Slaves of Sargon

What the Hell, Kid!
Na na na na na na na na

Warned about the incoming flood of dark dwarves, the Red Butchers send the party northeast, to the plains of Silvergrass, to seek the help of the plainsmen and their spirit walker, Bhenkadra. Along the way, the party is set upon by a pack of dire wolves. Thrall sets the thick, dry brush ablaze to drive the wolves out of cover, and though the party sustains some heavy wounds, the wolves are all killed.

Soon after, they are met by a plainsman warrior, who had seen the smoke from a distance. He is wary and distant at first, but impressed when he learns that the adventurers have defeated the dire wolves (and made a cloak of their pelts, in Thrall’s case). He leads them to plainsmen’s camp, where they meet the chieftain, Orin Pathfinder., and rest.

The next day, they approach Pathfinder and Bhenkadra to convince the spirit walker to join them in their fight against the minotaurs. Bhenkadra is sympathetic to their need, but tells them that were he to go with them, the plainsmen, no friends of the Red Butchers, would consider it a kidnapping and respond violently. Riza asks if there is anything they could do to reassure the tribe of their good intentions, and the spirit walker tells them of the disturbing—and sometimes fatal—dreams that have been besetting the tribespeople of late.

They speak to Takleshim, Nascha’s son, as well as some of the other members of the tribe, to learn more about these nightmares. The tribespeople tell them of huge, hairy spiders, as big as wagons, approaching them ominously within a twilight dreamscape filled with small pools of foul liquid. The spiders are a deep blue, almost black, bearing a remarkable similarity to some (much smaller) spiders that the plainsmen had come across when gathering berries nearby.

The adventurers quickly determine that many of the individuals suffering from these dreams had been previously bitten by these spiders, and go hunting for them, first in the supply tent where the gathered berries were kept, and then out in a ravine where the berry bushes grow. Working in concert with the tribespeople to dig a fire break around the bushes and set them alight, trapping the spiders within, they destroy most of the remaining spiders, except for a few clusters that sail away from the blaze on balloons made of spiderweb and sent soaring by the updraft from the flames. The surviving spiders make it into a small crevice in the hills to the side of the ravine; Riza and Thrall begin piling burning brush at the cave entrance to smoke out the remaining spiders.

Meanwhile, Malcer heads around the hill to see if there is another opening through which the spiders might escape. He finds an opening; and emerging from it, a strange, bat-like person with leathery wings and sharp fangs—a man-bat, if you will—engorging itself on handfuls of the spiders. It sees Malcer and attacks.

Hearing Malcer’s shouts, the party heads around the hill to join him in combat, leaving Riza at the mouth of the cave to ensure the remaining spiders do not escape. Together, they are able to dispatch the strange creature, just as Riza crushes the last cluster of surviving arachnids. Inside the cave, they find a spear and shield that had once belonged to Orak, a warrior of the tribe known for a scar he had borne across the side of his face—a scar remarkably similar to the one borne by the bat-thing (bat-boy? man-bat? there’s got to be a better name).

Thrall, as is his wont, skins the bat-man and turns it into a terrifying cloak.

Heading back to the camp with the rest of the tribespeople, they tell Bhenkadra of the spiders, and the creature that was eating them. He thanks them for their help, but tells them that there quest is not yet done; while the spiders have been eliminated, those who were bitten by them will continue to suffer from the terminal nightmares until the spiders are defeated once more—within that nightmarish dreamscape. With the help of some remarkably potent mushroom spores, he sends Riza, Malcer and Thrall into the dream to face the spiders among the pools of liquid death.

While Leira, Harvek and Bhenkadra watch over the dreaming adventurers, Bhenkadra tells the others that his visions have shown him that an assassin approaches. No sooner has he spoken then a tear opens up in the very air, through which emerges a minotaur ready to slay the spirit walker. The minotaur assassin is taken by surprise when he finds more than just Bhenkadra awaiting him, and Leira and Harvek set upon him at once.

The dreamers awake, having destroyed the spiders, to find the corpse of the assassin lying in Bhenkadra’s tent. Riza searches the body to find a sigil of House Minato, largest and most powerful of the houses of Sargon. Bhenkadra tells them that in House Minato, there is someone else like him, through whom an invisible being of great wisdom and power works, but he does not seem to know what the end goal of this entity is—or even of the voice that speaks through Bhenkadra himself.

The tribespeople are grateful to the adventurers for dealing with the spiders, and the nightmares that had plagued them, and are finally willing to let Bhenkadra journey with them to Bastion, and the Red Butchers.

But when they return, the find Bastion ablaze, and the sky filled with the smoke in the wake of a minotaur assault…

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'Shrooms and Hemp
Wherein the adventurers have an out-of-this-world experience involving fungi.

Having discovered what appear to be ancient ruins under the mines, the party speaks to one of Reimar’s rangers, who tells them: “Thousands of years ago, the Atvar empire stretched across these lands, from the penninsula of Sargon all the way to Inalua. There are legends of an incredible treasure hoard hidden under the mountain.” He also warns them that minotaurs will almost certainly be arriving soon, in order to discover what happened here.

Malcer shows the moonstone to Invana to see if she can determine anything about its origin or purpose, but all she is able to tell him is that it contains a great amount of magic.

Returning to the cavern where they had fought the four troglodytes, the adventurers discover one less body than they expected to find, and drag marks leading to the next room. Following the marks across several rooms, they finally come to a room populated by several hostile mushrooms, who attempt to poison them with an emission of pungent spores. The mushrooms do not last long. Farther along, they run into several large, vicious spiders who seem to have been infected by the spores, and have forests of mushrooms growing from their backs; the spiders last a bit longer than the mushrooms did, but are still promptly dispatched by the adventurers.

Heading back to the cave entrance to rest and regroup, Invana tells some of the adventurers that the spiders have implanted something inside them, but she knows not what.

Back in the ancient ruins, past a closed door, they find a natural cavern with a stream running through it. The drag marks end at the stream. Leira hears something splashing in the water, downstream, and the party heads after it to investiage.

They quickly catch up to what appears to be a human-sized mushroom, dragging a dead troglodyte. “You are not troglodytes,” it says. “I think this is a good thing.”

The mushroom’s name is Pale; he is very pleased to hear that the adventurers are no friends of the troglodytes. “I am of the Frugron,” he tells them. “There are not many of us left.” Because troglodytes. He tells the party that the Frugron have lived in these caverns for thousands of years; the troglodytes began moving in aggressively in the last year. He invites us to meet the rest of the Frugron; “This troglodyte is joining the circle!” he says, with glee.

The party follows him to the rest of the Frugron circle, down the stream a bit, through a secret gap in the rock. The path opens up to a wider area, where another 19 mushrooms await. They appear to be communicating telepathically. Pale invites Riza and Thrall to join them in another room for the meld, and they accept.

In the other room, the Frugron Sovereign, twice the size of the other mushrooms, releases a cloud of spores into the air. Riza and Thrall quickly become disoriented, but in a good way. In their minds, they find themselves outdoors, in a light, airy clearing. They are looking through the eyes of someone else, apparently the dead troglodyte itself, experiencing its last living memories. It had just passed information to someone/something, and was waiting to see the fruits of its labors. In the distance, it watched a few minotaurs guarding the mine entrance, until a commotion suddenly arises inside the mine, and one of the guards departs to investigate.

Almost immediately afterwards, three small figures resembling dwarves but different, pale, and grey, emerge from the mines, carrying battle axes and a human head. They attack the minotaurs, quickly slaughtering them, and then reenter the mine, taking the minotaur corpses with them.

Thrall and Riza awake in a flash. Who are these strange dwarves? Where did they come from, and what is their purpose here?

Malcer recognizes them from their description as Dark Dwarves, driven into the underdepths by the wise and good dwarves of [closer to] the surface in a long forgotten war of aeons past.

In a small room off to the side of the Frugron’s chamber, Leira finds a chest hidden behind foliage; the chest contains an ancient shield, covering a scroll case. Inside, there is a map, marked with an X; an inscription in an archaic form of common warns, “Don’t touch the moonstones! Lest you awaken a powerful and destructive force.” Thrall suggests that the magic inside the moonstones might have been a barrier, keeping the Dark Dwarves contained. Perhaps putting them back would reseal it?

The map shows the river and the rooms that the party has come through. The X looks like it’s’ only a few rooms away…if they’re reading the map correctly. They ask Pale if he knows the room on the map: “Yeah, it’s close. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were troglodytes there. Last time I was there, there were three chests in the room, and beautiful etching on the wall.”

The party heads back to the entrance to report to Reimar. Thrall describes the Dark Dwarves to Hammond, Reimar’s dwarven cook. “It’s a treasure map!” he exclaims. “We have to find this!” They head back into the caverns, crossing the underground stream, following the map to…a dead end. An empty room, with marks on the floor where three chests clearly once stood. All that remains is the remnants of old treasure, bits of armor and weapons made of rusting metal…and the creatures feeding upon those remains. The adventurers engage the rust monsters with gusto.

The wall in the chamber contains a series of mysterious runes, just as Pale had described. Underneath the runes, a more recent message has been chiseled into the wall, in the same script that was on the map: “The runes on the wall are a code to properly tune the Staff of Alderman.” Thrall carves copies of the runes into Riza’s and Malcer’s shields:

Runes.jpg

They find a hidden door in the wall, and go through it to find a large chamber with an enormous pit in the center, populated by four troglodytes, a gremlin-like imp with bat wings sitting on top of a rock, and the three missing chests. The hidden door closes behind them.

The adventurers are able to defeat the troglodytes, but one of them shoves Harvek into the pit; the others rush to his aid, finding him clinging to a ledge around fifteen feet below. More movement is visible deeper in the pit; it looks like more of the dark dwarves that Thrall and Riza had seen in their trip vision. Malcer begins launching arrows down the shaft as Thrall and Riza lower a rope and help Harvek up.

The imp speaks: “You’ve made a grave error. By removing the moonstones, you’ve broken the wards that kept my master contained. They’ve been building an army, and now…they’re ready.” The sheer number of dwarves making the climb up the pit reveals the truth in the creature’s words. “We need to get out,” Thrall says to the others. “Fast.”

“My master, Malagrim, will want to retrieve the moonstones that were taken,” the imp continues. “Woe to him that carries them…”

The adventurers quickly grab everything that was in the chests and head back to the cave entrance, carrying a message of doom along with the great treasure.

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Escape and Troglodyte Troubles

The abbreviated version (I wrote a lot more in detail and it got erased):

1. Malcer and Leira succeed in extracting Thrall, Riza and Harvek from Sargon
2. Group rendezvous with Rimar’s Red Butchers in Bastion
3. Group goes hunting with Ben Vorius and slay panthers
4. Group goes to Minato’s Mines and find much bloodshed and headless bodies.
5. Group finds moonstones.
6. Group finds troglodytes and Thrall is slain
7. Thrall is restored by Invana Elginnith

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The beginning is nigh
The Great Escape Begins!

The campaign is still in the planning phase, but soon the PCs will pit their cunning and might against the strongest empire on Okknos.

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