In Kajaan
Session 16: Ambush the Ambushers!

Fleeing the ambush set up by Kullervo, Ajatar’s champion, the party races south through the forest. The site of an old rockslide poses a challenge. Opting to cross the slide, several of the party are injured by shifting and falling rocks. The delay allows the pursuit a chance to close with them. After some discussion, Gunga Din (Randy) organizes an ambush for the ambushers. Akron (Ken S) conjures an unseen servant, and orders the phantasm to rustle the bushes along the party’s supposed path of flight. The little gnome, Vamleele (Soleil) is also dispatched to add a vocal component to their deception.

Durian (Robert) stealthily circles behind the pursuit, while Bob the Bold (Dennis), Zalumna (Hillary) and the other party members take up positions amidst a tangled web of trails and shrubbery beyond the rockslide.

The minions of Ajatar warily advance. They are mostly lightly armored archers, but a few heavily armored soldiers form the core of their ranks, including Kullervo, formerly captain of the guard at Kajaani Castle.

The trap is effectively sprung! The archers are rapidly cut down at close quarters. Kullervo proves a sturdy foe, but is eventually swarmed by the party. Durian stealthily attacks from behind with his crossbow. Kullervo’s hired mage, Kallenth nearly turns the tide in favor of the enemy when he unleashes a pulse of force that knocks several of the party members off their feet. Fortunately for the party, so many of the ambushers have succumbed to the ambush that the mage is subdued shortly thereafter and he promptly yields. Liam, one of Kullervo’s shieldmen, seeing that his allies have lost the day, yields as well.

Safe for the moment, and having learned that the deposed regent Ajatar has determined that the party is responsible for his fall from power, and is plotting revenge, the party decides to return to the hamlet of Old Sarum to collect their wages for destroying the minotaur band of Fallen Rock cave.

In Kajaan
Session 15: Flight Into the Wilds

The party decides to explore the web-filled tunnel underneath the main chambers of Fallen Rock Cavern. Amidst the thick webs, our heroes encounter a pair of man-sized spiders and battle is joined. Poison is injected, and shrugged off, webs entangle, and fangs, swords, and arrows bite deep. Eventually the monsters are vanquished.

The spiders appear to have been guardians of an ancient piece of statuary, long since eroded to the point that it can only be defined as humanoid. Due to its antiquity, it is probably of Sidhe (elven) origin. Probably carved at the time the stone circle of Witchhenge was erected. The statue is adorned with a cleverly-disguised cloak. Unfortunately, disturbing the cloak releases a swarm of tiny blood spiders. A veritable pool of the creatures fills the chamber, nearly overwhelming Gunga Din (Randy). Wisp (Lisa) sets about crushing the things with a bag-gloved hand. Durian (Robert) and Whitey (Ken M) ready a fiery missile in the form of a handy oil flask. Zalumna (Hillary) tosses a splatter of maple syrup into the chamber and effectively distracts part of the spider swarm (who apparently have some ant-like dietary habits.)

Having vanquished the swarm, the party retrieves the cloak and determines it grants some spider-like climbing abilities. They then hasten to depart the cavern complex, having thoroughly looted it, via the north trail back to Old Sarum.

At a bridge over a small ravine, the party is confronted by a foursome in the livery of Kajaani Castle. The group, one blonde-haired leader-type who accuses them of various crimes against the state, a couple of armored toughs, and a staff-bearing older gentleman who has the air of a spellcaster about him, claim that they’ve got a horde of archers hidden in the surrounding forest. They demand that the party surrender. Durian launches into a surprisingly convincing narrative in which he claims that the party has been mistaken for their evil twins, who are no doubt responsible for all the bad things from the previous accusations. The Kajaani is temporarily bewildered by the tale, and so says that a ransom of 500 g.p. should be sufficient. Despite carrying several thousand g.p.’s worth of treasure looted from two successful dungeon explorations, the party makes a great show of turning out empty pockets, and generally scoffing at the idea of paying a ransom.

As often happens when negotiations have failed, a fight breaks out. It turns out the Kajaani leader is not impervious to arrows. It also turns out that the threat about hidden archers is very true. And, to make matters worse, the hidden archers are using goo- and flame-bomb arrows that immobilize or engulf their targets. Seeing that this battle has been arranged to their disadvantage, the party beats a hasty, and well-advised retreat south towards Fallen Rock Cavern.

Will they be pursued through the forest? Will they retreat into the cavern complex, or towards the road to the south? Stay tuned for the next episode in the Middle Kingdoms!

In Kajaan
Session 14: Fight to the Finish

Pressing beyond the chamber littered with the looted remains of various merchant caravans, the party finds a huge cavern split by a chasm. Within are several animated minotaur skeletons, live minotaurs, and a black-robed spellcaster (obviously up to no good.)

Battle is joined, with the black-robed one lobbing purple, pulsing spheres of necrotic energy into the group. Durian (Robert), Whitey (Ken M), and Zalumna (Hillary) are all temporarily slowed or weakened by the foul magics. He-who-shall-not-be-named (Mike) summons his favorite skeleton ally, “Jeeves” just in time to distract the minotaurs, while Damek (Fritz) tries to get a clear shot at the spellcaster skulking across the chasm.

Eventually the foe is overwhelmed and Akron (Ken S) finds another silver amulet with a thundercloud and lightning bolt engraved on it. The fallen spellcaster’s bone staff is given to He-who-shall-not-be-named, as the party figures it suits his necromantic tendencies. Some attempts are made at probing the webs in the chasm, but it is determined that they’ll be better left for more direct exploration later.

In the narrow tunnel that proceeds out of the chamber, the party encounters a rock-slide trap, which they largely avoid. Further down the tunnel they unearth a chest packed with the valuables looted from the strongboxes of many merchant caravans, including a fetching “puffin” tiara, a fistful of rings, and other desirable riches.

The party then decides to explore the tunnel, found earlier in the expedition, that gets progressively more filled with webs the deeper one proceeds. It’s clear now that the tunnel is connected to the chasm in the huge cavern. Amidst the thick webs the party encounters a pair of man-sized spiders and battle is joined. That conflict will be resolved at our next session.

In Kajaan
Session 13: Against the minotaur tribes

Deep in minotaur-haunted Fallen Rock cave the party is confronted by swarms of rats and animated minotaur skeletons. Finally, they’re confronted by a pair of living minotaurs. True to their nature, the beasts charge, but the party stands firm. Väinämöinen (Connor) is knocked unconscious by a raging minotaur, but Akron (Ken S) revives him. Amidst the debris in the room they find a silver amulet with a thundercloud and lightning bolt engraved on it.

Durian (Robert) invents bowling, rolling an empty keg into a charging minotaur skeleton, and dropping it in its tracks. In the tunnel beyond, the party finds a crude sarcophagus of obvious antiquity. Within they find a torc of polished brass bearing the likeness of a demonic minotaur with flaming horns.

The next chamber is decorated with a bloody pentacle motif and lots of unpleasantly suggestive arcane runes. The party cleans up the mess after deciding this is probably where all the minotaur skeletons were animated.

Gunga Din (Randy) discovers a tunnel that gets progressively more filled with webs the deeper one proceeds, and opts not to. Meanwhile, Wisp (Lisa) stealthily scouts the other tunnel out of the chamber. Amidst another debris pile the party finds several bills of sale that suggest the remains of the supplies that they’ve found littering the cave complex have been looted from local merchant caravans. This evidence seems to suggest that the band of supposed thieves, the Brotherhood of the Black Swan, is not (as some have suggested) a threat to commerce in Kajaan. At this point, the narrative pauses until next time when we’ll find out what lies beyond…

In Kajaan
Session 12: Against the minotaur tribes

Atop Witchhenge, the party meets a pair of dwarves, Dhatri, and Nimish, and a band of kobolds with whom they are aligned. They are from Fort Moradin a border stronghold of Soulscale Forge to the west. Dhatri, clad in battered plate armor and wearing a black-iron helm with a gold dragon crest, says they are lead by a golden dragon. They were sent to learn what has happened at Witchhenge: rumors of unleashed magic and the sudden appearance of a giant tree have made the dwarves curious. The dwarves invite the party to hire on at Fort Moradin, as they always have use of warbands in their conflict with the dwarves of Flamescale Forge, who are apparently lead by a red dragon.

The gathering atop Witchhenge is joined by Olaf and Asmund of the hamlet of Old Sarum to the north. They also have come to investigate the appearance of the magical tree. They encourage the party to journey to Old Sarum, and the party accepts their invitation.

In Old Sarum, a stony hamlet built along a series of cobbled switchbacks overlooking a lake, the party arrives at the Good Neighbor, the local inn. Here they meet Bearhearth, the mayor of Old Sarum, who hires them to deal with a tribe of minotaurs that have made their lair in Fallen Rock cave, in the hills to the south.

The party journeys to Fallen Rock cave and are confronted by swarms of rats and the animated skeletal remains of several minotaurs. They fight through these enemies before pausing to bind their wounds before pressing deeper into the cave complex.

In Kajaan
Session 11: In the barrow under Witchhenge

Runes scratched in birch bark (by Zalumna, the taciturn but pleasant Norse fighterette) - luckily ‘wisp’ can read and translates for the group…

Back at pool below Witchenge. No light.

Some missing – only Damek, Bob, Durian and Whitey here now. Strange.

Go past pool to first door. Stairs go down to room of sand. Bad feeling. Corpses. Three. Very smashed already.

Damek crosses to Seahorse Door. Opens. Whoosh. Stairs disappear. Pool floods room. Corpses attack. Stupid corpses. Rope. Arrows + Javelin. Corpses Dead again.

Open Seahorse Door. Damek says hallway beyond familar. But says same thing about ex-wives. Not sure about Damek.

Go through Hallway-of-Akron-Adventure-Reminding – enter bigger hallway with small rooms. All have dead-awake skeletons. Find stuff. Kill skeletons. Again.

Party treasure. Durian harder to see in new cloak. Puzzling.

Try to enter new room. Break off door handle. Oops.

Get in. Bob strong. Three walls have Tree carvings. And Sprite carvings behind Trees. One-Sprite-Eyes glitter. Damek takes. Oops.

Sprites alive. Sprites attack. Have Sigil of Three Not-Squares on chest. Fight with long spears. We win.

In Kajaan
Session 10: From Temple to Witchhenge

The party spends a few minutes of diversionary dialog in order to reunite. Damek the Unpleasant (Fritz) spends much of this time explaining his intestinal distress to Riath and Ancasta, the acolytes. They decide (between themselves) that he is an “unfortunate” fellow, and perhaps a bit “unpleasant”. A mild confirmation of his moniker.

The upper floor of the Temple of Jovas is inhabited by spectral Nightmares and the sundered spirits of various elves involved in what was the original theft of the All-Seeing-Eye. After questioning several of the spirits, the party confronts the thief Hakaar, who is bound, spread-eagled, between a pair of trees.

Hakaar explains that they’re going to need his gloves (Gloves of Storing, it turns out. Capable of hiding an item under 10 lbs in each palm) which, unfortunately, are being worn by his “sundered” physical form and guarded by his pet Dire Wolf, “Frostfang”.

The blind, and babbling-mad form of Hakaar enters as if on cue, his hand resting on the back of a massive, slavering white wolf. Gunga Din (Randy) procures a raw steak from some undetermined location and proceeds to charm the beast. The party reasons with the looney thief well enough to convince him to surrender the gloves without a fight.

Wisp (Lisa) scouts the sanctuary below and signals that all is clear. In a clatter of armor and weapons, the party tiptoes across the sanctuary and descends into the depths below the temple. Here, they discover a mysterious chamber–lit by torches–that contains a black pool, in the center of which sits what they suspect is the All-Seeing Eye they’ve heard so much about.

Bob the Bold (Dennis), He-who-shall-not-be-named (Mike), and Damek lead the party into the chamber. As they do, a writhing mass of glistening black tentacles rises out of the pool and begins snatching at them. As several of the party members are quickly seized, the others valiantly impale the slimy tentacles. Akron (Ken S) launches a magic missile and a ray of flame. He-who-shall-not-be-named is caught and squeezed into unconsciousness. Vamleele (Soleil) and Wisp are seized, but manage to wriggle free. Damek and Gunga Din pepper the enemy with arrow-fire. One by one the tentacles are driven back into the pool.

On the steps leading down to the water’s edge, Akron collects an ivory wand decorated with black tentacles. It seems fairly clear what its purpose is. The ever-intrepid Gunga Din, wearing the Gloves of Storing, swims out and retrieves the All-Seeing Eye.

Damek devises a clever method for investigating the torchlit balconies that overlook the chamber. Unfortunately, part of his clever method involves throwing a mace. This breaks a semi-valuable ivory plate upon which is inscribed a spell. Convinced that he’d like a collection of plates, Damek secures another from the next balcony over, and finds that the balcony is guarded by spiders. And the flame on the torch is some kind of miniature phoenix or fire bat. Gunga Din decries the attempts to loot the temple of a god who is likely their patron. Damek is less concerned with whose temple he’s looting, but not eager to fight flaming bats and poisonous spiders, and so he yields to the rest of the party’s call to depart.

After a lengthly hike to Witchhenge, a brief meeting with Nezumi (the “Rat Boy” of the Brotherhood of the Black Swan) and a descent into darkness, the party finds themselves again in the large, water-filled chamber that held the spirit of the elven queen. She remains bound to the pedestal as they first found her. The pedestal is now glowing with a fierce green radiance, apparently in reaction to the presence of the All-Seeing Eye. This reveals two doors that went unnoticed before, in the far reaches of the room. The frog-hafling creatures that guard the elven queen flee at the burst of light, and Gunga Din swims out to the pedestal with the artifact.

He places it upon the pedestal and, in the following light-and-illusion show, the queen, the pedestal and the artifact are hidden by massive tree roots that seem to grow down from the ceiling of the cavern. So, the “world tree claims its own.”

While Damek is regaling the party with tales of the gold he imagines to be behind the revealed doors, a Woad–a spirit of the wood–greets the party and thanks them on behalf of Jovas. The being explains that they were summoned as champions of the gods, to return that which had been stolen. Having fulfilled that duty, each party member receives a gift.

In Kajaan
Session 9: At the Temple of Jovas

The party leaves at dawn for the Temple of Jovas. They are accompanied by The Wanderer, a representative of the Brotherhood of the Black Swan. The Brotherhood has agreed to stage a distraction at Kajaani Castle in order to aid the party.

At the Bridge of Trees on the west road leading to the temple, the party encounters a wary band of guardsmen from the castle. Fortunately they also seem to be underpaid and are thus easily bribed by Zalumna (Hillary) with 5 c.p., barely enough to buy them a round of beers at the Highwater Inn in Rauma.

At the temple, they are greeted by the disciple Riath. Much dissembling follows and amidst a flurry of hand gestures and diplomatic niceties–such as “hello”, offered by Durian (Robert)–the party manages to convey that they have some connection to Jovas. Most of this is accomplished when Riath recognizes the phoenix tattoos on their hands as the goddess’s mark.

Riath encourages the party to sup from the font at the altar. Zalumna is overcome by the gesture and lapses into a fit of coughing. Bob the Bold (Dennis), Whitey (Ken M), Vamleele (Soleil), He-who-will-not-be-named (Mike), and The Wanderer use the distraction to sneak upstairs into the “holy” precincts of the temple.

Upstairs they find that the walls are covered in vines. Vines that want to subdue the party, and hurt them. Bob tries to blind the vines with his Shield of Blinding, remembering too late that plants don’t have eyes. He-who-will-not-be-named summons a skeleton minion–a.k.a. “Jeeves”–and the fight is on. Bob and Vamleele are fit to be tied by the vines, but The Wanderer demonstrates that forest living makes for mad gardening skills as he prunes several of the deadly vines. Eventually, the rest of the party is able to successfully emulate this example, and the vines are vanquished.

The upper half of the temple appears to be a ghostly realm inhabited by spectral Nightmares and the ghosts of various elves involved in what was the original theft of the All-Seeing-Eye. They’re eager to help (although they can offer little of substance) in order to break the curse that binds them there. The party visits with Atal-Ai, one of their priests, and Eranicus, a sage. Both of them end up pointing at the thief, Hakaar. There is a catch though. The thief is split into both ethereal and physical forms. It’s the ethereal one you want to talk to. The party is warned to beware the physical form of Hakaar and his “companion”... Gulp.

Outside, Akron (Ken S), Zalumna, and Durian have helped the small contingent from the castle set up a tent. It has started to rain, and everyone is motivated to find some shelter.

In Kajaan
Session 8: In the hamlet of Rauma

The party leaves the barrow of Witchhenge and makes the long hike back to Rauma. There they hope to neutralize the poison that is sapping Gunga Din’s (Randy) strength, establish the value of the loot they’ve acquired, and plan their assault on Kajaani Castle, and the vizier-usurper, Ajatar.

At the Rauma palisade gate the party is greeted by Constables Sitrik and Skirge, notables of the watch. Whitey (Ken S) makes a favorable impression with his “donation” of elvish silver coins, reinforcing the rumors that there is wealth to be had in the elven ruins.

After making their way to the Highwater Inn, the party relaxes over various beverages provided by the innkeeper S’Kelly, and discusses their plans. Väinämöinen (Connor) reacquaints himself with Idho, a local maiden who is full of admiration for his brave exploits. Her tablemate, Grug, isn’t quite so enamored. However, he assures the group that his boss (who is in the “acquisitions business”) would be very interested in any loot the party recovered in its adventures.

Questioning the locals leads the party to the venerable Melusine, an alchemist who seems likely to be able to cure what ails Gunga Din and provide information on the loot the party has recovered. In the process they are joined by Brede, the town representative of the church of Jovas and an ally of the party. She indicates that she can neutralize the poison affecting Gunga Din and, with the help of a few more of the party’s silver pieces, she’ll get the ingredients she needs to do just that and meet them at Melusine’s establishment. Melusine offers a bit of background information, but doesn’t have very much insight into the loot the party has acquired. She recommends the merchant trader, Mathonwy. Brede arrives and completes the ritual necessary to get Gunga Din back up to strength.

Back at the Highwater the party meets with Grug’s “boss”, Drake the Drunkard. Despite his appearance, Drake seems more canny than Grug, and assures the party he’s especially interested in any weapons they might find in elven ruins. Inquiring into the cost of rooms for the night, the party decides that S’Kelly’s prices are too high and they’d rather impose on Brede. They all wedge themselves into various nooks and crannies of Brede’s place and fall asleep to the babblings of Blind Maddy.

Combining what they’ve learned, the party has determined that it is likely that Ajatar has stashed the “all-seeing eye” somewhere in the temple of Jovas. They also decide it might be worthwhile contacting the Brotherhood of the Black Swan to see if those seemingly benevolent highwaymen have any need for elvish loot, information about local politics, or good advice about storming castles and temples. The party enjoys the last of Brede’s porridge and readies to leave Rauma. At the palisade gate the party chats with Sergeant Pell, head of the town militia. Whitey plays free with his silver again. The party is getting a favorable reputation with the locals.

On the road again the party meets up with a merchant trader from Old Sarum and his seasoned guards. They’re very wary, but seem fairly competent. No one does anything foolish. The merchant mentions that the dwarven realm of Voltai, to the west, is a good source of armor. A mile or so later Durian (Robert) has a discussion with a huckleberry bush. Then the Resourceful Wizard, one of the Brotherhood of the Black Swan, appears. The Brotherhood is curious about the new warband in town, and wants to check on their intentions. The interests of the two groups seem to coincide (Ajatar = bad, missing King = good) and an agreement is struck. The Brotherhood will distract Ajatar at the castle, while the party sneaks into the Temple of Jovas (with a little help from the Brotherhood’s “Wanderer”.)

The Wanderer tells the party that the Temple contains “ghosts” in the attic, and a tentacular horror in the “basement”. He guesses that the “all-seeing eye” is stashed in either of these places, normally reserved for the High Priest’s access alone. Find out next time where the eye is hidden, and what it will cost to retrieve it!

In Kajaan
Session 7: In the barrow under Witchhenge

The party continues to loot the elven barrow under the hill called “Witchhenge”. Opening another of the arched doors of stone, engraved with elven designs and symbols, they find the tomb of an elven queen. Within is a sarcophagus adorned with suspicious wave symbols. Believing the sarcophagus is trapped, the party’s patented remote opening method is applied. No trap is triggered and the remains within appear to have been previously looted.

Disappointed by the lack of loot, Gunga Din (Randy) lunges hastily toward the other door in the room, and narrowly avoids falling into a disguised pit. Bob the Bold (Dennis) helps him off the ledge, and the party finds a way to pass the door without falling into the water-filled pit.

A similar sarcophagus is found in the next room. This one adorned with a tree motif. It is apparently untrapped, and the body of the elven queen within is unlooted. She yields up a silver torc with the all-seeing eye design, an ouroboros ring, and a collection of elven coins and gems.

Back out in the corridor, the party investigates another door only to discover it is suspiciously cold and damp. Beyond they find a short corridor and an elaborate but rusted metal door that is tightly sealed. The sealed door opens into a vast cavern, half-filled with brackish water. A glowing pedestal breaks the surface some 60’ from the door. To make matters worse, there is something very much like a cross between a halfling, a frog, and a piranha swimming in the water. At least four of them it seems. They dislike loud noises, as Durian (Robert) discovers, but like sandwiches, as Väinämöinen (Connor) learns. There is what looks to be the spectre of a maiden chained to the pedastel. Deciding that the whole thing is altogether too complex a puzzle, and having lost a perfectly good waterskin in the process, the party decides to abandon the room. Damek the Unpleasant (Fritz) seems to be frustrated.

Further on the party finds that they have come full circle, back around to the access shaft of the barrow. Between them and safety however, is a family of poisonous spiders and their webs. Swarmed by spiders, Gunga Din is mildly poisoned by a bite, and finds his strength reduced. In the ensuing melee, Akron (Ken S) ignites the webs with a ray of magical flame and incurs the wrath of the mother of the brood. Her poison turns out to be more harmful, and he finds his strength sapped considerably when he fails his fortitude check. The party unites to fight off the swarm. In the aftermath, Damek laments the failure in the water cavern, and it is suggested that spiders may appease the halfling piranha-frogs.

Feeding spider carcasses to the halfling piranha-frogs distracts them enough that Damek is able to swim out to the pedestal. There he chats up the bound spectre of the elf maiden, and learns that the “all-seeing eye” that Ajatar stole, is supposed to be on the pedestal. Returning it will “please her greatly”, whatever that entails. Always eager to please, despite his “unpleasant” moniker, Damek swims back to report his findings. He is unmolested, either by the halfling piranha-frogs, the party, or the spectre of the elf maiden.


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