The Beginning - Cold Caves

June 12 (Turn 1)

The adventure begins! The party comes together at the behest of Thambarr the Prudent, Lord of Hembard Wilds, Defender of Highcliff Keep, Recognized Lord of the Peerage of the Kingdom of Jal, Meisterburger of Auslaug, Hustwood, and Brekkevale. Their task: investigate the Cold Caves and defeat any threat found therein. Party members: Durego, Ohwatoo, Ra�guey, Locky, Grit, Rawon, Nissa, Ur�vion, Maro, Ingvild, and Dagmarten. Followers Saurabh, Jonquil, and Gorvil round out the group.

June 12-16 (Turn 2-13)

The party makes their way to the Cold Caverns and has their first fight, facing off against a pack of kobolds and their big furry pet. Heads were taken, blood was spilled. A well-timed hold portal covers the party's retreat, lugging a dead bear. Time for a rest.

June 17-22 (Turn 14-22)

Back to the Cold Caves for another round of kobold bashing. Clever beasties have set up a fortified position in the caves! There's also an incident involving a pool of cold water, and a cleric in heavy mail, an incident that scars said cleric for life, but we won't talk about that. Oh yeah, OGRES! Did I mention ogres? There's almost dying and falling barricades and door guarding too. The wounded party runs away, but first the kill a lot of things. Back to camp to rest and recover, then a full retreat to Auslaug and Highcliff Keep. There is loot selling and XP gaining, but it's over quickly. Back to the Caves! The party returns to their base camp, ready for another delve.

June 23-26 (Turn 23-29)

The group discovers the upper caves are corpse-filled hell-holes. A kobold has killed itself by triggering a trap on the ogres' chest. Bad luck for him, good luck for the party. There is loot. The party explores more of the caves, and encounters some sort of water-slime creature in the depths. They run away (probably smart). Eventually they run out of places to explore and head back to the main lair. There, behind the last door, they find corpses, some old, some fresh, some missing limbs. Apparently ogres and kobolds like human flesh. They also find a mysterious message scratched into the door "From the West!" Satisfied that the caves are (mostly) clear, the party heads back to Auslaug to collect their rewards and report in. And sell loot. They are honored by a dinner invitation with the old lord and his family. Thambar's priest identifies some of the magical items found in the caves. Food, yay!

The Second Journey

June 27-July 4 (Turn 30-35)

The group resolves to head into the western Wilds, in search of Blackpool Maze, wealth, and adventure. First stop, Brekkevale and Stonefinger. They find a cave, and kill a giant lynx, then get saddled with her two cubs. Grit is not amused. Back to their rented campsite at the Hol place.

July 5-9 (Turn 36-44)

The party heads out to explore again, finding ruins and thickets and thorns. They establish a forward camp in the woods near a water source, and explore the surrounding area. They find a ruined church, and an old road. Late one night they hear howls in the distance! Something's coming. Something bad! It's a chase. Big doglike creatures chasing something smaller and faster. The pursued figure disappears into a tree! The party decides to draw the dog-things away from the tree before they can fire it. A fight! The gnolls (discovered later) are tough foes, and there are quite a few, with more on the way. As the party finishes off the first wave, clouds gather overhead, curiously localized clouds. Right over the big tree...

More enemies are inbound. The party heals as best they can, and throw the unconscious on the mules. Then they circle east, putting the doom clouds around the tree between them and the new gnolls. Bad luck for the gnolls, they try to cut across the storm. Lightning strikes, and as usual, things die. Archery and hard fighting finish off the immediate threat, leaving a trio of (smarter) gnolls on the far side of the storm. They beat a hasty retreat, leaving a warning standard behind. The relieved party tends their wounded, and some go thank whatever inhabits the tree for its aid.

Ah Ur�vion. Too quick to grab the standard left behind. The fire trap on the object takes his life.

July 10-27 (Turn 45-61)

After resting and dealing with Ur�vion's remains, the party presses on, following the abandoned road. They find a crude leanto and a small shrine to Vostat, and run into a stranger. After some tense moments, the stranger is welcomed into the camp (Hi Mordikarr!) He has knowledge of the local lands, and leads the group to a good source of water. Exploration continues, and the party finds the needle spire, and ruins, and another of those weird trees...

West again, along the road, abandoned farms and ruined villages. Giant flying things, and evil shrines. Wolves in the woods, and an unnatural hill. Weird glowing tunnels within, made of the same stuff as the spire. And giant bugs. Really big and mean giant bugs. Nissa and Grit fall to their huge pincer arms.

A night's rest and the party returns to the weird tunnels. Finding coffers of weird stones and gold and silver and platinum bars. Rich! Loaded with loot, it's time to head home. The trip back involves a stop at their forward supply drop to leave excess baggage there, killing the ghouls that wandered into the area, and a stop at needle spire to prove that the key found in the coffers opens the door. Back in town, the party celebrates, and stocks up for their next trip.

Back to Auslaug

July 28-August 2 (Interlude)

The party spends time in town, visiting family, training, and doing research. Ohwatoo discovers a bit of interesting lore about Blackpool Maze [turn 61 followups]:

Ohwatoo returns to camp the evening of the 29th. He's been spending his days in the keep library, mostly perusing the remaining notes and journals of Jorund Hembard, as well as local history.

The biggest bit of news: Blackpool Maze predates the founding of Auslaug, Highcliff Keep, Brekkevale, and Hustwood, by years, decades, or even longer. It's clear from reading Hembard's journal that the Maze was a ruin when he first found it. Hembard also mentions finding the ruins of villages and other structures in what was then thought to be uninhabited lands. Ohwatoo's conclusion is that another civilization existed before the Hasuden and Toresden settlements were founded. Long before. The ruins you all have found (at least those further out), are likely not from Hasuden/Toresden settlers, but from this older civilization.

Hembard also describes several of the foes he and his men faced during their early explorations, hulking brutes he called dog soldiers (gnolls perhaps), ratlings (kobolds maybe), snake men, dark walkers (shadowy things that came out at night), and the unseen, invisible foes that drove men mad.

He also mentions finding dragon's teeth, and from the description given, Hembard was talking about the needle spire. He found two, one very near Blackpool, one in the midst of the wilderness. From the writings it does not appear that he found a way to open the spires, if, in fact, he's talking about the same thing.

Third Time's a Charm

August 3-August 11 (Turn 62-64)

The party heads west again, this time via Hustwood, the southern village of Thambar's realm. On through thick woods and dense thickets, and past ruined foundations, old orchards, and burned out village remains. There's a brief encounter with a giant spider, but no serious harm. The party reaches the spire late on the 11th.

August 12-August 15 (Turn 65-72)

The party ventures into the spire and discovers the weird geometric objects from the underground vault serve as a sort of dialing device, allowing them instant transportation to... somewhere. They try various combinations, finding many new locations, but none really appeal. Ohwatoo builds a device for shooting star elevations and begins to work out some of the locations, at least roughly. They finally settle on what they think is the spire west of their current location.

August 16-August 22 (Turn 73-79)

The party begins careful exploration of the new spire locale. Lots of woods, swampy ground, and an ancient roadway. Also several streams, generally running south to north. A night time encounter with giant ticks puts everyone on edge. Eventually they travel east far enough to find the hill with the vault in it. Linkup complete!

With linkup complete, the party backtracks and continues to expand their search around the new spire. They encounter the suspicious and defensive Jago clan, humans who keep fierce packs of dogs for defense. Tense negotiations end on a neutral note. The party is warned not to cause trouble, but they're also told about the big lake to the west, and the ruins nearby. They also receive a warning about the spire, "Demons come from there!"

August 23-August 27 (Turn 80-94)

With clearer directions, the party heads west, eventually finding what proves to be Blackpool Maze. After a bit of circling to find a good camp site, the party ventures in, exploring the half-flooded entry level. There they find a huge stone with something beneath it (scraaaaape! scraaaaaape!) and giant bugs! During the bug fight the party also hears the splashing of something really big in the flooded section of the level. Bad news.

They press on and eventually find the other set of stairs to the surface. Now they can avoid the flooded area. More exploration reveals a deep deep crevice, a crypt, and stairs leading down.

Down then, to the lair of the trogs. The first encounter is disorganized and goes poorly. The party 'finds' two pit traps. There is running forward and running away. Luckily those in front manage to down their foes, and rescue the pit-trapped elves. The party retreats, battered by their first two encounters in the Maze. But two days later, they're ready to go back...

August 28-August 28 (Turn 95-113)

More exploration on the trog level leads to the second fight with the trogs, a clear victory this time. The party also rescues Tesso, a human fighter type, from a pit in one room. He was a guard for a party of surveyors. They were jumped by gnolls and taken prisoner. They do some additional exploration, discovering more stairs, a pit-like room, and the reptile house. They feed all the dead trogs to the lizards, which enjoy the snack.

After the lizard encounter, the party heads back north to the room with the weird device and levers. They eventually discover it's an elevator of sorts, and at the bottom (or one floor), there are big, mean, goatmen! The fight is chaotic but brief. After the fight, the party decides to exit and head to camp. On the way out, they hear a loud voice speaking in Goblin. It curses the party, threating them with the wrath of Jadrago. They are not amused. The party returns to, and spends the night at camp.

August 29-August 31 (Turn 114-129)

Back into the dungeon. The party heads down to the trog level, and explores one set of stairs (which lead to a pool of water), and then the other (the set Durego checked out before). The second set proves to be a dangerous place. Arrow slits and barred doors and crossbow bolts. The party uses a statue to batter down the barred door, but Rawon's burning ichor arrow sets all that oil aflame. A fiery battle ensues and the party, scorched and toasted, slay the kobolds. Triumph is short-lived though, as bugbears push in from the west, Ra�guey uses his potion of heroism, then moves to engage. It's a brutal fight, made worse by the necromancer, who casts a hold spell on Durego and Mordikarr, and raises several of the recently slain bugbears from the dead. Finally the party slays or drives off the last foes. They have too many down to press on, so after a quick check of the nearby rooms for loot (with minor success), they withdraw from the hall, barricade the west door of the fort-like room, and try to rest.

During the rest period, something comes and claws at the door several times, something big. The door holds, but when everyone is back on their feet, it returns. This time the party is ready. They let the creature, an owlbear, in, and slay it, though not without further injury. They head back to camp, but on the way they cross the trail of multiple humanoid creatures. Bad news. Once they reach camp, they spend two days recovering, resting, and examining the contents of the chest.

September 1 (Turn 130-145)

The party returns to the Maze and finds a grisly message, a corpse nailed to the wall with iron spikes, and scrawled in blood: Return what you have stolen and leave this place, or you and all the other prisoners will suffer this fate. Tesso says the guy was one of the surveyors he was with before he was captured.

Unintimidated, the party presses on, returning to the area where they fought the bugbears, kobolds, and owlbear. Maro is intent on killing the necromancer. The group explores the Death Pit, a corpse-filled pit in an irregular chamber, the bugbear lair, and the doorways beyond, which lead to another fortified hall, complete with water-filled pits and arrow slits.

It's a trap! The kobolds and bugbears have snuck around behind the party, trapping them in the bugbear lair and hall. There is fire involved. Finally the party breaks out, but their foes have fled, content to do hit and run damage. The party hears noise in the Death Pit room, and pursues, circling the pit on the narrow ledge (or running across the corpses).

Those aren't corpses, they're zombies. Deep poo for the party! Along with the mundane zombie types, there are a pair of zombie slugs, amalgam creatures that hurt. A lot. The fighting is brutal, but eventually the party triumphs, scattering the last few kobolds into the darkness beyond the pit. The victory is not without loss however, Locky is slain in the fight. Wounded and sad, the party retreats to camp to recover and bury the dead (decapitated) Halfling.

September 2-September 3 (Turn 146-149)

Late at night the party spots a large group of gnolls moving east across the plain north of their camp, headed to the Maze. The next day's scouting reveals they're in the ruins and in cahoots with the trogs, and at least one of the bugbears (or a bugbear-like shape). There is also a possible giant lizard sighting. The group decides discression is the better part of valor. They retreat to base camp, pack up, and return to the spire, backtracking to needle spire in the plain, far to the east.

September 4-September 8 (Turn 150-152)

The party spends several days resting, recovering, exploring and investigating in and around Needle Spire. This includes two trips into the woods north of FOB1, camp improvements around the base, and two rounds of testing spire combinations.

September 9-September 10 (Turn 153-156)

The party heads north, following the old roadway they'd found previously. They find a ruined tower and explore. There are weird giant nests on the roof, but no occupants (currently). A search uncovers some treasure, and thus enriched, the party continues northwest. The trail winds through pine forest, eventually becoming lost in the increasingly rugged terrain.

September 11-September 12 (Turn 157-163)

Lights at night. The party investigates strange greenish lights in the woods, but finds nothing. The next day they travel in that direction and discover a magical void marked by a carved stone obelisk. Light stones get nuked from orbit. The party is dismayed, but presses on, turning their course westward. There they stumble upon a human settlement, Tragor's Hold, a tiny village surrounded by a log palisade. They negotiate and establish peaceful contact with the inhabitants, who seem to be simple villagers scraping out a living in the Wilds.

September 13-September 17 (Turn 164-172)

The party continue southwest, guided by information from Tragor's Hold. They eventually find a large lake, and begin to follow one of the rivers that feed it, looking for a way to cross. This leads to Corpse Hill, and a night encounter with dangerous wisp-like creatures.

After fleeing these dangerous creatures and losing Jedit in the process, the group wanders through dense woods for quite a while, almost lost. They eventually make their way to the ancient roadway, somewhere east of the Fraykulga shrine they found. Along the way they find another carved tree, and the crushed and torn remains of several kobolds, destroyed by some unknown force. Another day and a half of hard hiking on open ground sees the party back to their base near Needle Spire, ready to head back to town.

September 18-25 (Turn 173-177)

The party travels east and southeast, covering some new ground along the way. They eventually reach Hustwood and receive a less than warm welcome. If it looks like a murder-hobo, and smells like a murder-hobo...

Locky's family is not happy about their son's death, and perhaps worse, the party's failure to return his remains. It doesn't help that Tesso is wearing his cloak and sword either. The party tries to make amends before leaving, but that doesn't do much good. They depart under a cloud of suspicion, and reach Auslaug three days later, under a cloud of pouring rain.

September 26-October 1 (Interlude)

After dividing loot and celebrating (a bout of arm-wrestling and drinking in the local tavern with a dwarf and half-elf proves interesting), the party attempts to see Lord Thambar. The envoys are turned away by one of the Lord's councilors, who says Thambar has no time to deal with troublemakers. Uh oh. Could word have reached here from Locky's family already?

There are also rumors. War between South and East Gorsebonn, problems with grain shipments, and refugees in the hills. It could prove an interesting stay, especially if the party has legal issues to deal with.

Durego is taken before Lord Thambar. The party IS in trouble. The Leatherfoots have accused them of murdering Locky. Judgement is held to allow the party a chance to redeem themselves. Recover Locky's body and return it to his parents or face the music. The party is unhappy.

There is a lot of logistics work to get things moving, made more complex by the party being banned from the Hustwood area. Eventually they celebrate enough, and get back on the road.

Back to Blackpool

October 2-15 (Turn 178-182)

Back on the road, headed to Blackpool with heavily laden mules and new party members, Grendor the half-elf and Strom the dwarf. The trip to FOB1 is mostly uneventful, save for an encounter with a ghostly battle, and a big old raccoon. FOB1 is a different matter. The party finds that the camp, primitive as it is, has been vandalized. Everything scattered and shat upon. Twisted gray feathers hint that the likely vandals are whatever occupies Nest Tower.

October 15-26 (Turn 183-187)

The group establishes an alternate campsite and the next morning heads to Blackpool via the spires. When they arrive at their old camp there (after spotting some weird tracks around the Blackpool spire), they're surprised by a massive zombie-abomination, complete with Locky-head and owlbear-body! A brief but fierce fight follows, ending when the thing dies (again). The group has a few wounds, but they finish their task, recovering most of Locky's remains from the stinking mess and burning the remainder. A hasty retreat leads back to the base camp near Needle Spire. After that it's more travel, back to Auslaug and the Lord's justice.

October 27-28 (Turn 188-189)

The party takes Locky's remains to the gate, and after waiting for more than an hour, are met by Lord Frand. He has his servants take the remains inside the keep, and dismisses the party. Durego expresses some minor objection, and Frand tells him to check with the head of his order for further information. That was unexpectedly short. On the way back to town proper, Strom tries to pick up a maiden, only to discover that she's some part of Lady Vela's retinue. His hopes are dashed by a threatening guard.

The group spends the night gathering rumors and drinking. The next day is spent shopping and poking around town. Durego finds out the group has been cleared of all charges, and have also gotten Thambar's medallion back! Apparently priests Have Ways (TM) of finding out what really happened to Locky.

To the Wilds Again!

October 29-November 10 (Turn 190-194)

The party travels back to Needle Spire, then heads north with great caution, intent on scouting the scene at Nest Tower. The scouts spend a night and a day watching and observing the humanoid flying critters with two pairs of wings and vulture-like heads who returned to the tower at dusk.

The dozen flying foes with unknown abilities sours the party on a frontal assault. They depart, regroup at Needle Spire, pack up all their stored goods, and make for Tragor's Hold. Along the way they stumble across a months-old, bone-strewn battle site. The victims were a few humans and their mounts, the attackers were big, strong, and armed with axes or similar weapons. Probably not the bird things. They press on to Tragor's and arrive without incident.

November 11-November 18 (Turn 195-Turn 197)

After a good visit at Tragor's the party disagrees on the route forward. Some want to head west, others south to the old roadway. A coin flip points the way, west it is. The party travels through wooded hills and forest for two days, and finally stumbles across another old roadway. This prompts more debate, and eventually the group decides to do a little exploration and then turn south toward Blackpool. Several party members are hot to face down the necromancer once and for all, others are worried about a new base camp, while the third contingient is more interested in exploration.

A western route eventually hits another old roadway, and after winding through swamps and forests for several days, the party finds something of interest, a large tunnel cut into a hillside and finished with stone blocks. There are statues outside the entry tunnel. Time to explore.

November 19-November 24 (Turn 198-Turn 214)

Into Hill Hole! The party does an initial investigation of the complex and encounters the mighty Stev, a weird giant with a childish mind, giant poisonous spiders, and the bug mans, multi-legged horrors. The first battle is brief but fierce. The party withdraws to recover, then decides to scout before reentering the complex. Eventually they manage to ambush three of the bug men without harm to themselves.

The feeling of victory is short-lived. When the scouts return to base they find all three guards dead, along with one of the mules. Each has been drained of life by something that left no marks on the bodies or tracks on the ground. This... freaks people out. The party struggles to recover from this blow.

November 19-November 25 (Turn 198-Turn 216)

The party returns to the death camp to deal with their fallen comrades, but are met with another setback. The trio of corpses is gone. There are some signs that someone or something left the camp heading west, so the party follows. The trail is lost but the party presses on, eventually finding a bowl-like vale with several doorways cut in its sides and a strange pool at the bottom. They decide to explore.

November 25-November 26 (Turn 217-Turn 227)

The party explores the crypt beneath the Vale and discovers it is inhabited by chilling shades. They manage to defeat three of the creatures and stop them from turning their fallen companions into... something. Unforuntately the remains of the dead were destroyed by the process they were undergoing. The party then loots the tombs, discovering a rich assortment of jewelry, gems and magical items.

November 26-December 8 (Turn 228-232)

Supplies are low, very low. The party decides to head back to town by way of Tragor's Hold. It'll be a close thing, getting back to town with all the loot and live mules. They march east, making a brief stop at Tragor's before continuing east to the borders of Hembard Wilds. When they reach the old ruined village near the Westwalk, they're surprised to find it occupied. It appears Lord Thambar has decided to expand his holdings. The bridge has been rebuilt, there's a fort on the far side, and a crude settlement where the old mill once stood. Civilization?

December 9-March 18 (Turn 233-239)

Back in civilized lands, the party discovers that Lord Thambar has started construction on a new town, known as New Town. The party spends the night in this crude settlement then heads east to Auslaug. Back and successful, the group agrees to wait out the winter in comfortable surroundings. They spend several months identifying magic items, carousing, doing research and building a lodge near New Town. It's a mostly quiet time, though the war continues down south. They also hire on some staff for the lodge and three new guards. The lodge is finally complete in early March, and shortly thereafter the party heads back out to Blackpool Maze.

March 19-27 (Turn 240-244)

The party heads back to Blackpool via the most direct route, using the spires for transport. Once there they begin to explore the area around the dungeon, hoping to find a relatively safe camping spot for the hirelings and mules. They circle wide in pouring rain, and eventually end up south of the Maze in wooded hills. There they find some weird statues, including one that looks half-eaten. Durego is concerned.

March 28-31 (Turn 245-259)

The core party leaves the guards in camp and heads for the Maze, in the pouring rain. Once there they discover a few changes. There are huts on the surface and the lake level is up. They decide on an aggressive approach, and are quickly engaged with a mix of gnolls, kobolds, and large, warped humanoids that hit really hard. There are giant bear traps in the mud too. Eventually the party downs the swamp walkers, the gnolls take off, and the kobolds surrender.

Durego is all for killing the kobolds, but several party members, particularly Grendor, object. Durego storms off, and the others question the kobolds, who claim they are from a distant clan and enslaved by the Necromancer. The party releases the creatures after gaining some limited knowledge, and the kobolds scamper away, vowing to never return.

The party is seriously wounded, so they retreat after setting fire to the corpses and one of the huts (the rain makes this only partially effective). After a day and a half's rest, they return and find the surface ruins empty. They quickly descend and head for the crevice room.

The area beneath the crevice proves to be fairly extensive, and occupied by weird creatures with four or six arms, slick black skin with reddish cracks and no eyes. These fiends seem unaware of the party, so the group skirts their area and continues their exploration. They discover a few small rooms, including one that contains a magical fountain.

The party is conflicted about which way to go, so they split up. One group continues to explore the area beyond the hot pit, the other heads back up to find the Necromancer. Both groups encounter difficulties. The explorers are nearly trapped in a hallway, and the Necromancer hunters trigger and explosive trap that wounds many party members. Both groups decide it's time to go. They meet up back at camp, with only minor loot to show for their efforts.

April 1- (Turn 260-)

A new day, a new trip to the Maze.