Previously in Winterhaven…
Having defended Winterhaven from the initial onslaught of the Iron Circle’s slavering horde, Lord Padraig sent the heroes to Dar Gremath in Albridge to recruit reinforcements. They made their way beneath the castle, through the tomb of Prator (a Wandering Warrior who by common wisdom was thought to be mythological), and emerged close to Albridge – which was also occupied by Iron Circle mercenaries. Through stealth and disguise, they met with Dar Gremath, the stable manager, and Reithann, the druid. The heroes followed Reithann’s advice and won the aid of Bran Torsson’s soldiers and the Reedfoot halflings by defeating a tribe of bullywugs. The stubborn Dar Gremath, intent on guerrilla warfare against the Iron Circle, liberated Albridge, but at great cost to the resistance rebels. At Reithann’s urging, the party sought much needed aid from the Woodsinger Elves for the march to Winterhaven.
The elf Eriyel was firmly against the idea of sending her people into someone else’s war. She required that the heroes prove their sincerity (and demonstrate their competence) by dealing with a problem troubling the forest elves – a poisoned portion of the wood. Down a worn cart path into the wood, the heroes found a fetid pool, webs in the trees and a ramshackle wagon.
Akhan was able to discern that it had been pulled by lizard-like animals, though none could now be found. Sneaking into position, the party felled three goblins and the giant tree spiders that quickly emerged to consume the dead.
Descending into a dilapidated ruin, the heroes found a single hall ending in 20′ room – it’s only distinguishing feature a circle of arcane writing on the floor. Upon reading it, Finneal activated the ancient portal. The room disappeared in a pulse of blue light, and the heroes found themselves in one of two magic circles inscribed on the floor of what appeared to be a wizards’ laboratory or workshop. Several large tables and desks were littered with mildewed tomes, dusty bottles, and loose sheets of parchment.
A wide staircase climbed 10 feet to a stone loft, atop which rested a wooden desk and a chair made of lashed bones. Several goblins were gathered in the room, and they stared in surprise at the party with wide eyes. Near an ironbound set of double doors stood two cages, each holding a man-sized drake with crimson scales wearing a yoke. The drakes snarled and bared their fangs. As they recovered, one of the goblins freed the drakes – though too late. The heroes carried the day and vanquished their foes. Digging through a conspicuous sarcophagus under the loft, they found a potent magic weapon – the magma hammer – which was claimed by Dau’um the dwarf.
Beyond a locked door they found a vaulted chamber illuminated by fiery braziers. A magnificent mural of a forest scene covered the ceiling and one wall was framed by two statues of eladrin warriors. Between two braziers, atop a 2 foot-high stone bier, lay the partially assembled bones of a dragon. Web-strewn bookshelves packed with dusty tomes lined the far wall, and a thick curtain of gossamer webs obscured a set of iron doors. Nestled in the webs was a monstrous spider. Skeletons stood guard in the middle of the room. Another skeleton – this one wearing the tattered robes of a mage – raised bony claws that crackled with lightning and scowls hatefully. Rushing in, they found the suddenly revealed pit traps as their first obstacle. And the propensity of the skeletal mage to push foes into them with his electrical and necromantic attacks, the second. The party was hard pressed, but by reviving fallen comrades, they wore their foes down and defeated the mage. Finneal secured the mage’s prize possession, a circlet of arcane extension.
When they returning to the elves, Eriyel was impressed and thankful for the healing of the poisoned wood. She committed two dozen elven archers to the Winterhaven cause. The party hurried on to meet up with Dar Grematch on the outskirts of Winterhaven commons. Over the following few days, the party laid out battle plans with the rebel leaders, trained the ragtag band, and harried the Iron Circle on numerous fronts. It wasn’t long before the mercenaries discerned the presence of the larger rebellion.
The battle opened with a straightforward attack by the Iron Circle soldiers.
Arrows and crossbow bolts flew as the two armies closed. The rebels gave ground, but their formation didn’t break. The battle quickly degenerated into a desperate, swirling melee that sprawled over several farms and fields just south of the town of Winterhaven Commons. The farm the party guarded was quiet at first, but a large band of Iron Circle soldiers, with a reptilian creature in tow, raised a warcry and charged! The battle-hardened heroes dealt quickly and efficiently with the onslaught.
Just then Willet Reedfoot galloped up on a pony. “Dar Gremath says he needs your help over by the Radden farmstead!” he pants, pointing across the battlefield. A couple of hundred yards away, the heroes made out the rebel leader’s banner, now under attack. Between them and Dar Gremath, a band of marauding soldiers was busy setting fire to farmhouses and killing off wounded. Some of the warriors were short, scaly creatures with black horns and lashing tails, surrounded in dark fumes. Running into the melee, the heroes again quickly dispatched the intervening foes and battled their way towards Dar Gremath’s position – but will they make it in time?
Previously in Winterhaven…
Having defended Winterhaven from the initial onslaught of the Iron Circle’s slavering horde, Lord Padraig sent the heroes to find Dar Gremath in Albridge to recruit reinforcements. They made their way beneath the castle, through the tomb of Prator (a Wandering Warrior who by common wisdom was thought to be mythological), and emerged close to Albridge – which was also occupied by Iron Circle mercenaries. Through stealth and disguise, they met up with Dar Gremath, the stable manager, and Reithann, the druid. Though Dar Gremath wanted to immediately begin guerrilla warfare against the Iron Circle, the heroes elected to take Reithann’s advice and win the aid of Bran Torsson. To do so, they needed to defeat a tribe of bullywugs that were harassing Tor’s Hold. Thus, they found themselves in Toadwallow Caverns surrounded by very unhappy frog-like humanoids.
The heroes began an all out assault on the frogs, their magic wielding but cowardly leader, and a couple of gray oozes. Though the leader cast powerful spells from the relative safety of the large dragon skull, oozes threatened to melt their bones, and Soklo’s bear fell victim to a hidden quagmire, they overcame and secured a potion of healing, a flawed sapphire worth 50 gp, 160 gp and some magical arm bands – Feyleaf Vambraces.
As they took a quick breather, an inquisitive croak called from the mouth of the cavern. Akhan bluffed an answer in kind allowing the heroes to take a returning raiding party of frogs by surprise. Finneal sprung into action and did massive damage to the first of the frogs to enter the cavern. In the fray, Dau’um was swallowed whole by a giant frog, another regurgitated a recently swallowed Halfling boy, Finneal discovered a Lucky Coin and the heroes ultimately overcame the frogs. All survived, even the boy. Finneal escorted the boy to the Reedfoot Clan and secured their aid in the upcoming liberation of Winterhaven. The rest of the party returned to Bran Torsson with proof of their deeds and likewise secured his allegiance and that of his men.
Bran bid them to return to the outskirts of Albridge where he would meet them to make final preparations. However, upon their return a satiated Dar Gremath and his ragged band of rebels had already overcome the Iron Circle mercenaries occupying Albridge. Satisfied with their grim work, but fewer in number as a result of it, the rebels bid the heroes to secure additional help from the Woodsinger Elves of Winterbole Forest. The heroes agreed and found themselves on a lonely march northward into the humid wood.
It was warm, almost stifling, under the canopy of the forest, and not a breath of wind stirred. As they peered into the forest gloom, they heard a voice, “Hold there, strangers! We would speak with you.” A moment later an elf dressed in a short tunic of brown and green stepped into the open and advanced, a bow in his hand. “I am Israfen of the Woodsingers,” he said. “I see that you are not of the forest, and you do not look like mercenaries of the lron Circle. Who are you, and what is your business in the Winterbole?”
Upon hearing their plight, Israfen replied, ‘‘This is a matter for Eriyel. Come, follow me.” They were led to a small elven encampment in a clearing by a forest stream. There, Israfen introduced Eriyel, an elf woman of middle years with dark eyes and long green-gold hair – the chief of the Woodsinger clans.
Eriyel was reserved and patient. Though she let the heroes make their case, she was firmly against the idea of sending her people into someone else’s war. She required that the heroes prove their sincerity (and demonstrate their competence) by dealing with a problem troubling the forest elves – a poisoned portion of the wood. Whispering to their steeds, she imparted directions to the affected area.
The horses followed a worn cart path into the wood. Within a few miles, webs clung to the branches of the nearby trees. A ramshackle covered wagon was parked on the trail near a fetid pool. Akhan was able to discern that it had been pulled by lizard-like animals, though none could now be found. And three distracted goblins lounged atop a rotten wooden scaffold erected over the pool. Sneaking into position, the party felled the goblins and found that giant tree spiders quickly emerged to consume the dead – but turned on the heroes when they sensed the threat. The party downed the four spiders – and only then paused to take account of their surroundings.
I’ve posted this before online, but thought it might be of interest here also…
Since I have a background in Aerospace Engineering (and am employed developing fighter aircraft), I have a predisposition to theory-crafting (I know, I know – I’ve got the ‘knack’). I had a bit of time this weekend so I explored the idea that at any given speed (KPH), there should be a mech variant that allows for the best survivability (most armor) and lethality (most firepower) – as indicated by the highest possible free weight.
For my purposes, free weight is calculated as the amount of weight left over after internal structure weight and engine/cockpit/gyro weight are accounted for.
HOW TO USE THE PLOTS: Pick the speed range of primary interest for your mech design (on the x-axis) and then check the variant(s) that provide the maximum free weight. For reference, the number of available crit slots for each variant is denoted beside the mech’s name in the legend. I use the crit slot info in the event of a ‘tie’ as it’s always good to have extra crit slots.
CAVEATS: The plots make no concession for hard points – which can make or break a mech.
Attached are three plots…
Plot 1: Standard Structure / Standard Engine
Plot 2: Endo-steel Structure / Standard Engine
Plot 3: Standard Structure / XL Engine
To facilitate quickly picking out which mechs can equip jump jets, I’ve formatted the curves to make all JJ-capable mechs stand out with red symbols.
WHAT I LEARNED:
- Without this info, I tended to make Mechs that ran 5-10 kph slower than the ‘sweet spot’ (the four variants labeled on the plot are the first four variants I invested in and tweaked). Therefore, I have the opportunity to increase engine size to hit that speed ‘sweet spot’ or go up in weight class to increase lethality/survivability.
- Based on this plot (again, not accounting for hard points), the CTF-4X is a trap due to it’s engine rating limit of 255. At a speed of 59 kph, I’m short 5.5 tons of extra armor or weapons compared to a Stalker build. Once I unlock the elites for the CTF-4X, I’ll probably sell this one off.
- As expected, the XL Engine provides major free weight benefits (all the curves move up and also provide better separation between mechs – i.e., bigger mechs with bigger engines get more benefit). Of course, bigger mechs also tend to be more limited by available crit slots, rather than weight, so there is that.
- I’ll probably invest in a couple of 300+ series standard engines to upgrade my fleet – specifically the Cats and Hunchies.
- I’m having a hard time justifying keeping any engine (at least for the available mechs) below a rating of 250. Selling off a couple of those unused bad boys netted me a nice C-bill bonus.
Plot 1: Standard Structure / Standard Engine
Plot 3: Standard Structure / XL Engine
Level 3 / 2250 XP
Previously in Winterhaven…
At Lord Padraig’s behest, the party had descended into an ancient tomb below Winterhaven Keep in an attempt to escape the siege and get help from his adventuring companion of old, Dar Gremath in Albridge. They defeated the traps, undead, insects and monsters within the tomb, but the collapse of the tunnels behind them has made retreat to the Keep impossible. At the well-protected heart of the tomb, they find an ornate sarcophagus surrounded by bas-relief murals of mythical heroes known as the Wandering Warriors – and two stone guardians who stand as the tomb’s final defense.
After a rest to regroup, restore Aranthis to full health, and rejoin Belhorn to the group, the party once again made an all out assault on the stone guardians of the sarcophagus – with Belhorn even climbing atop the bas-relief itself for an aerial assault. The dwarves dug-in to withstand the guardians’ blasts that threatened to knock them from the tomb’s dais to the pit’s floor 60’ below. As each of guardians was finally defeated, it crumbled into rubble. The heroes then found that the sarcophagus was completely sealed, without even a seam indicating a lid. For all practical purposes it was a solid block of veined white marble with a bluish caste, impossible to damage. But as Dau’um, a follower of Pelor, took the pedestal the eyes of the figure on the lid slowly opened and turned to him. “Speak my name” it whispered. Thereafter, the chamber grew still.
Recalling the legends from the Chronicle of Ages, Soklo was able to piece together that the fifth wandering warrior, Prator, was depicted in the scenes around the room – most telling was the bas-relief of a paladin type figure entering the gates of hell and the stories that denoted him as the “blue” warrior. As Dau’um spoke the name “Prator” a bright blue light circled the sarcophagus lid, revealing a seam. Within the sarcophagus they found all that was recovered of the hell-bound Prator; a heavy set of plate armor with a thin layer of frost on the edges, a heavy shield that was dented and bore a cold blue burnishing, and a pewter box inscribed with ancient runes and sealed with melted tin. Cedric took up the armor and shield and Akhan gingerly secured the box. Aranthis was able to attribute the runes to the Queen of Chaos and, after some deliberation, Akhan pried off the top. Inside he found a segment of rod, about a foot long, bearing a strong impression of latent magic, but otherwise unadorned.
Collecting their prizes, the heroes retraced their steps to the ossuary and elected to chance venturing into the grick tunnels. After what seemed like days of travel through the winding, dark and cramped tunnels and overcoming a number of obstacles, they emerged into the bright light of mid-day – and luckily found themselves much closer to their objective, Albridge. Looking toward Albridge, they spied a pillar of smoke climbing into the clear blue sky. Hurrying to investigate, they found a farm with a burning out building. The cause of the fire was clear, since the farmhouse was surrounded by wolves and human brigands. The brigands, who were all wearing black cloaks that bore a crude circle insignia, were waving pitch-soaked torches and taunting someone inside the farmhouse.
The heroes rushed to the aid of the farmers and defeated the brigands – finding that more than one had his tongue cut out. From the farmhouse Ilyana, a half-elf woman of middle years accompanied by her two teenage boys, greeted her rescuers. After looking around the farm yard and frowning at the bloodshed, she kicked at the corpses and spluttered “My thanks, strangers. These Iron Circle jackals come to rob us. I barred my door, but they said they’d burn the house down – with me and my two idiot boys in it! You saved our lives and for that you’re welcome to rest here. If you venture on to Albridge, be careful. Find Dar Gremath or Reithann. They lead the resistance against these dogs.” Along with a few other odds and ends, the heroes collected the black cloaks from the slain brigands.
Continuing on to Albridge, the heroes found that the small town was occupied by Iron Circle mercenaries. Donning the black cloaks, they bluffed their way through Albridge and continued on, unmolested, toward Reithann’s Druid Grove north of town.
There they found a large grove of ancient trees, long separated from the forest proper and an old human druid, Reithann, living in a moss-covered lodge near a clearing in the center of the grove. With her were her apprentices Lorel (a Halfling woman) and Theren (a young human man). Reithann was firmly on the side of the rebels and believed that the first blow should fall on the bullywugs of Toadwallow Marsh. “They’re unnatural creatures, and they’re preventing Tor’s Hold from joining Albridge in open resistance.” She also advised that the elves of the wood might be persuaded to join the fight, if they could be found. The heroes decided to aid Tor’s Hold and asked for a way to identify themselves to the rebels. She gave them her symbol scratched onto white tree bark and described the route the Hold and Toadwallow Marsh beyond.
When the heroes returned to Albridge they found a host of mercenaries gathered near Dar’s stable as a result of some disturbance on the north edge of town. Impersonating mercenaries themselves, Aranthis engaged a few of the mercs and found that an uprising and skirmish had occurred near the edge of the wood. After securing an extra cloak for Akhan, the party approached Dar’s stable and quietly displayed Reithann’s symbol. With a bit of bluff and bluster to put on a show for the mercenaries outside, the party secured Dar’s aid in the form of horses and, despite his protests, bade him to forestall an outright attack on the mercenaries.
With that the heroes were on their way to Tor’s Hold, where they were welcomed by Bran Torsson and his own sons and treated with great hospitality. After a restful night and securing stabling for the horses, they set out to trace a tributary of the Winter River into the marsh and toward a large cavern.
In the face of a vine covered hill, they found the mouth of a cave atop a 10-foot waterfall that gushed into the stream they were following. As described by Reithann, they had found the entrance to the Toadwallow Caverns, The ground near the base of the hill was spongy, and clouds of insects harangued them. Scouting ahead, Akhan found that the cave mouth opened into a dank chamber. Behind a thick patch of fungus atop a pile of offal, he found two crouching froglike humanoids apparently keeping an ineffective watch. They wore poorly fitting leather armor and carried crude spears. Reporting his findings to the group, the heroes decided to try to lure the frogs out using Soklo’s bear as bait. When the bear presented itself at the cave mouth, the frogs drove it off and at the mouth of the cave were effectively ambushed by the party. Despite some reinforcing frogs and stirges, the party handily put down the monsters.
Peeking further into the cavern, Akhan found that a large dragon skull dominates the center of the cave and he heard numerous creatures shifting in the shadows. He suspects that they are well aware of the party’s incursion and are lying in wait.
Previously in Winterhaven…
At Lord Padraig’s behest, the party had descended into an ancient tomb below Winterhaven Keep in an attempt to escape the siege and get help from Dar Gremath in Albridge. They defeated the traps, undead, and insects within the tomb, but a collapse of the tunnels behind them drives them forward in search of a way out.
Beyond the stone face at the end of the hallway the party found a long, dark room. The walls, ceiling and floor 8’ below were covered with decorative arrangements of bones, forming a memorial ossuary. A six inch wide beam of ebony spanned the ossuary chamber, leading straight toward a prominent carving on the opposite wall similar to the stone face behind them. But this one was of an immense skull. Below the beam, countless bones were neatly piled and stacked.
Suspecting a trap, the party spent some time examining the beam and the room. They found that at the far corner, ahead and to their right, the bones were in disarray and sunken. They seemed to have spilled into a fissure or tunnel, the top of which was just visible. From that same location, they heard the muffled rattle of bones moving deep below. Edging out onto the beam, Akhan got the sense that the ebony beam was a dangerous path. He expected it was trapped in some manner, though no mechanical triggers were evident.
From behind Akhan, Finneal launched a magic missile toward the ratting bones. Dau’um and Cedric dropped to the bones below and, sinking about a foot into them, prepared for an assault. The bones surged and scattered in a wave as a large form tunneled toward them. A grick that had been feasting on the bones below erupted from the bone pile. It was quickly followed by a second, burrowing its way from the tunnel in the corner. From above and below, the party rained down pain upon the two monstrosities and prevailed. Searching the bones, they found another skeleton in dried and cracked red leather bearing the familiar eight-point star, a rusty rapier, and 47 gp, 93 sp in coins that was over 200 years old.
Carefully approaching the skull from the bones below, the mouth dropped open revealing a tight alcove. In a guttural whisper, a voice spoke in an ancient tongue. They pieced together a rough translation of the message as “Sacrifice that of greatest value.” Though they tossed various items into the mouth, each was unceremoniously expelled and they heard “sacrifice … unworthy” in the same ancient tongue.
Knowing that their task was urgent and their options few, Akhan grasped the lower teeth of the skull and pulled himself in – not knowing if it would mean his own death. The mouth slowly ground closed, but as it did, a cantilevered stone in the back of the alcove slowly opened providing admittance to a Chamber beyond. The rest of the party followed.
This cavernous chamber consisted of a circular stone walkway around a deep chasm. Bluish light reminiscent of a late summer’s day filtered down from the ceiling about forty feet above. A quiet sighing breeze seemed to continually blow around the chamber. Four wide galleries framed the walkway, their walls covered with enormous bas relief vistas. Like spokes of a wheel, four bridges spanned from the circular walkway to a central pedestal – though two had collapsed with age. Sitting majestically upon the pedestal was an immense sarcophagus half encircled with a final bas relief vista serving as a backdrop.
The heroes found the central pit to be about 60 feet deep, ending in a featureless basin. They found that each of the four perimeter galleries portrayed a different scene. Though the sculpting appeared stylized from a distance, as the heroes approached, the images shifted and distinct impressions of movement became apparent.
The first gallery depicted a peaceful scene featuring several men relaxing in an idyllic country setting. Dozens of perfect circles filled the frame around the men. As the heroes drew closer, twisted shapes seemed to emerge from the sculpture’s edges and coalesced to form monstrous creatures, evil dragons, and demonic figures. As the creatures encroached upon the men in the scene, the circles in the frame seemed to burst one by one. This depiction struck a cord with the party as an ancient legendary theme – the peaceful civilizations of men in conflict with an ever-present threat of outside forces of beasts, evil and chaos.
The second gallery depicted a scene of seven proud noble warriors presenting seven regular fragments of a rod to a council of superiors. The central figure, who was obviously not a warrior, seemed to raise the parts above his head, where they coalesced into a single rod. From the carved glyphs on each of the seven warriors, the party identified them from the myth of the “Wandering Warriors” – men who abandoned the escalating war with Chaos to secure the secrets of a fabled segmented rod.
The third gallery depicted an epic battle between men and demons, Law and Chaos. As the image seemed to shift, the central figure (the mightiest of the Wandering Warriors) used the rod to impale a mighty demon – an entity that looked like a cross between spider, man and wolf. Finally, the Wolf-Spider, Rod, and Warrior vanished into a flaming rift that opened in the ground.
The fourth gallery depicted a lone Wandering Warrior armed with a mighty longsword and heavy shield, descending into the rift in search of the lost mighty warrior. As he entered, the rift seemed to transition into a stylized representation of the gates of hell. Crowds lining the rift were portrayed reaching out to him in various poses of anguish and grief, imploring him not to go.
Up a short step on the central pedestal rested a white marble sarcophagus, much more ornate than the one in the tomb of colored lanterns, complete with a sculpted humanoid figure carved into the lid. On a freestanding curved wall shielding the sarcophagus, a beautifully carved bas relief depicted the same warrior wearing a simple ancient garment, wielding a mighty longsword and heavy shield. At the feet of the warrior were numerous slain dragons. Over the figure’s head was a balanced scale, indicating a champion of justice. To the warrior’s left stood a cloaked demonic figure with two long curved horns tipped in darkest red. On each side of the bas relief, framing the scene stood an armored warrior, shield and sword at ready.
As Finneal stepped onto the central pedestal, the two armored warriors stepped from the bas relief and attacked. They were quite formidable and used knockback attacks to keep the intruders from the sarcophagus. But each time the party retreated, the guardians slowly returned to their places in the bas relief.
Working in concert and retreating when necessary, the party slowly whittled the two down until they decided to make an all out assault on the tomb’s protectors – but as the first of the guardians was bloodied, it blasted the group with an area knockback effect that sent the party flying and sent Aranthis to the edge of the pedestal. Missing a reflex save to catch the edge of the pedestal, she fell to the bottom of the pit, unconscious and at death’s door. Dau’um quickly braced a rope and dropped to the pit floor below to administer aid.
Previously in Winterhaven…
In their exploration of the ancient tomb below Winterhaven Keep, the heroes begin to uncover its mysteries. They find evidence of the living and working spaces of the sculptor and architect who designed it and led its construction. They a find a facsimile of an ancient artifact, the Seven Segment Rod. They trigger mechanisms and magical devices, but so far the way out has eluded them. Worse, one of the ancient mechanisms failed, leading to the collapse of the tunnels that led back to Winterhaven Keep.
With time for a short breather, the heroes faced at least two clear choices. Continue on past the blue lantern to the carved face above – or descend into the ragged chittering opening below the green lantern.
Just then, Akhan emerged from the billowing dust from the collapsed hallway that led back to the keep. He explained that he and Martigen had given up the idea of breaking through the siege line and were returning when the hallway back to the keep began to collapse. He was able to make it through, barely. Since the collapse separated them, he was unsure if Martigen escaped back toward the keep or was trapped. Belhorne encouraged the heroes to push on while he returned to poke through the rubble.
(Explaining the return of Akhan and the disappearance of Belhorne for this session.)
Finneal dropped a light source down the shaft and it fell about 60′ or so before it hit the ground. Though the light was dim, the party could see the skittering of spiders crawling across the floor. They even caught a quick glance of a few insects that appeared to be much larger. After Finneal effectively froze the area below with ice based spells, the party descended by rope down the web strewn shaft.
At the bottom, they found themselves surrounded by dozens of bas-relief figures similar to the one on the sarcophagus lid in the room above. The figures, covered in webs and damaged, seemed to stare disapprovingly from the walls. Many sported crossed arms and stern expressions. Most were damaged and a few were missing heads or hands. Just to the north, the party found an intersection.
To their left was a large chamber. Eight man-sized stone tombs, each about four feet tall were arranged in two rows. The far walls tapered in somewhat around a short stone stage. A red marble statue of a powerfully built warrior wielding a cylinder-headed maul stood precariously on the crumbling stage. The party was able to identify the statue as a representation of the Guardian of the Veil, a mythical figure who stands sentry between the lands of sleep and wakefulness – and death and life. The bones of a long-dead corpse, possibly human, lay sprawled out near the statue by the farthest of these crypts. The corpse man’s skull had been utterly crushed. Tattered remains of red leather armor were found among the bones. What killed him was not known, but the stone maul Guardian and his stone maul sparked the party’s imagination. A thorough search turned up a silver ring worth about 50 sp.
To the right off the main hall was another large chamber. A hardened orange paste filled the room and spilled out from a basin lip across the room. Thousands of tiny spiders skittered and tunneled through webbing so thick that it had coalesced into a chalky substance. A huge webbed mass completely filled the far corner of the room. Judging by the spiders spilling from it, it was an enormous nest. Entering the room, the party was attacked by two Deathjump Spiders, a Doomspinner Spider and numerous spider swarms. As the swarms burrowed their way into the armor of the fighters, Finneal jumped into action – doing more damage to the party than a lucky DM could have hoped for and even managed to miss the angry swarms a time or two. The Doomspinner targeted Akhan and, drawing the hapless ranger in with a web, proceeded to bite and sting him into submission. Despite the lucky breaks, the party wore the insects down and ultimately squashed them. They then searched through three oblong lumps completely covered with orange sludge and webbing to find the skeletonized remains of three long-dead human figures in soiled red leather armor. An eight-pointed star symbol marked the left breast of each moldy suit of armor. Amongst them they found potions of healing and a gem worth about 100 gp. Exhausted and short on healing surges, the party retreated to the room below the shaft and bedded down for an extended rest.
Continuing down the hall, the party found stairs descending to chambers that were completely submerged in water. The still water was clear and the party made out the area below to be some sort of bath house. Finneal elected to search the waters below and tethered himself to the rest of the party with a rope. After a quick review of the drowning rules he entered the water and found hollowed out bones. He was able to escape the ambush of an underwater ghoul through effective use of his staff, which blasted the fiend back and immobilized it. He was able to bait the ghoul out of the water where the party quickly dispatched it. They found that it was garbed in algae covered robes bearing the familiar eight-pointed star symbol. Among the bones below, they found another skeleton corpse garbed in algae-covered leather bearing the star and retrieved a Harmonic Songblade that would be of use to Aranthis.
Having cleared the chambers below, the party returned to the tomb above and ascended the shaft above the blue lantern. Having lit all the lanterns, they found the stone face with eyes closed and lower jaw open – open large enough to permit access to the dark hollow chamber beyond.
Previously in Winterhaven…
At Lord Padraig’s behest, the party had descended into the tunnels below Winterhaven Keep in an attempt to escape the siege and recruit help from Dar Gremath in Albridge. In the chambers below they found a heavily trapped tomb of unmistakeably ancient construction. Though it is laced with traps and undead, they explore the tomb in hopes of finding some answers to its mysteries – and, perhaps, another way out.
Surmising that it’s their only path forward, the heroes begin a thorough search for the red lantern. At the base of the sarcophagus, they notice circular scrape marks on the floor, as if it once faced a different direction. It takes a colossal effort but they manage to turn the sarcophagus to point down the passageway with the yellow lantern. On doing so, they hear a great rumbling from the end of the hall. Under the yellow lantern, the five-foot circular slab of stone that Aranthis noted earlier is descending. A gust of wind blows up through the hole causing the chamber to clamor in a chorus of whispers and howls.
Upon descending to the chambers below, the heroes find that the walls are covered in ruined bas-relief images similar to the slender figure upon the sarcophagus lid. Nearly a dozen stand in poses of deference, almost as if they are paying homage to the visitors. Many extend their hands in adoration, their faces awash in adulation. Several are broken, lacking hands, arms or heads. About 15 feet to the south, a dark passage framed by an elaborately carved arch is blocked by a large stone block. It obscures most of the passage and only a little of the hall is visible beyond. The stone block is roughly 10 feet wide by 2 feet deep by 8 feet tall, and nearly seals off the passage to the south. A large niche about the same size as the block opens in the ceiling of the arch above the slab.
Squeezing half her body between the top of the stone slab and the peak of the arch, Aranthis gains a decent view of the hallway beyond. Along each wall she is able to make out a handful of alcoves spaced at regular intervals. Though the stone slab is far too heavy to lift, the heroes decide to work together to topple it. Too late they find that it rested upon a pressure plate that triggers when the weight of the slab is removed. A noxious yellow gas fills the room from valves hidden within the mouths of the adoring bas-reliefs lining the room’s walls. As the slight breeze carries the vapors up the shaft to the chamber above, the heroes hurry down the hall, further into the chamber.
Curious carvings that seem to represent a stirring tempest cover the walls of the ten-foot-wide passage. At ten-foot intervals, small alcoves flank the passage, and each contains a humanoid figure with cupped hands, the figures stand roughly seven feet tall. A faint wind plays within the passage, but it’s difficult to tell where it’s coming from. With a detailed search the heroes find that the breeze is a result of soft currents of air emitting from the statues’ cupped hands. They find that the currents are strong enough to hold tiny objects, like a gold piece, aloft.
Continuing on toward the third and final set of alcoves, they find that the passage grows unnaturally cold as it opens into a huge chamber. Within the chamber, a huge 20 foot square dull gray stone pillar reaches from floor to ceiling with deep recessions in its west and east faces. These look to be the basins of fountains. However, the western basin and area around it is completely overgrown with mold. Two open doorways face across from these fountains to the east and west.
Electing to handle the mold on his own, Finneal rushes forward – though the air around him grows cold and his breath hangs in the air. He sees a glint of metal in the mold. Upon closer inspection he sees that half submerged in the mold of the western basin is a chainmail sleeve and a withered hand, still and outstretched toward a piece of carved metal. Unfortunately, his intent to clear the mold with fiery magic does not produce the expected results. The brown mold consumes the fiery blast, quickly growing up the gout of flame to encompass him entirely. Changing his tactics, he begins to drop icy spells that just as quickly destroy the mold.
Clear of mold, the withered corpse appears to be an unfortunate tomb robber who was overcome by the heat sapping effect of the mold while attempting to retrieve the carved metal object. The chainmail, though worse for wear, is useable. Almost everything else is deteriorated, including a leather sack so old that it tears at the touch. But among the leather remains, he finds three shattered statuettes and another three that remain in excellent condition – a grand palace, a slim spire with eight connected smaller towers of different heights, and what looks like a grand stadium (each worth 50gp). Finally, he recovers the object of the thief’s desire, an elaborate lantern of carved metal with red glass panes.
With the mold cleared, the fountains slowly begin to flow with fresh clean water. In a flash of inspiration, the heroes place one of the statuettes in the cupped hands of the statues in the alcove. It floats and pirouettes slowly on a cushion of air.
Beyond the mold and through the open doorway to the west, the heroes find a wide chamber with no other exits. It must have been the crypt of an important figure. A large stone sarcophagus rests in the south east corner, its top slid aside. Beyond the sarcophagus is a bas-relief of a robust, long-nosed bald humanoid figure with outstretched hands. The figure wears a lovingly sculpted wind-tossed robe that gives it the appearance of a triumphant god. The sarcophagus has been plundered and lies empty.
Through the open doorway to the east, the heroes find a large chamber with no other exits, its ceiling aglow with what looks like natural sunlight. The light illuminates a series of worktables, vises, spinning wheels, and blocks of unfinished marble that identify the room as a sculptor’s workshop. Lying in the middle of the room is a huge unfinished statue of an imposing bare-chested warrior wielding a staff-like rod in its left hand. The bald figure looks similar to the bas-relief on the sarcophagus upstairs, but is clearly meant to be a different person. Otherwise, the workshop is empty and all that remains are bits of furniture and parts of more elaborate sculpting tools. The daylight coming from the ceiling is a permanent magical effect.
The heroes gingerly remove the wooden staff. Though obviously crafted by a skilled artisan, it is of a very simple style and does not appear to match the ornate style of the statue itself. Finneal and Aranthis notice only six grooves cut at regular intervals around the cylindrical shaft. With some use and magic, they are able to identify it as a Staff of Frost.
Retracing their steps, the heroes climb back to the tomb and push the sarcophagus to face the green lantern. As they do, they hear a great rumbling from the end of the hall below the lantern. A loud groaning noise is followed by very unsettling vibrations in the ground. The tremors grow. The sound of stone scraping and metal bending is apparent as cracks begin to form on the floor at the end of the hallway. Soon after, the rumbling increases in intensity until they hear the crushing fall of heavy stone and the snapping of something metal. There is a loud crash and then silence. A large irregular opening can be seen at the end of the green hallway and dust billows up from the collapsed section of the floor. Shortly thereafter the heroes hear another rumbling cave-in from behind them, from the direction of the keep.
Quietly at first, and then growing in intensity, the heroes hear skittering from below. They ready actions to attack as the cacophony of noise reaches a crescendo – and a veritable geyser of living bugs, mostly spiders, shoots up into the air from below the green lantern. The swarms are quickly thinned by the heroes’ attacks, Finneal’s bursts of magic doing much to thin the swarms. Two swarms ultimately encompass Cedric and Belhorn, scurrying around, in and through their armor. Two large arachnids climb from the ragged hold and leap beyond the fighters to take on the mage and druid. With a bit of collateral damage, the bugs are ultimately squashed.
With time for a short breather, the heroes face at least two clear choices. Continue on past the blue lantern to the carved face above – or descend into the ragged chittering opening below the green lantern.