisted that very bad things would happen if the door behind him was opened. Michonne, the monk, knocked Gabor out cold. Borus picked the lock on the door.

Beyond, there was an empty wine cellar. A small vent in the ceiling suggested an egress for creatures able to become gaseous. Another hidden door was found behind an empty wine rack, and it led to a stairway down.

At the bottom of the stair was a chamber in which another swarm of rats was devouring several corpses. A single door led out of the room. That door was opened, revealing utter darkness beyond.

In the darkness, three master vampires lay in wait.

Unusually, Kito reacted the fastest and used his Oil of Daylight to banish the darkness. The three vampires were revealed. They cast a number of spells.

Michonne ran in to do battle. Bearcloak cast a haste spell. Shortly unleashed more divine fire. Borus loosed silver arrows at the monsters. A vampire wizard responded with fire of his own. Another of the vampires ensorcelled Kito, preventing him from using his fearsome undead-slaying powers. Michonne squared off against one of the vampires and Bearcloak tried a powerful lightning spell, to little effect.

But when it came to trading magical attacks, the Sidmouth Slayers were stronger. The three master vampires were forced back to their coffins and destroyed!

The Plague of Pitchfield is ended.

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Vampires of Pitchfield

We rejoin the Sidmouth Slayers, sworn agents of His Divine Majesty Daronicus 44th of Thire, in the remote town of Pitchfield. Having fought off a vampire attack the party are convinced that the plague besetting the town is a plague of bloodsucking undead!

Our heroes decide they have little hope of tracking vampires in mist form through the fog-shrouded streets of the city at night. They retire to their inn, where they keep a watchful eye until dawn. Later that day, after catching up on sleep, they renew their investigations.

The elven priests at the Temple of Frey and Freya seem unwilling to believe that there might be vampires in their city, but they willingly sell holy water to the party. Unfortunately a breach of etiquette means that most of the adventurers are not welcome to remain and converse further.

Borus Barrowburrower, halfling archer, has a theory that the source of the problem is in the manor house of Count Hazendel, the Olvensteward and ruler of Pitchfield. The Count and his family are rumoured to have vanished, and Borus is convinced that Count is one of the undead, perhaps even the master vampire. The town guards will not permit access to the manor house, so Borus and the rest seek another entrance.

Borus scales the wall whilst wearing his ring of invisibility. The gardens to the rear are patrolled by two more elven guards. Borus and Michonne decide to sneak up on them, but Michonne isn’t quiet enough to deceive elven ears and although both guards are quickly knocked out one of them raises an alarm. Borus and Michonne hide the two unconscious elves in some bushes and wait to see what reinforcements arrive. Only one more guard comes around to see what the matter is, and he too is knocked out and hidden in the shrubbery. Borus and Michonne beckon their comrades over the wall.

Borus picks the lock to a door at the rear of the manor house. Inside is eerily quiet. A quick search finds a locked door with a magical trap. Borus sets the trap off and dodges a blast of lightning. He finds that he cannot pick the lock without getting electrocuted, so Bearcloak the elven wizard opens the lock with his magic and the door reveals a stairway leading down.

The basement contains stores of various sorts, a strange pipe organ at the end of a large central chamber, a sparse alchemy laboratory, and a summoning circle. Borus resists the urge to examine two treasure chests. He finds a secret door that conceals an ossuary. Kito, a paladin serving Anubis the god of the dead, warns strictly against disturbing the remains of the dead. Borus is still convinced that he will find vampires here though. He is only persuaded to move on when Shortly and Bearcloak assure him that they sense no further secret doors in the ossuary (which they are able to do without disturbing the ancient bones). Still frustrated, Borus sneaks off to check the chests. The first chest comes alive at his touch, and Borus only narrowly avoids getting glued to it! He flees, looking over his shoulder expecting to be pursued by a snarling, tooth-filled treasure chest! When pursuit does not come his comrades scoff at his wild imagination. Obviously there are no vampires here, so the party goes back upstairs.

Borus wants to check the rest of the house, so a full search is ordered. But Borus spies out of the window a large mob of elven guards is forming. Not wanting a confrontation, the party agrees to teleport out, going back to the inn.

Still struggling to track down the vampires, the party investigate the city graveyard. They find about a dozen recent graves of plague victims. One of these victims died three days ago. If their information is correct, this means that she will rise as a vampire this very night. The party decides a “stake out” is in order.

Sure enough, as soon as the sun sets the occupant of the new grave attempts to rise. She is quickly forced into mist form by the party’s attacks. The mist sinks back into the ground. The party dig, finding the dead woman seemingly at rest in her broken coffin. Borus climbs down and rams a wooden stake through her heart. There is spray of blood from the new vampire, who then lies still. Borus cuts off her head with a silver dagger and the vampire burns rapidly to ash. But now the party has no lead to the master vampire. They head out of the graveyard, planning to return to the inn, but it seems that some friends were awaiting a new comrade. At the entrance to the graveyard a pack of 6 pale humans and elves await: more vampires!

In the battle that follows, most of the vampires are forced into mist form. Kito’s will is sapped by a vampire’s dominating gaze and he tries to attack Shortly. One of the vampires is clearly more powerful than the rest, and engages Michonne in melee. It looks bad for Michonne, whose life energy is drained by her vampire opponent and who cannot seem to hurt the undead in return. Bearcloak uses one of his most potent spells and disintegrates the vampire monk. The wizard then traps Kito in a temporary sphere of force. Shortly believes that he might be able to restore Kito to his senses with a break enchantment spell. They agree to try this course of action, and sure enough it succeeds. The graves of the plague victims are then searched. 5 more recumbent vampires are destroyed, but 6 graves still lie empty, their owners unaccounted for.

The next day, after sleeping into the afternoon and restoring Michonne, the party again try to persuade the clerics of Pitchfield of the true cause of the plague. One of the priests agrees to accompany the party to the graveyard that night. But no vampires return to the graveyard. Shaking his head at the fantasies of these strangers, the elven priest bids them goodnight. The party are forced to conclude that the remaining vampires must lair elsewhere.

Shortly communes with his god to seek some answers. He learns that there is more than one master vampire; that the Count is not one of them, but his basement harbours hidden secrets yet; and gains some clues as to the potential whereabouts of the undead quarry.

The hunt continues…

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