Trust No Weavers of the Dark Arts

The Approaching Storm

Lightning (Thunder)

The other two stair cases descend to the east and west, and the unexplored hall to the north beckons as always. Kel peers into the darkness of the stairwells, trying in vain to make out the shapes of whatever lies beyond. “The sage seemed to think that there was more down here than just the lower levels of the old fortress. If there is much ground to cover, we would be ill-advised to strike out blindly. Let us continue our search from where we left off two days ago.”

The barbarian turns to Pol and continues, “If you see anything that looks threatening, get between us. I do not wish to lop off your head by mistake in the heat of battle.” The barbarians descend into the stinking hall, still reeking of sweat and urine, but now also mixed with the smell of rotting corpses. As the torchlight peels back the darkness at the bottom of the stairs, a sea of rats disperses, but grudgingly, from the gnawed bodies slain days prior.

The barbarians move cautiously to the door they had previously trapped.The door and latch appear to have been melted by the heat of the rod, and stooping to sniff the slagged metal, Kel recognizes acrid alchemical scents. Standing in the doorway, Kel, holding Pol by the shoulders just before him, the boy holding the torch out, sees a room in disarray, but not destroyed.The furnishings are of better quality than they've seen, though all soiled and ruined.

Another room adjoins this, and appears to be where the inhabitants slept. Disheveled beds and piled garbage are the features of the second room, though Pol’s sharp eyes detect a small locked box under one of the bunks. The key found on the dead crossbowman opens the box. Inside are a patched pair of breeches, a brush, a piece of blank parchment, a hunk of chalk, an excellent set of lock picks in a leather case, a healer's kit, and a small yellow agate wrapped in an old rag.

Back in the hallway, approaching the room where the pig men emerged but never engaged the barbarians, the hallway is lined with what looks to be a film of oil, congealed almost into a paste. Their room has five crude beds, and on closer inspection, a few bags of moldy bread and some rotting, unidentifiable meat. Returning to the hallway, Kel and Wolfgar look at one another and at the goop on the floor and know that it didn’t come from anything that was originally in this hallway.

The small party crosses the hallway and listens at the battered wood of the last door, and after hearing nothing, Kel lifts the latch and swings the door open. Within the walls of this oddly-shaped room are partially covered in tattered red and black curtains. Kel sees an archway leading south despite it being half-covered by one of these curtains. The vaulted ceiling above is painted black. Spattered bloodstains cover the floor, particularly around a plain stone altar resting in front of the deep eastern recess. The place stinks of murder and pain, as well as the musk of some angry beast.

His brows knotted in righteous fury, Kel springs into the room without caution and rushes toward the evil altar. Summoning every ounce of his strength, he growls low and feral as his body slams into the stone slab with a reverberating thud.

The altar doesn’t budge from the force of the Kel’s impact. Kel turns to his axe and begin frantically chopping at it, screaming and frothing (Kel is effectively raging). Wolfgar and Pol stand dumbfounded in the doorway.

Kel’s axe strike repeatedly at the stained surface of the altar, the blade striking sparks, but doing no damage to the stone. Kel rears up and with both hands brings the axe down in the most powerful blow he can manage with his muscular frame, the blade of the axe chipping off a small chunk of the altar. Almost immediately the room begins to shake, as if the architecture itself is furious and only barely restraining itself. Stunned by this reaction, Kel regains himself. Dark curtains, hung across the back of the room are rent by the quaking, black paint flakes off the ceiling and drops to the floor as the sound of the ceiling cracking splits the grim, fetid air in this ugly temple.

Wolfgar orders the boy to stay still and marches resolutely across the quaking floor to get grab his young friend, agog amidst the chaos. Wolfgar’s big hands clasp Kel tightly by the shoulder and drags him stumbling from the room.

The shaking subsides gradually when Kel crosses the temple’s threshold. Pol looks up, his face glowing with admiration, beneath the hand covering his mouth to keep the awful reek of rotting flesh from his nostrils. “Adventure,” he crows.

As the shaking stops, Kel regains his senses. Peering into the room, he can see that the chipped paint of the ceiling has uncovered a far older fresco of what looks like stars. Through the rent curtain is also a faded fresco that looks like figures amidst trees.

Wolfgar gazes amazedly, says: “What was this place?”

After sweeping a puzzled gaze across the old artwork, Kel steps cautiously back into the room. He turns toward the others and muses, “Perhaps the vision I told you of is related to this place.” Replacing his axe at his belt, he approaches the altar with measured gait. Putting his hunters’ training to use, he begins a careful study of the altar and the alcove behind it.

Wolfgar snorts, says, “What would a goddess want with your scrawny bones?” He leans against the wall inside the door, his drawn sword held loosely in his massive hand.

Kel finds little of interest about the altar, but with one glance behind the curtains, he reaches up and heaves down the whole contraption holding them up. On the wall before him is a woodland scene, complete with dancing fey creatures from legend cavorting is soft gray light. He turns to Wolfgar with a grimace, says, “Perhaps she wants me to drive the evil from her sacred places.”

Pol, wandering about the room, his head tilted crazily to gaze at the ceiling, young eyes squinting near closed, gasps. “There, where the paints rubbed off from the shakes, can you see it? There’s a moon up there!” He runs to Wolfgar and carefully points out the dim shape nearly missed beneath black paint.

“Moon goddess, you said?” Wolfgar asks Kel, who nods. “Then I guess we’re at her service,” Wolfgar says with a sigh.

Kel shakes his head, as if clearing it. “Would that we could spend more time here, but the evils lurking within this place will not cleanse themselves. We must press onward.” Suddenly, he cocks his head to the side, a pondering look in his eyes, before striding purposefully to the rear of the chamber. There, he begins tapping the stone with the hilt of his dagger, listening intently.

Kel returns to his companions. “This way leads back where we have already been.” With one last glance around the desecrated chapel, he exits back into the main hall. “Follow closely, Pol.”

Up the narrow steps of the landing to a wide doorway the small party goes. Kel listens carefully, his back pressed to the stone, straining to hear – but hears nothing but the crackling torch Pol holds fifteen feet away or so. He looks at Wolfgar, who shrugs.

Kel ducks around the corner, and is greeted by a dark room. After a several heartbeats Pol pushes up behind the barbarian, and his torch throws some illumination on rubble, old barrels and casks, rotted wooden crates, and other debris clog the area. Cobwebs fill the corners. The air is dank. Recalling his earlier experience with a similar room, Kel says, “Spread out and look for any hidden dangers, but don’t touch anything.”

Aside from the debris scattered about the room, their appears to be nothing even of interest on the lower level ofthis room. The stairs lead up to what appears to have been the wine storage – old wooden racks have rotten or been smashed. Kel and Pol looks through the ruin and come up with a wine bottle each, and Kel finds a yellowed sheet of paper, looking as though it has been torn from a book of some sort.

The three of you gather in front of the door, the barbarians in front, Pol just behind, peering eagerly around the barbarians’ legs. Kel listens carefully at the door and hears a faint rustling, like a broom swept across a stone floor. Wolfgar points to the top of the door, which has a wide hole worn between the top of the door and the stonework of the archway. “Guano,” he says quietly. and Kel nods.

Turning away from the door, Kel studies the parchment in his hands by the light of Pol’s torch. He turns it this way and that, then sighs in disgust. “I do not know many of these words, but it seems that there is some dangerous totem hidden in one of the ruined towers above us, or there was at one time.” The barbarian glances at Pol. “Can you read, child?”

Pol glances nervously at the page, says: “My mum was teaching me my letters before she died. After that I was apprenticed to the Mill in town, and they don’t care much if a boy can read, only cipher a little.” He looks at the paper and takes it furtively, “Let me see what I can sound out.” He reads haltingly from the page, sounding out vowel sounds and hard consonants. (He can barely read, and the Barbarians eventually get the gist of the note.)

The kid is sweating by the time he’s done, and he sinks to the floor with a sign of relief when Kel tells him to quit. He looks at the space between his feet, says, “Isn’t that a pull ring?”

Rising quickly, the boy scampers behind Wolfgar, who carefully tests the handle, revealing a passage and ladder leading down into darkness.

Kel pulls out one of the spare torches, lights it from Pol’s, and drops it into the darkness below. The torch drops into another stone hallway, that appears to end in the ladder and trapdoor the barbarians have discovered. The light illuminates nothing but stone and dust, and doesn’t appear to excite any hidden beasties.

Kel climbs swiftly down the ladder, and lifts the torch from the floor. The void pushes back against the light, the hallway dissolves into the inky darkness ahead. Wolfgar climbs down, followed by Pol, and together again, the party discusses their next move.

With his torch held low to the ground, Kel searches the dust for any signs of recent passage.Unable to discover anything, Kel extinguishes his torch and stows it. “I see no sign of passage here. I do not think that the creatures we fought above know of that trap door. Shall we see what lies ahead?”

Inching ahead, Kel eventually comes to a bend in the stonework. Pol moving up from behind illuminating a far wall. When Kel peers down the turn in the passage, he see a room up ahead about twenty feet. In that room stir dark figures moving about in dim torchlight, but clearly monstrous beast like they had fought above.

As he watches, Kel can see several of the smaller figures begin sparring. Kel takes a quick headcount of the figures he can see – 7 figures total, three probably medium sized, and four smaller figures.

Wolfgar sidles up to Kel and cups his ear and cocks his head to better hear talking, odd grunts and snorts communicating over the clangor of the sparring figures. He turns to Kel, whispering: “They’re scared to go up, I think. They keep talking about the ‘butchers’ who slew the chief.”

Pol has his makeshift dirk out, and is thrusting it at his own shadow a little down the hallway. The two barbarians turn to look at him with some irritation. He looks at them and looks ready to shout, but two fierce, silent shushes keep the boys exclamation to a hoarse whisper of: “Adventure!”

Kel scowls at Pol’s outburst. After a moment, however, his face softens. “Why not have a little adventure?” he whispers, unslinging the bow from his shoulder. He takes careful aim at one of the smaller creatures and lets fly.The arrow zips down the dim hallway into the poorly lit room. Kel doesn’t see the impact, but he hears it, and also the sound of the beast collapsing to the floor with a grunt. He knocks another arrow.

Kel sights the other sparring partner, looses, and lands the hit, the silhouette collapsing with a stifled scream and a thump.

Wolfgar steps up next to his friend, his blade free. “Why don’t you shoot the big shadows,” he suggests, before turning to Pol. “Stand absolutely still, boy. We’re working,” he commands the suddenly crestfallen child.

Kel laughs, “If I don’t let the big ones get to us, this fight will be no fun at all.”

One of the small shadows that wasn’t sparring launches a sling stone that bounces crazily off the ceiling. Another tosses a javelin that Wolfgar is barely able to escape, the sharp tip grazing his armor without drawing blood.

The other, larger creatures rush forward, their voices growling with unhinged menace, their features dark and malicious.

Kel fires an arrow directly into the face of the closest marauder, taking him in the throat and dropping him as the gurgles his own blood and dies. Kel Drops his bow and readies his axe., and Wolfgar steadies himself for the assault of the hulking figures closing rapidly with him.

Another sling stone arcs out of the dark, thumping Kel on the chest uselessly. A second javelin grazes Wolfgar, but does little more than scratch his weathered skin. “Missiles!” Wolfgar snorts in disgust.

But then the hulking shadows are upon them. Wolfgar slices deftly in the dim light, and the howling creature is suddenly concerned only with holding in his bowels as black blood and shit spill onto the floor. The second beast swings mightily for Kel, who parries with the haft of his axe. The blade of the beast’s curved sword cuts cleanly through the haft just below the axe head, leaving Kel holding just the club sized handle for a weapon.

Kel Looks at his shattered weapon for n instant before turning on his attacker with a wild look and the bunching of muscles that indicate his murderous intent. He swings the haft of the axe like a club, but the beast deflects it easily. WWolfgar jabs with his blade, black from the blood of its comrade, but this too is parried.The slinger charges, brandishing a small spear. He jabs at Wolfgar’s neck, cutting the huge man’s shoulder with the nicked edge of the spearhead.The beast before Kel strikes a furious blow that Kel cannot avoid, the sword cutting a ragged gash in the young barbarian’s arm .

Kel Looks at his shattered weapon for an instant before drawing his dagger with a wild look and the bunching of muscles that indicate his murderous intent. He swings the haft of the axe like a club, but the beast deflects it easily. The dagger comes under the parry, but the best sucks in his belly and arches his back and dodges the slice of the blade. Kel bluffs past the beast’s guard with a jab, and then cuts up with the end of his axe handle, catching the beast under the chin, shattering it’s jaw, and dropping it unconcious to the floor.

The javelin thrower throws his last missile, merely infuriating Wolfgar further, before fleeing for the closed door at the back of the stone room.

His chest heaving, Kel glares at his ruined axe before throwing the haft to the ground. He sheathes his dagger, then picks up one of the fallen scimitars, giving it a few experimental swings. Nodding in satisfaction, he reaches into his pack to retrieve a healing draught. “Well, Pol, what do you think of adventure now?”
 
The draught is thick as molasses and, spread on Kel’s wound, leaves the area tingling. Kel wraps the salved area with a bandage, and feels much better.

Pol bounds up, his attitude much improved. He slides around the barbarians patching up their hurts to the beast laying unconscious and spread-eagle on the flagstones. The boy pounces with his shiv, driving the tip of his knife up under the shattered jaw and into the brain. Black blood oozes out over the boy’s hands, and he looks up at the startled barbarians with a wide grin on his face. He slides the blade out and wipes it on the outermost sweater, and returns his knife triumphantly to his belt.

“I like it just fine,” he says with a barely contained giggle.

Kel shakes his head in bewilderment and grunts something unintelligible. Shrugging, he tells the boy, “Well, make yourself useful then, and help us search these things for valuables.”

The party moves into the room stripping the dead of their possessions and piling them in the middle of the room. The work is barely underway when the door in the south wall opens and three pig-men bustle through, followed by a large shirtless man, his face a mask of pustules, and the biggest axe kel has seen in his life held over one shoulder. Behind the axe man comes a fourth goblin – the runner from moments before.

Wolfgar draws his sword and takes a step towards the new foes, but a raised hand from the axe man stops him. He grunts something guttural, and motions at Kel. Wolfgar looks at the young barbarian, says: “He wants you, lad. One on one, to the death.”

The pig-men fan out across the room, but their weapons are sheathed. Wolfgar grabs Pol and drags him back.

The axe man steps into the middle of the room, takes his axe in both hands and waits, making chicken noises.
 
Grasping his new scimitar in both hands, Kel closes with his foe. A deep growl resonates from his chest, but his motions are quick and precise with no energy wasted. Suddenly, the barbarian ducks into his opponent’s blind spot and swings mightily upward.Suddenly the barbarian ducks into his opponent’s blind spot and swings mightily upward. The pustule-faced axe man is too slow for the swift grace of the barbarian’s attack, and the scimitar cuts deeply into the flank and ribcage of the hideous man. Kel release the hilt of the scimitar, and the axe man crumbles to his knees, before falling over on his horrible face, dead. Once the axe man falls there is a moment of tense consideration before everyone else goes for their weapon. Wolfgar closes the gap between himself and one of the pig-men and cuts it in half even as its hand moves to the hilt of his sword.Caution forgotten in the heat of battle, Kel bellows a victory cry. Muscles rippling beneath his skin, he lifts his fallen foe’s enormous axe over his head and hurls it at the nearest pig-man.

Despite the distance and ungainly heft of the axe, Kel manages a decent throw at the pig-man chosen as his target. However, the small beastman sidesteps the massive missile, but only just.

The two pig-men close with Kel, swinging wildly, as Kel ducks and dodges deftly. The second pig-man’s swing is so wild that Kel is able to counter with a haymaker, but his punch misses the wildly bucking beast thing.

The last goblin closes with Wolfgar, visibly gibbering and apparently in tears, hacking half-heartedly at the weathered barbarian, who merely stands aside. He jabs with his sword, and though it tries to avoid the tip of the blade, Wolfgar catches it between a rib and his blade slides right through the creature’s black heart. It dies with a sob on its lips.

Somewhat more clear-headed with death closing in from two sides, Kel dances back out of reach of the pig-men’s weapons, then stoops to wrench the scimitar from the corpse of his first attacker.

Kel wrenches the scimitar from the dead man, prepares for an attacker to advance – he swings as a pig-man steps up, his attack dodged by the snub-snouted half-man. The other beast steps up, and both swing, but Kel, cool headed, is able to get away from their nicking blades.

Wolfgar kicks the dead body off his blade and advances across the room, and his blade jabs at one of Kel’s attackers, who is able to turn the blade rather easily, as Wolfgar’s strike was rather straightforward.

Wolfgar chops clumsily with his shimmering blade and misses, and the pig-man swings ably, but is deftly parried by the barbarian.

Kel draws his dagger and swings both of his blades at the hated foe – who manages to dodge easily both ferocious attacks. Wolfgar jabs again, lancing his blade through the flank of the beast, it crying out in pain and sliding to its knees on the flagstones already slick with blood.

Sheathing his weapons, Kel turns his gaze to the corpse of the large man that challenged him.Kel looks over the body, which, laying on his face, reveals that the pustules were also on the axe man’s back. He’s naked to the waist, and doesnt appear to have much of anything on his person. Scattered about on the mats are other weapons, not used in the fight and carelessly strewn about

Sum total cash from all of the bodies is 25 silver.

Wolfgar hefts the axe man’s great axe, what looks to be a custom made affair from the adequate tooling to the obviously amatuer grade handle. The thing is overall pretty solidly built. Wolfgar tosses it to Kel, says “You want this.”
 
Kel tosses the axe back. “Quick strikes are more to my liking. This is too heavy to be of real use to me.” With that, he strides to the open door and surveys the other room.

Weapons and armor cast haphazardly about fill a chamber of stark stone. A woven mat covers about half of the floor, stained with blood spatters and dried gore. Hanging lamps provide greasy smoke and a foul odor as well as dim light. A large keg rests upon a chair in the corner. Ancient, rusty manacles hang here and there on the walls. The place reeks of sweat, urine, and blood. Pol comes behind Kel, and slips past him and grabs up a real set of padded armor. He begins to strip out of his sweaters and place this, more effective armor on his thing frame. He also grabs up a short sword from the floor, and discards his makeshift shank. A light wooden shield is leaned against a wall, and he tosses the crate lid he’s been using as a shield for this new, sturdier shield.

“What else do we want to do in here, fellows?” he asks brightly. Despite the stink and the gore, the kid still has a huge grin on his face.

There is another door in the south wall of this room, as well.

Wordlessly, Kel moves to inspect the manacles. Nodding to himself, he then sniffs at the contents of the keg.The keg is about a third full with what smells like grain liquor. The manacles have blood on them, some of it recent. Kel and Wolfgar both agree that the blood isn’t from one of these black blooded beasts, or even one like them. Both believe the blood to be human. Neither wants to discuss to whom it might belong.After Kel and Wolfgar finish their short conversation, Kel stalks toward the remaining door, a grim set to his jaw. He then listens carefully for a moment.

Kel listens intently for a moment, and hearing nothing, opens the door, Wolfgar and Pol close behind him as he steps into this new room.

The room is dimly illuminated, and Kel immediately smells beasts – the scent strong enough that the room could be a den. The room itself is a odd nexus of corridors.

Motioning Wolfgar to the right, Kel moves to the left side of the room and begins a circuit of it, peering down each corridor he passes.Kel and Wolfgar moving carefully, are able to sight what appear to be mountain lions, two of them, prowling about in the room ahead of them. They appear agitated, pacing about the room, snarling and hissing towards the barbarians they can plainly see.

Kel prepares himself in the archway for the onslaught of the felines. Agitated beyond caution they rush the barbarian whose swing is mighty but the cat’s lithe dodge evades the whistling blade easily. The mountain lion turns it’s dodge into a blindingly quick snap of powerful jaws. The second cat’s lunge is clumsy, and prompts a stinging riposte from the barbarian.

Wolfgar rushes up to the wounded beast and swings mightily, but nearly trips over the fury of his attack, yet he speedily recovers.

Noting the quickness of the beasts, Kel shortens the strokes of his scimitar, controlling the battle fury.

Kel eases off the fury a bit, and his two handed strike is skillful, but the mountain lion is more agile than the whirring blade.

The big cat twists about and tries to grip Kel’s arm, but he is able to lunge away just in time. The second cat turns on Wolfgar, but the elder barbarian steps aside and chops with his blade, stabbing between shoulder blade and ribs of his feline attackerand follows through with a killing stroke that takes the beast’s head clean off. Wolfgar roars in triumph, his face, chest and arm covered in steaming gore.Not to be outdone, Kel brings his axe overhead and chops at the remaining cat.Kel chops with the scimitar – and slices deep into the leg of the beast risen to paw at the young barbarian.

The remaining mountain lion reels back in pain with a roar, but returns to strike at Kel. The beast comes with fangs and claws, but the wily youth is able to avoid the claws and fangs.

Wolfgar steps up and hacks into the underbelly of the beast with an underhanded, upswinging chop of his broadsword.

The wounded beast snarls viciously at the barbarians. Kel swings, but the wild creature dances aside, shying away from the blow enough for the blade to miss. In that moment, as Kel recovers, the beast strikes and the steely thews of the barbarian’s leg, tearing flesh.Wolfgar’s blade misses its mark, and the beast dodges Kel’s blade. The wounded beast makes a desperate lunge for Kel, griping his wounded arm in its mouth. The overwhelming pain, coupled with the sudden weight of the big cat knocks Kel back, as he is unable to fend off the rapacious beast. Wolfgar tries to pull the beast off of his friend, punching with one hand as he pulls the beast free with the other. Exhausted, the beast succumbs to Wolfgar’s blows, the blood loss, and drops unconscious to the flagstones, slick with fresh blood.
 
In the sudden quiet following the scrape, as the roar of battle dims in their ears, both men and the boy hear the sound of mewling coming from the room ahead. Reeling from exhaustion and blood loss, Kel nevertheless brings his weapon to the ready.
 
He looks sidelong at Wolfgar, ascertaining that most of the blood covering the other barbarian is not his own. Then he calls over his shoulder, “Pol! The light!”

Pol’s light, brought up to the junction of the complex casts light brighter light into the central room. In the far corner, Kel’s sharp eyes detect movement. His blade readied, he steps up in front of Pol. As he’s about to charge, a mountain lion kitten saunters into the light – followed by a second, who promptly tackles the first.

The mountain lion kittens appear too young to have been weaned. Kel and Wolfgar look at each other and then at Pol. The boy gets defensive after a moment. “What?” he says. “I hate cats.”

The kittens have scampered down the hallway in the direction the light is coming from. Kel and Wolfgar follow slowly, rounding the corner to find the dim light filling an odd-shaped chamber. In the middle of it, floating over a dark pit, the barbarians see a gray-brown creature of unique and bizarre appearance. Spherical, it sports a massive central eye, with a number of eyes on long stalks on top, and long tendrils dangling from beneath it. The whole being stretches approximately five feet across. It glares at the men as they peer in.

Kel stands and stares openmouthed at the monstrosity before him. After a moment, he collects himself and turns to hiss at Pol, “Get back, boy.” Facing back front, he whispers to Wolfgar, “What is that thing?”

The creature does make a threatening move, lunging after a fashion at the barbarians. However, the beast appears to hit some invisible barrier, and as the barbarians jump at it’s aggressive move, it looks like it laughs uproariously, but neither man can hear a sound coming from the great thing.

The kittens below the floating eye-beast play on, unperturbed.

Kel shakes his head in bewilderment. “Yet more strangeness, eh? Enough of this. Perhaps it is time that we finished here for the day.”Exiting the way they came, the weary barbarians and the rambunctious youth stride through the gore in the main hallway and the stairwell to return to their camp. However, as they emerge into the noonday light, both Wolfgar and Kel hear the clanking weapons and kit of a patrol speaking in inhuman tongues.Kel puts his finger to his lips, then motions in a direction leading away from both the patrol and the camp. Without waiting for confirmation from the others, he begins to slip from cracked boulder to broken column, keeping his head down.The smhe small group skirts the boulders and pillars, scuttling from one to another until the sound of alien voices diminishes. Looking over his shoulder, for just an instant, Kel glimpses the party of hulking beasts, and thrown over the shoulder oer of the trailing member of that group, a woman. The wind whistles, and the rain threatens to pick up.Kel hisses, “Hold. The creatures have a hostage.” After briefly testing the wind with a finger, he continues, “I will draw off as many of them as possible. Make your move as soon as they are separated.” With that, he scrambles to a higher vantage point and looses an arrow at the lead beast-man.

By the time Kel reaches his vantage point, the first beast-man has entered the stairwell. A light drizzle begins to fall as Kel knocks his last arrow, takes aim and fires at the second creature, who looks like it’s pulling its hideous face into an even more hideous mask. He dances back ond forth from foot to foot like a comic jester might.

Kel’s arrow tears out the creature’s neck and ends its comic dance. Whatever jest it played at dies gurgling in it’s ruined throat, grim claws trying vainly to stem the tide of black blood welling over its clenched fingers. The party of beastly foes immediately halts and hunkers down. Kel, standing atop the hill is clearly silhouetted against the sky. He raises his bow and with a cry rushes down the hill at an angle from the foes he hopes to draw off.

With a roar four of the beasts charge after him, their leader vainly calling them back, it grasping the beast-man with the woman flung over its shoulder to keep him from chasing too. Wolfgar watches that pair and their hostage continue into the darkness, and rises to follow.

Kel runs down off the hill and into the forest, his pursuers not too far behind. The beast-men are strong and tireless, and the parties whip through the wilderness, Kel hoping to lose them in the undergrowth eventually. The beast-men seem to have other ideas, and looks as though they have no intention of flagging soon.

As Kel vaults a fallen tree, he notices that the woods here appear older and more wild than other woodlands he’s seen in the area, woods where the townsfolk have thinned them out for firewood or building material. Though mid-day, the storm clouds, misty rain and the denser foliage have significantly reduced the light. Kel, buying time for his friend to free the hostage he spied, begins to feel as though he were in a forbidden, secret part of the forest. Wispy tendrils of fog begin to wend their way around the roots and trunks of the trees, insinuating themselves in the branches of the low shrubs and ground cover.

Ahead, a vine covered wall about three foot high, seems to emerge from the foliage like an illusion. A rusted old gate stands wide, and Kel makes for it, figuring to lose his pursuers by vaulting the wall from somewhere inside, if there are no buildings to hide from them in. He passes the gate and takes a handful of astounded strides within the confines of the wall before he stops. Kel stands on a shoreline tossed with broken boulders the size of houses. A cold wind blows off a sea thick with spray and salt. The sun overhead makes the water sparkle brilliantly all the way to the horizon as a woman in a diaphanous ivory dress approaches Kel, nimbly and quickly navigating the jagged rocks. She reaches him even before he expects, stopping just out of arm’s reach. Her slender face, her green eyes, and her auburn hair make her a striking vision, but it is what she holds in her lithe hand that makes her truly remarkable. By all appearances, she has plucked a star down from the darkening, twilight sky and now holds it out to Kel.

The woman smiles gently: “I serve the Lady of whom you speak, but there is no need to kneel before me. Please rise,” she gestures and Kel does as he is bidden. “I am Giamisa, and I offer you a gift of knowledge and vision – both of which are blessings from the one to whom you wish to bow.” Kel looks closely at her hand, at the star he thought she held, and sees a tiny glowing orb.Kel tentatively reaches out and grasps the orb as gently as possible, afraid of breaking the miniature ball.

As Kel touches it, the glowing sphere feels warm to his touch and makes his skin tingle. Giamisa says, “The past shapes the present as well as the future. Learn from those who have come before.”

The sound of barking brings Kel gently back to the world. His eyes are still locked on his fingertips where he had held the orb – his skin still tingles – but his hand is empty. He looks towards the commotion and sees one of the creatures he was leading off at the edge of the gate, afraid to come further. It beckons him out and growls a challenge, but the barbarian just looks at him blankly for a moment. Impatient and a little frightened the creature vanishes into the undergrowth.

Coming fully awake Kel looks about him – three of his pursuers lie dead at his feet. His hand holds his scimitar, covered in their black ichor. Kel stands in the courtyard of a ruined temple – but he sees as easily as if it were fresh, the faded image of a crescent moon above a ruined doorway.

After wiping the gore from his blade, Kel returns it to his belt. He then busies himself with removing the corpses from this holy place, first stripping them of anything valuable.

The temple is built in a wide crescent that runs from where each gate is hinged, ringing the courtyard in which Kel stands. It looks as though tall spires grew from the widest part of the ruin, but those have collapsed. There is no trace o fire or look as though there was any real disturbance here. The ruin looks like the progression of time without the benefit or humans keeping up with the maintenance.

In what Kel assumes is the main portion of the temple, wide iron double doors are locked. He tries to force them open, but has no luck. There are other doors, but they too are similarly locked.

The courtyard free of beastly interlopers once more, Kel sets about regaining his bearings. This temple intrigues him, but it must wait. For now, he will return to the other ruins, committing the route to memory for a time yet to come.

 

Comments

His brows knotted in righteous fury, Kel springs into the room without caution and rushes toward the evil altar. Summoning every ounce of his strength, he growls low and feral as his body slams into the stone slab with a reverberating thud.

(If I can’t dislodge the altar through strength alone, I’ll start hacking at it with my axe until Wolfgar, or combat, stops me.)

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The altar doesn’t budge from the force of the Kel’s impact. Kel turns to his axe and begin frantically chopping at it, screaming and frothing (Kel is effectively raging). Wolfgar and Pol stand dumbfounded in the doorway.

Kel’s axe strike repeatedly at the stained surface of the altar, the blade striking sparks, but doing no damage to the stone. Kel rears up and with both hands brings the axe down in the most powerful blow he can manage with his muscular frame, the blade of the axe chipping off a small chunk of the altar. Almost immediately the room begins to shake, as if the architecture itself is furious and only barely restraining itself. Stunned by this reaction, Kel regains himself. Dark curtains, hung across the back of the room are rent by the quaking, black paint flakes off the ceiling and drops to the floor as the sound of the ceiling cracking splits the grim, fetid air in this ugly temple.

Wolfgar orders the boy to stay still and marches resolutely across the quaking floor to get grab his young friend, agog amidst the chaos. Wolfgar’s big hands clasp Kel tightly by the shoulder and drags him stumbling from the room.

The shaking subsides gradually when Kel crosses the temple’s threshold. Pol looks up, his face glowing with admiration, beneath the hand covering his mouth to keep the awful reek of rotting flesh from his nostrils. “Adventure,” he crows.

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(the text looks to me like it has been successfully translated to the log proper.

Also, this is not the only way out, and this room is huge. I will put the map up tomorrow when I have some time to draw and photograph it. There is a narrow staircase that leads to a landing further down the hall.)

As the shaking stops, Kel regains his senses. Peering into the room, he can see that the chipped paint of the ceiling has uncovered a far older fresco of what looks like stars. Through the rent curtain is also a faded fresco that looks like figures amidst trees.

Wolfgar gazes amazedly, says: “What was this place?”

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(I still can’t see it. It must be tagged GM only. Also, ignore my previous post in favor of this one.)

After sweeping a puzzled gaze across the old artwork, Kel steps cautiously back into the room. He turns toward the others and muses, “Perhaps the vision I told you of is related to this place.” Replacing his axe at his belt, he approaches the altar with measured gait. Putting his hunters’ training to use, he begins a careful study of the altar and the alcove behind it.

(I’m specifically looking for any symbols related to the moon but keeping an eye out for anything unusual.)

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Wolfgar snorts, says, “What would a goddess want with your scrawny bones?” He leans against the wall inside the door, his drawn sword held loosely in his massive hand.

Kel finds little of interest about the altar, but with one glance behind the curtains, he reaches up and heaves down the whole contraption holding them up. On the wall before him is a woodland scene, complete with dancing fey creatures from legend cavorting is soft gray light. He turns to Wolfgar with a grimace, says, “Perhaps she wants me to drive the evil from her sacred places.”

Pol, wandering about the room, his head tilted crazily to gaze at the ceiling, young eyes squinting near closed, gasps. “There, where the paints rubbed off from the shakes, can you see it? There’s a moon up there!” He runs to Wolfgar and carefully points out the dim shape nearly missed beneath black paint.

“Moon goddess, you said?” Wolfgar asks Kel, who nods. “Then I guess we’re at her service,” Wolfgar says with a sigh.

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(Heh. I really like the way the barbarians play off of each other. One finding new purpose in a holy quest, the other cynical and barely tolerating it. I’m a little lost as to the dimensions of the area, so I’ll wait to post another action until you’ve had time to put the map up.)

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(Thanks for the map. That’s not how I was visualizing the room at all.)

Kel shakes his head, as if clearing it. “Would that we could spend more time here, but the evils lurking within this place will not cleanse themselves. We must press onward.” Suddenly, he cocks his head to the side, a pondering look in his eyes, before striding purposefully to the rear of the chamber. There, he begins tapping the stone with the hilt of his dagger, listening intently.

(I don’t trust that dead end corridor at the back. I’m looking for secret doors.)

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(Kel’s search on that wall is fruitless, but as he continues to probe, down the hallway behind the altar (which had been obscured by curtains) Kel finds that the wall at the end on the southern passage is false, and swings if pushed hard enough. Kel finds himself standing in the room he had barricaded with the iron rod, and previously searched.)

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Kel returns to his companions. “This way leads back where we have already been.” With one last glance around the desecrated chapel, he exits back into the main hall. “Follow closely, Pol.”

(I’m heading for the next door. As usual, I’ll listen at it first.)

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Up the narrow steps of the landing to a wide doorway the small party goes. Kel listens carefully, his back pressed to the stone, straining to hear – but hears nothing but the crackling torch Pol holds fifteen feet away or so. He looks at Wolfgar, who shrugs.

(I’m assuming that, hearing nothing, they’ll go in the room.) Kel ducks around the corner, and is greeted by a dark room. After a several heartbeats Pol pushes up behind the barbarian, and his torch throws some illumination on rubble, old barrels and casks, rotted wooden crates, and other debris clog the area. Cobwebs fill the corners. The air is dank.

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(Maps up.)

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Recalling his earlier experience with a similar room, Kel says, “Spread out and look for any hidden dangers, but don’t touch anything.”

(My search will finish at the other door. Listen, then open once the others join me.)

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Aside from the debris scattered about the room, their appears to be nothing even of interest on the lower level ofthis room. The stairs lead up to what appears to have been the wine storage – old wooden racks have rotten or been smashed. Kel and Pol looks through the ruin and come up with a wine bottle each, and Kel finds a yellowed sheet of paper, looking as though it has been torn from a book of some sort. (I will email you the handout.)

The three of you gather in front of the door, the barbarians in front, Pol just behind, peering eagerly around the barbarians’ legs. Kel listens carefully at the door and hears a faint rustling, like a broom swept across a stone floor. Wolfgar points to the top of the door, which has a wide hole worn between the top of the door and the stonework of the archway. “Guano,” he says quietly. and Kel nods.

(do you still want to open the door?)

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(No. Let’s leave the bats alone.)

Turning away from the door, Kel studies the parchment in his hands by the light of Pol’s torch. He turns it this way and that, then sighs in disgust. “I do not know many of these words, but it seems that there is some dangerous totem hidden in one of the ruined towers above us, or there was at one time.” The barbarian glances at Pol. “Can you read, child?”

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Pol glances nervously at the page, says: “My mum was teaching me my letters before she died. After that I was apprenticed to the Mill in town, and they don’t care much if a boy can read, only cipher a little.” He looks at the paper and takes it furtively, “Let me see what I can sound out.” He reads haltingly from the page, sounding out vowel sounds and hard consonants. (He can barely read, and the Barbarians eventually get the gist of the note.)

The kid is sweating by the time he’s done, and he sinks to the floor with a sign of relief when Kel tells him to quit. He looks at the space between his feet, says, “Isn’t that a pull ring?”

Rising quickly, the boy scampers behind Wolfgar, who carefully tests the handle, revealing a passage and ladder leading down into darkness.

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Kel pulls out one of the spare torches, lights it from Pol’s, and drops it into the darkness below.

(Assuming the torch doesn’t go out, I’ll check to make sure I don’t see anything immediately dangerous, then start down.)

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The torch drops into another stone hallway, that appears to end in the ladder and trapdoor the barbarians have discovered. The light illuminates nothing but stone and dust, and doesn’t appear to excite any hidden beasties.

Kel climbs swiftly down the ladder, and lifts the torch from the floor. The void pushes back against the light, the hallway dissolves into the inky darkness ahead. Wolfgar climbs down, followed by Pol, and together again, the party discusses their next move.

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With his torch held low to the ground, Kel searches the dust for any signs of recent passage.

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(No recent tracks save the party’s.)

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Unable to discover anything, Kel extinguishes his torch and stows it. “I see no sign of passage here. I do not think that the creatures we fought above know of that trap door. Shall we see what lies ahead?”

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Inching ahead, Kel eventually comes to a bend in the stonework. Pol moving up from behind illuminating a far wall. When Kel peers down the turn in the passage, he see a room up ahead about twenty feet. In that room stir dark figures moving about in dim torchlight, but clearly monstrous beast like they had fought above.

As he watches, Kel can see several of the smaller figures begin sparring. Kel takes a quick headcount of the figures he can see – 7 figures total, three probably medium sized, and four smaller figures.

Wolfgar sidles up to Kel and cups his ear and cocks his head to better hear talking, odd grunts and snorts communicating over the clangor of the sparring figures. He turns to Kel, whispering: “They’re scared to go up, I think. They keep talking about the ‘butchers’ who slew the chief.”

Pol has his makeshift dirk out, and is thrusting it at his own shadow a little down the hallway. The two barbarians turn to look at him with some irritation. He looks at them and looks ready to shout, but two fierce, silent shushes keep the boys exclamation to a hoarse whisper of “Adventure!”

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(If you are going to attack, can you give me your surprise round action and what you want to do after the initiative so that I can calculate things out. I’ll stop and make adjustments if things go wrong…but I ran a test combat and you guys should do fine.)

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(Sorry about the delay. I wasn’t home much this weekend.)

Kel scowls at Pol’s outburst. After a moment, however, his face softens. “Why not have a little adventure?” he whispers, unslinging the bow from his shoulder. He takes careful aim at one of the smaller creatures and lets fly.

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The arrow zips down the dim hallway into the poorly lit room. Kel doesn’t see the impact, but he hears it, and also the sound of the beast collapsing to the floor with a grunt. He knocks another arrow.

(I’ll call that surprise, and then initiatives; Kel and Wolfgar, and then everyone else. You have at least one round before the nearest beast call close with Kel. I will have a map up soon as I can get some time alone to draw one.)

(In the meantime, I assume that Kel shoots another arrow – if he doesn’t, then let me now when you update.)

Kel sights the other sparring partner, looses, and lands the hit, the silhouette collapsing with a stifled scream and a thump.

Wolfgar steps up next to his friend, his blade free. “Why don’t you shoot the big shadows,” he suggests, before turning to Pol. “Stand absolutely still, boy. We’re working,” he commands the suddenly crestfallen child.

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(I’m happy with that action.)

Kel laughs, “If I don’t let the big ones get to us, this fight will be no fun at all.”

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One of the small shadows that wasn’t sparring launches a sling stone that bounces crazily off the ceiling. Another tosses a javelin that Wolfgar is barely able to escape, the sharp tip grazing his armor without drawing blood.

The other, larger creatures rush forward, their voices growling with unhinged menace, their features dark and malicious.

Kel fires an arrow directly into the face of the closest marauder, taking him in the throat and dropping him as the gurgles his own blood and dies. Kel Drops his bow and readies his axe., and Wolfgar steadies himself for the assault of the hulking figures closing rapidly with him.

Another sling stone arcs out of the dark, thumping Kel on the chest uselessly. A second javelin grazes Wolfgar, but does little more than scratch his weathered skin. “Missiles!” Wolfgar snorts in disgust.

But then the hulking shadows are upon them. Wolfgar slices deftly in the dim light, and the howling creature is suddenly concerned only with holding in his bowels as black blood and shit spill onto the floor. The second beast swings mightily for Kel, who parries with the haft of his axe. The blade of the beast’s curved sword cuts cleanly through the haft just below the axe head, leaving Kel holding just the club sized handle for a weapon. (That was max damage with a scimitar on your axe.)

(I imagine that Kel uses the axe handle as a weapon, and will progress as if that were the case. If that’s not what you would have done we can re-do it.)

Kel Looks at his shattered weapon for n instant before turning on his attacker with a wild look and the bunching of muscles that indicate his murderous intent. He swings the haft of the axe like a club, but the beast deflects it easily (Nat 20 on defense). Wolfgar jabs with his blade, black from the blood of its comrade, but this too is parried.

The slinger charges, brandishing a small spear. He jabs at Wolfgar’s neck, cutting the huge man’s shoulder with the nicked edge of the spearhead. (2 damage after DR on a max crit.) The beast before Kel strikes a furious blow that Kel cannot avoid, the sword cutting a ragged gash in the young barbarian’s arm (7 damage after DR).

Kel bluffs past the beast’s guard with a jab, and then cuts up with the end of his axe handle, catching the beast under the chin, shattering it’s jaw, and dropping it unconcious to the floor. Wolfgar turns and brings his sword down to ruin the monstrous face and head of the beast that stung him. The creatures doesn’t even cry out as his head caves in beneath the force of the blow, and his breath rattles wetly in it’s chest as it dies.

The javelin thrower throws his last missile, merely infuriating Wolfgar further, before fleeing for the closed door at the back of the stone room.

Wolfgar looks at the bleeding Kel, says, “So much for adventure, eh, lad?”

(The one that hurt you so bad started combat with one hit point and refused to die.)

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(The only thing I would change is that I always draw my dagger for two-weapon fighting once melee begins.)

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(My power has been out all day, so I will update in the morning. I was thinking you could heal. I only remember you dual wielding during the first fight on the stairs, and that not going so well. Your rolls during that last combat were so bad there was no fudging them. seriously, 1s, 2s, and 3s, do not equal a hit.)

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(There have only really been three fights before this one, I guess, so I shouldn’t have said always. But the fact remains that I intended this character to be a dual-wielder. The only reason I wouldn’t draw my dagger would be if I needed to remain mobile, which was not the case here.)

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(Now, re-done with a dagger!)Kel Looks at his shattered weapon for n instant before drawing his dagger with a wild look and the bunching of muscles that indicate his murderous intent. He swings the haft of the axe like a club, but the beast deflects it easily (Nat 20 on defense). The dagger comes under the parry, but the best sucks in his belly and arches his back and dodges the slice of the blade.

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Kel bluffs past the beast’s guard with a jab, and then cuts up with the end of his axe handle, catching the beast under the chin, shattering it’s jaw, and dropping it unconcious to the floor.

(The dagger attacks whiff. Seriously – I don’t think Kel is meant to dual wield; his ability to hit with two weapons, while potentially devastating, means nothing if he never rolls higher than a 7. Just an observation.)

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His chest heaving, Kel glares at his ruined axe before throwing the haft to the ground. He sheathes his dagger, then picks up one of the fallen scimitars, giving it a few experimental swings. Nodding in satisfaction, he reaches into his pack to retrieve a healing draught. “Well, Pol, what do you think of adventure now?”

The Approaching Storm
 

The draught is thick as molasses and, spread on Kel’s wound, leaves the area tingling. Kel wraps the salved area with a bandage, and feels much better. (5 temporary hp)

Pol bounds up, his attitude much improved. He slides around the barbarians patching up their hurts to the beast laying unconscious and spread-eagle on the flagstones. The boy pounces with his shiv, driving the tip of his knife up under the shattered jaw and into the brain. Black blood oozes out over the boy’s hands, and he looks up at the startled barbarians with a wide grin on his face. He slides the blade out and wipes it on the outermost sweater, and returns his knife triumphantly to his belt.

“I like it just fine,” he says with a barely contained giggle.

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Kel shakes his head in bewilderment and grunts something unintelligible. Shrugging, he tells the boy, “Well, make yourself useful then, and help us search these things for valuables.”

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The party moves into the room stripping the dead of their possessions and piling them in the middle of the room. The work is barely underway when the door in the south wall opens and three pig-men bustle through, followed by a large shirtless man, his face a mask of pustules, and the biggest axe kel has seen in his life held over one shoulder. Behind the axe man comes a fourth goblin – the runner from moments before.

Wolfgar draws his sword and takes a step towards the new foes, but a raised hand from the axe man stops him. He grunts something guttural, and motions at Kel. Wolfgar looks at the young barbarian, says: “He wants you, lad. One on one, to the death.”

The pig-men fan out across the room, but their weapons are sheathed. Wolfgar grabs Pol and drags him back.

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The axe man steps into the middle of the room, takes his axe in both hands and waits, making chicken noises.

(Sorry, the cat posted before I finished. He’s in the middle of the room, and Kel is at least ten feet from him, equipped with scimitar, dagger and bow + arrows, though not all at once since I assume Kel was stacking gear like the others.)

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Grasping his new scimitar in both hands, Kel closes with his foe. A deep growl resonates from his chest, but his motions are quick and precise with no energy wasted. Suddenly, the barbarian ducks into his opponent’s blind spot and swings mightily upward.

(I’m fighting defensively for the first round [-4 to hit, +2 Defense] in case he readied an attack. In the second round, I’ll switch to To the Hilt [+2 damage, stuck weapon if unmodified damage roll is greater than 3]. Once my weapon is stuck in him, he’ll take 1d6 points of damage for every action he takes, at which point I’ll draw my dagger and use Total Defense until he dies or pulls the scimitar out.)

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(By the way, I’m assuming from the description that this guy isn’t wearing armor. My tactics would have to be different if he is.)

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(Oh no, he’s not wearing armor.)

Suddenly the barbarian ducks into his opponent’s blind spot and swings mightily upward. The pustule-faced axe man is too slow for the swift grace of the barbarian’s attack, and the scimitar cuts deeply into the flank and ribcage of the hideous man. Kel release the hilt of the scimitar, and the axe man crumbles to his knees, before falling over on his horrible face, dead. (His great axe falls on the flagstones next to his corpse.)

(Max damage – again. I think I ought to roll real dice since you just Indiana Jones’d my set-piece.)

Once the axe man falls there is a moment of tense consideration before everyone else goes for their weapon. Wolfgar closes the gap between himself and one of the pig-men and cuts it in half even as its hand moves to the hilt of his sword.

(Kel is the next in the initiative. He is 30 feet from two of the pig-men, who are ten feet apart.)

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Caution forgotten in the heat of battle, Kel bellows a victory cry. Muscles rippling beneath his skin, he lifts his fallen foe’s enormous axe over his head and hurls it at the nearest pig-man.

(I don’t particularly expect this to be effective, but it looks cool in my head. Next round, I’ll retrieve the scimitar and start to mop up.)

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Despite the distance and ungainly heft of the axe, Kel manages a decent throw at the pig-man chosen as his target. However, the small beastman sidesteps the massive missile, but only just.

The two pig-men close with Kel, swinging wildly, as Kel ducks and dodges deftly. The second pig-man’s swing is so wild that Kel is able to counter with a haymaker, but his punch misses the wildly bucking beast thing.

The last goblin closes with Wolfgar, visibly gibbering and apparently in tears, hacking half-heartedly at the weathered barbarian, who merely stands aside. He jabs with his sword, and though it tries to avoid the tip of the blade, Wolfgar catches it between a rib and his blade slides right through the creature’s black heart. It dies with a sob on its lips.

(Kel’s go.)

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Somewhat more clear-headed with death closing in from two sides, Kel dances back out of reach of the pig-men’s weapons, then stoops to wrench the scimitar from the corpse of his first attacker.

(Assuming that I make the DC 10 Strength check, I’ll ready a two-handed Power Attack against the first pig-man to step up.)

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Kel wrenches the scimitar from the dead man, prepares for an attacker to advance – he swings as a pig-man steps up, his attack dodged by the snub-snouted half-man. The other beast steps up, and both swing, but Kel, cool headed, is able to get away from their nicking blades.

Wolfgar kicks the dead body off his blade and advances across the room, and his blade jabs at one of Kel’s attackers, who is able to turn the blade rather easily, as Wolfgar’s strike was rather straightforward.

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Leaving one enemy for Wolfgar, Kel focuses his attention on the other. He swings mightily with the scimitar (two-handed Power Attack), then drops his left hand off the haft on the followthrough to draw his dagger.

(I know you don’t think Kel should fight with two weapons, but I’m stubborn.)

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Kel’s mighty swing takes his beastly attacker by surprise, shearing its misshapen head off at the snout, spurting black blood fills the void. (I may have given you too big a bonus on damage, but it doesn’t matter since your normal damage kills him outright.}

Wolfgar chops clumsily with his shimmering blade and misses, and the pig-man swings ably, but is deftly parried by the barbarian.

Kel draws his dagger and swings both of his blades at the hated foe – who manages to dodge easily both ferocious attacks. Wolfgar jabs again, lancing his blade through the flank of the beast, it crying out in pain and sliding to its knees on the flagstones already slick with blood. (Good god – worst rolls ever!)

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(You and Wolfgar are now Level 2! Hooray!)

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Sheathing his weapons, Kel turns his gaze to the corpse of the large man that challenged him.

(Level Up: Climb +1, Hide +1, Jump +2, Listen +1, Move Silently +1, Spot +1. A question: Is the Crimson Mist ability [fly into rage on successful save vs. Terror once/day] ever going to come into play in this campaign? If it won’t, can we swap it for something else?)

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(It will, it simply hasn’t yet. I figured it would be for any Will save that was made versus a mind affecting spell or ability, including terror.)

(Kel gets 9 additional hp. Wolfgar gets 8 hp.)

(What are you looking for on the body? Loot?)

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(Also, I know I talked to you about the possibility one of the times we were face to face, but I have decided that a natural 20 on attack or defense will result in an opportunity attack. This way we don’t have overlapping criticals, and the maxed damage crits do a ton of damage, while an extra attack has the opportunity to wreak havoc. Also, as we’re leveling up, I’ll allow one feat to be switched if you want. Wolfgar never uses Power Attack, so I traded it for Combat Reflexes, which he might find more useful. Questions? Concerns? Actions?)

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(Also, I know I talked to you about the possibility one of the times we were face to face, but I have decided that a natural 20 on attack or defense will result in an opportunity attack. This way we don’t have overlapping criticals, and the maxed damage crits do a ton of damage, while an extra attack has the opportunity to wreak havoc. Also, as we’re leveling up, I’ll allow one feat to be switched if you want. Wolfgar never uses Power Attack, so I traded it for Combat Reflexes, which he might find more useful. Questions? Concerns? Actions?)

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(Looking for loot, but also any sign of affiliation or rank. I figure Wolfgar and Pol are probably similarly occupied with the other bodies.)

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Kel looks over the body, which, laying on his face, reveals that the pustules were also on the axe man’s back. He’s naked to the waist, and doesnt appear to have much of anything on his person. Scattered about on the mats are other weapons, not used in the fight and carelessly strewn about (4 of any one handed martial or any simple, should you want them. I’ll let you pick which ones). Sum total cash from all of the bodies is 25 silver.

Wolfgar hefts the axe man’s great axe, what looks to be a custom made affair from the adequate tooling to the obviously amatuer grade handle. The thing is overall pretty solidly built. Wolfgar tosses it to Kel, says “You want this.”

(Great Axe – custom built, two handed martial weapon that does 2d6)

The door stands open to the other room in the south wall, and though a torch flickers in the dark beyond the door, no other sign of attackers is evident.

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Kel tosses the axe back. “Quick strikes are more to my liking. This is too heavy to be of real use to me.” With that, he strides to the open door and surveys the other room.

(Kel’s objection would make more sense under AD&D rules. Oh well.)

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(I was trying to give Kel something cool. I thought Kel was into axes? I’ll post up a description of the other room later.)

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Weapons and armor cast haphazardly about fill a chamber of stark stone. A woven mat covers about half of the floor, stained with blood spatters and dried gore. Hanging lamps provide greasy smoke and a foul odor as well as dim light. A large keg rests upon a chair in the corner. Ancient, rusty manacles hang here and there on the walls. The place reeks of sweat, urine, and blood. Pol comes behind Kel, and slips past him and grabs up a real set of padded armor. He begins to strip out of his sweaters and place this, more effective armor on his thing frame. He also grabs up a short sword from the floor, and discards his makeshift shank. A light wooden shield is leaned against a wall, and he tosses the crate lid he’s been using as a shield for this new, sturdier shield.

“What else do we want to do in here, fellows?” he asks brightly. Despite the stink and the gore, the kid still has a huge grin on his face.

There is another door in the south wall of this room, as well.

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Wordlessly, Kel moves to inspect the manacles. Nodding to himself, he then sniffs at the contents of the keg.

(I mainly want to know if the manacles have been used recently.)

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(I read that initially as Kel sniffing the manacles to ascertain if they had been used recently.)

The keg is about a third full with what smells like grain liquor. The manacles have blood on them, some of it recent. Kel and Wolfgar both agree that the blood isn’t from one of these black blooded beasts, or even one like them. Both believe the blood to be human. Neither wants to discuss to whom it might belong.

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After Kel and Wolfgar finish their short conversation, Kel stalks toward the remaining door, a grim set to his jaw. He then listens carefully for a moment.

(If I don’t hear anything, I’ll open the door normally. If I do hear something, I’ll boot the door in.)

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Kel listens intently for a moment, and hearing nothing, opens the door, Wolfgar and Pol close behind him as he steps into this new room.

The room is dimly illuminated, and Kel immediately smells beasts – the scent strong enough that the room could be a den. The room itself is a odd nexus of corridors.

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(How odd? Map?)

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(Lara left her camera at work, so we’re going to have to wing it.)

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Motioning Wolfgar to the right, Kel moves to the left side of the room and begins a circuit of it, peering down each corridor he passes.

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(The room you enter is a wide triangle that is roughly 30-40 ft. This triangle empties into another room that has other corridors leading off in two other directions, northeast, and south east.)

Kel and Wolfgar moving carefully, are able to sight what appear to be mountain lions, two of them, prowling about in the room ahead of them (the corridor room). They appear agitated, pacing about the room, snarling and hissing towards the barbarians they can plainly see.

(Kel’s go, then the lions, then Wolfgar.)

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(Is there a bottleneck where the triangle meets the other room? If there is, I’ll move up to it and hold a two-handed Power Attack with my scimitar on the first lion to approach. If there isn’t, I’ll charge the nearest lion with a two-handed Power Attack, ending in a position to use Cleave if possible.)

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(I’ll get to this as soon as I can. Late night means I’ll have to update in the morning sometime.)

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(Sorry about the delay.)

(Kel was about fifteen feet from the bottleneck, which is ten feet wide.)

Kel prepares himself in the archway for the onslaught of the felines. Agitated beyond caution they rush the barbarian whose swing is mighty but the cat’s lithe dodge evades the whistling blade easily. The mountain lion turns it’s dodge into a blindingly quick snap of powerful jaws – (4 damage after dr). The second cat’s lunge is clumsy, and prompts a stinging riposte from the barbarian (7 damage, after dr).

Wolfgar rushes up to the wounded beast and swings mightily, but nearly trips over the fury of his attack, yet he speedily recovers. (He had a total of +10 to his attack, a surefire hit, right, unless he rolls a one. Which of course, he had to do.)

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Noting the quickness of the beasts, Kel shortens the strokes of his scimitar, controlling the battle fury.

(No more Power Attack, but I’m still attacking two-handed. I’ll go for the injured one. If it goes down, I’ll step into its space after my Cleave attempt.)

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Kel eases off the fury a bit, and his two handed strike is skillful, but the mountain lion is more agile than the whirring blade.

The big cat twists about and tries to grip Kel’s arm, but he is able to lunge away just in time. The second cat turns on Wolfgar, but the elder barbarian steps aside and chops with his blade, stabbing between shoulder blade and ribs of his feline attacker (nat 20), and follows through with a killing stroke that takes the beast’s head clean off. Wolfgar roars in triumph, his face, chest and arm covered in steaming gore.

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Not to be outdone, Kel brings his axe overhead and chops at the remaining cat.

(Trying To the Hilt again, as there’s really no reason not to use it against a solo opponent. Of course, if natural armor counts as armor for the purposes of the manoeuvre, I can’t use it. In that case, I’ll use a normal two-handed attack.)

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(Scimitar, rather? And I’m counting the nat armor as armor.)

Kel chops with the scimitar – and slices deep into the leg of the beast risen to paw at the young barbarian. (10 damage after DR.)

The remaining mountain lion reels back in pain with a roar, but returns to strike at Kel. The beast comes with fangs and claws, but the wily youth is able to avoid the claws and fangs.

Wolfgar steps up and hacks into the underbelly of the best with an underhanded, upswinging chop of his broadsword. (11 damage after DR.)

(The beast is terribly wounded, but looks capable of continuing the fight.)

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(I was thinking scimitar. I’m not sure why it came out of my fingers as axe. Unless this thing hits me again, I can’t think of anything to do but hack at it until it dies. Well, that and wonder just how two mountain lions managed to get down here in the first place.)

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The wounded beast snarl viciously at the barbarians. Kel swings, but the wild creature dances aside, shying away from the blow enough for the blade to miss. In that moment, as Kel recovers, the beast strikes and the steely thews of the barbarian’s leg, tearing flesh. (3 damage after DR.) Wolfgar’s blade misses its mark, and the beast dodges Kel’s blade. The wounded beast makes a desperate lunge for Kel, griping his wounded arm in its mouth (1 after DR leaves Kel at 2 hp). The overwhelming pain, coupled with the sudden weight of the big cat knocks Kel back, as he is unable to fend off the rapacious beast. Wolfgar tries to pull the beast off of his friend, punching with one hand as he pulls the beast free with the other. Exhausted, the beast succumbs to Wolfgar’s blows, the blood loss, and drops unconscious to the flagstones, slick with fresh blood.

(Yay rules for multiple grapplers!)

In the sudden quiet following the scrape, as the roar of battle dims in their ears, both men and the boy hear the sound of mewling, coming from the room ahead.

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Reeling from exhaustion and blood loss, Kel nevertheless brings his weapon to the ready. He looks sidelong at Wolfgar, ascertaining that most of the blood covering the other barbarian is not his own. Then he calls over his shoulder, “Pol! The light!”

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(The entire complex is lit dimly by light coming from the southeast.) Pol’s light, brought up to the junction of the complex casts light brighter light into the central room. In the far corner, Kel’s sharp eyes detect movement. His blade readied, he steps up in front of Pol. As he’s about to charge, a mountain lion kitten saunters into the light – followed by a second, who promptly tackles the first.

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(How old do these kittens look? If they’re not weaned yet, it’d probably be best to put them out of their misery. If they’re a little older, they could make interesting pets.)

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The mountain lion kittens appear too young to have been weaned. Kel and Wolfgar look at each other and then at Pol. The boy gets defensive after a moment. “What?” he says. “I hate cats.”

The kittens have scampered down the hallway in the direction the light is coming from. Kel and Wolfgar follow slowly, rounding the corner to find the dim light filling an odd-shaped chamber. In the middle of it, floating over a dark pit, the barbarians see a gray-brown creature of unique and bizarre appearance. Spherical, it sports a massive central eye, with a number of eyes on long stalks on top, and long tendrils dangling from beneath it. The whole being stretches approximately five feet across. It glares at the men as they peer in.

(Sorry the updates have been spotty – been busy at home and school is really ramping up. I will continue, it just might take some time between posts.)

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(No worries. I’m not sure that I necessarily would have wanted to follow the kittens out of the room, but what’s done is done.)

Kel stands and stares openmouthed at the monstrosity before him. After a moment, he collects himself and turns to hiss at Pol, “Get back, boy.” Facing back front, he whispers to Wolfgar, “What is that thing?”

(There is no way in hell I am fighting a beholder with only 2 hp left. If it makes an aggressive move, it’s time to retreat.)

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The creature does make a threatening move, lunging after a fashion at the barbarians. However, the beast appears to hit some invisible barrier, and as the barbarians jump at it’s aggressive move, it looks like it laughs uproariously, but neither man can hear a sound coming from the great thing.

The kittens below the floating eye-beast play on, unperturbed.

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Kel shakes his head in bewilderment. “Yet more strangeness, eh? Enough of this. Perhaps it is time that we finished here for the day.”

(I think it’s time to head back to camp.)

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(Loot is four short swords, the custom great axe, and 25 silver.)

Exiting the way they came, the weary barbarians and the rambunctious youth stride through the gore in the main hallway and the stairwell to return to their camp. However, as they emerge into the noonday light, both Wolfgar and Kel hear the clanking weapons and kit of a patrol speaking in inhuman tongues.

(The party is at the top of the stairs leading down, their camp is behind a pillar one hundred feet above just below the crest of the hill’s summit. They can only hear voices and rattling equipment as yet, and don’t believe they’ve been spotted.)

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(If there is enough rubble to have a decent chance of pulling it off…)

Kel puts his finger to his lips, then motions in a direction leading away from both the patrol and the camp. Without waiting for confirmation from the others, he begins to slip from cracked boulder to broken column, keeping his head down.

(The idea is to get a decent distance away before doubling back to the camp. If we get spotted, I don’t want to have to uproot everything after we got so nicely dug in and hidden.)

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The small group skirts the boulders and pillars, scuttling from one to another until the sound of alien voices diminishes. Looking over his shoulder, for just an instant, Kel glimpses the party of hulking beasts, and thrown over the shoulder of the trailing member of that group, a woman. The wind whistles, and the rain threatens to pick up.

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(Son of a bitch.)

Kel hisses, “Hold. The creatures have a hostage.” After briefly testing the wind with a finger, he continues, “I will draw off as many of them as possible. Make your move as soon as they are separated.” With that, he scrambles to a higher vantage point and looses an arrow at the lead beast-man.

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(Kel looses his final arrow, by the way.)

By the time Kel reaches his vantage point, the first beast-man has entered the stairwell. A light drizzle begins to fall as Kel knocks his last arrow, takes aim and fires at the second creature, who looks like it’s pulling its hideous face into an even more hideous mask. He dances back ond forth from foot to foot like a comic jester might.

Kel’s arrow tears out the creature’s neck and ends its comic dance. Whatever jest it played at dies gurgling in it’s ruined throat, grim claws trying vainly to stem the tide of black blood welling over its clenched fingers. The party of beastly foes immediately halts and hunkers down. Kel, standing atop the hill is clearly silhouetted against the sky. He raises his bow and with a cry rushes down the hill at an angle from the foes he hopes to draw off.

With a roar four of the beasts charge after him, their leader vainly calling them back, it grasping the beast-man with the woman flung over its shoulder to keep him from chasing too. Wolfgar watches that pair and their hostage continue into the darkness, and rises to follow.

(I assume Kel is running to draw them away. Correct me please if I’m wrong.)

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(You assume correctly. I want to keep them chasing me as long as possible, so I’m not trying to lose them, just stay ahead of them. If they corner me or give up the chase before I think Wolfgar will have had time to get the girl out, I’ll fight. Otherwise, I’ll start trying to lose them in the forest after a few minutes.

I didn’t expect to use many missile weapons in a dungeon campaign, but that bow has turned out to be really useful. I’ll have to remember to buy arrows next time we’re in town.)

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Kel runs down off the hill and into the forest, his pursuers not too far behind. The beast-men are strong and tireless, and the parties whip through the wilderness, Kel hoping to lose them in the undergrowth eventually. The beast-men seem to have other ideas, and looks as though they have no intention of flagging soon.

As Kel vaults a fallen tree, he notices that the woods here appear older and more wild than other woodlands he’s seen in the area, woods where the townsfolk have thinned them out for firewood or building material. Though mid-day, the storm clouds, misty rain and the denser foliage have significantly reduced the light. Kel, buying time for his friend to free the hostage he spied, begins to feel as though he were in a forbidden, secret part of the forest. Wispy tendrils of fog begin to wend their way around the roots and trunks of the trees, insinuating themselves in the branches of the low shrubs and ground cover.

Ahead, a vine covered wall about three foot high, seems to emerge from the foliage like an illusion. A rusted old gate stands wide, and Kel makes for it, figuring to lose his pursuers by vaulting the wall from somewhere inside, if there are no buildings to hide from them in. He passes the gate and takes a handful of astounded strides within the confines of the wall before he stops. Kel stands on a shoreline tossed with broken boulders the size of houses. A cold wind blows off a sea thick with spray and salt. The sun overhead makes the water sparkle brilliantly all the way to the horizon as a woman in a diaphanous ivory dress approaches Kel, nimbly and quickly navigating the jagged rocks. She reaches him even before he expects, stopping just out of arm’s reach. Her slender face, her green eyes, and her auburn hair make her a striking vision, but it is what she holds in her lithe hand that makes her truly remarkable. By all appearances, she has plucked a star down from the darkening, twilight sky and now holds it out to Kel.

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Awestruck, Kel falls to his knees before the woman. “I know you now, Lady. What is it you wish of me?”

(I can’t remember what the sage told us about the moon goddess, and the permissions on that log post are still messed up, so I’m just going to have to wing this.)

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(I fixed the permissions, but now the formatting is hell of broken – so I will have to fix it, but you should be able to read it.)

The woman smiles gently: “I serve the Lady of whom you speak, but there is no need to kneel before me. Please rise,” she gestures and Kel does as he is bidden. “I am Giamisa, and I offer you a gift of knowledge and vision – both of which are blessings from the one to whom you wish to bow.” Kel looks closely at her hand, at the star he thought she held, and sees a tiny glowing orb.

(You accept the gift? Y/N)

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(I can indeed read it. Thank you.)

Kel tentatively reaches out and grasps the orb as gently as possible, afraid of breaking the miniature ball.

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As Kel touches it, the glowing sphere feels warm to his touch and makes his skin tingle. Giamisa says, “The past shapes the present as well as the future. Learn from those who have come before.”

The sound of barking brings Kel gently back to the world. His eyes are still locked on his fingertips where he had held the orb – his skin still tingles – but his hand is empty. He looks towards the commotion and sees one of the creatures he was leading off at the edge of the gate, afraid to come further. It beckons him out and growls a challenge, but the barbarian just looks at him blankly for a moment. Impatient and a little frightened the creature vanishes into the undergrowth.

Coming fully awake Kel looks about him – three of his pursuers lie dead at his feet. His hand holds his scimitar, covered in their black ichor. Kel stands in the courtyard of a ruined temple – but he sees as easily as if it were fresh, the faded image of a crescent moon above a ruined doorway.

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After wiping the gore from his blade, Kel returns it to his belt. He then busies himself with removing the corpses from this holy place, first stripping them of anything valuable.

(How ruined is the temple? Does it look like I could get inside?)

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The temple is built in a wide crescent that runs from where each gate is hinged, ringing the courtyard in which Kel stands. It looks as though tall spires grew from the widest part of the ruin, but those have collapsed. There is no trace o fire or look as though there was any real disturbance here. The ruin looks like the progression of time without the benefit or humans keeping up with the maintenance.

In what Kel assumes is the main portion of the temple, wide iron double doors are locked. He tries to force them open, but has no luck. There are other doors, but they too are similarly locked.

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(I didn’t actually want to try to get in right now, just see if I thought I could.)

The courtyard free of beastly interlopers once more, Kel sets about regaining his bearings. This temple intrigues him, but it must wait. For now, he will return to the other ruins, committing the route to memory for a time yet to come.

(From the other log post, it doesn’t seem like Wolfgar needs much help. But since Kel’s plan was only to draw off the beastmen, he would definitely try to get back to the others now that his foes are dead.)

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Jork

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