The Death Gate
The Death Gate or Defeat of the Rashak Wannabe
Session: Spring 805 Gamemaster: Keith Smith
- Vanderhan - (party leader) Very tall and muscular human male, often nicknamed Vanderhands for the extra pair of arms he acquired on some far-off plane.
- Flamis (party scribe) Human female of medium height and build, her most notable feature is her flame-blonde hair. Fire mage.
- Thorn (military scientist)
- Sau Rus Human male necromancer
- Veor Human male ice mage
Scribe Notes I confess I was surprised to see my brothers Brion and Guibert arrive in Seagate a few days before the Spring Guild Meeting, though perhaps I should not have been. Rumours of Dark Circle forces encroaching into Ranke and cutting off Carzala from reinforcements had been rife. But I did not think they would get so close to my home village, to Dottery. Of course, I offered to help, both in person, and by financing a guild party to assist with the evacuation and to give assistance wherever we could.
I was pleased to see Vanderhan and Thorn waiting in the meeting room, along with Sauras, all of whom I had adventured with before. A fourth person introduced himself as Veor, an Ice Mage. After we sorted out who was doing what, and I offered the others 2500 silvers each for their part, along with the usual shares, we packed and got ready, purchasing restoratives and the like. Brion had arranged for transport back on the coaster Bluewater Pride, but this was not satisfactory for Veor and Vanderhan who insisted on a deep water vessel, being paranoid about undead attacking from the land, so we wound up on the Challenger, a merchant ship bound for Artzdorf and points west.
We left on the morning tide, at ten of the morning, under instructions from the Captain to stay out of the way, or better still, make ourselves useful. I filled in the time assisting the Ship’s Carpenter. Late afternoon we docked at Southgate, and unloaded the horses. Southgate was arming for war, and the fact that we were just passing through gained us a great many dirty looks, which we ignored as we rode on through, showing the colours of Baron Helmuth of Silverstream, my father’s liege lord. Out of sight of the city, I cast magics on the trained horses, and they ran with the speed of fire along the road to Silverstream, where we slowed and the spell cancelled. We entered the town of Silverstream and were met by the Guard Captain. Silverstream too, was making ready for conflict, and a detachment of Michealine knights were billeted there. Of course, they had a rather low opinion of we Guild adventurers, and showed it. Accommodations in the castle were short, so Thorn set up her magic Keep, and we spent the night there, after dining in the Great Hall. We learned more of encounters with the vanguard of the approaching Dark army and of concerns regarding the village of Lucerne, where undead forces were already rumoured to be lurking. I recalled that Luzerne was the principal town of yet another pocket baronry, itself called Lucerne and ruled over Baroness Gudren. Last I heard it was a fertile and prosperous valley.
Ride out, heading for Dottery, in the morning. Unseasonably cold and damp. Annoy a doom-sayer. Get overtaken by a carriage… whoever said, “Out of the way, peasants,” is no judge of horseflesh… or armour… or weaponry. Then we met a peddler, heading into Silverstream. Arrive at Dottery, late afternoon. Veor insists on poking our cemetery, and upsetting Father ???. We continue on to the manor house. Wulfgar has started on fortifications… next day the party get into more of it… I build Onagers with Vanderhan. Should be hard work, but it seemed not so fatiguing as one might expect. However, in the mornings we found that some of the parts had unexpectedly broken. When I read their aura it appeared to be the work of some kind of magic. To be precise decay spells cast by a wiccan with fae tendencies.
We left on the 4th day. We checked out Lucerne using crystals of vision. Fence unmended… lifestock missing… farmer ploughing and sowing…. Look stiff and slow… Vanderhan confirmed that it was indeed a skeleton. It was twenty-five miles to the Village, so we figured to ride for fifteen to twenty miles today, and then camp. The road had been washed out some days ago, and was more than a bit rough. We found a suitable campsite and set up Thorn’s keep for the night. As we ride in we spot vultures circling over a hill to the east. Vanderhan pulled out his crystal and looks down on a grisly sight – a shepherd and sheep dead upon a hill… but oddly there was no blood. We rode in that direction, and as we got closer, Sauras told us that there were undead on that hill. This was confirmed as I got closer, and I hosed them down with dragonflames. Unfortunately some local wolves, obviously annoyed that we had flambéed their food supply, proceeded to fall on Thorn and I, and one got in a nasty bite on me before we killed them, with help from Veor and Sauras in the spell-casting department.
We ride on and come to a fence. Gate with rams’ horns. Garlic on the fence. Farmer. Explains there are vampires here. Apparently everything started with the big storm. Animals drained of blood. Five hundred silvers reward. We get permission to use the farmhouse as a base of operations, after convincing the farmer that Dottery was a nice place this time of year for him and his livestock.
Pass several burned out farms. In one we find a coop with deceased chickens. In others there are human remains. Some have been dead five days, others eight days. Sauras detects undead behind the farmhouse. We head that way, and are attacked by rasts. They attack us with paralysis. Sauras surcumbs and the thing lands on his head…. Veor and I kill it, and then I’m paralysed. We withdraw, and I summon a fire elemental and Veor makes a bound ice creature. I told the Freda to go burn the house down properly, but as she approached we saw a human in robes move past. He cast a stream of corruption at the Freda. So I sent her after him with instructions to catch him and restrain him. He tried to run, but she was so much faster. He didn’t have a chance. He did have an oversized ego, and a very foul mouth. And then Thorn knocked him out with a sap.
4 Rasts two undead pigs send Necromancer pacted to the president of fire.
Then the rasts attacked again. They proved to be immune to fire bolts (as I later discovered they were denizens of the plane of elemental fire) so I used my rings and shock-bolted one, which fell onto Veor’s bound ice, and was sucked in. The others paralysed us more than once, as I resorted to my short bow and arrows, Thorn to her crossbow, and Veor tossed ice-bolts at them. They didn’t last long and neither did the zombie piggies.
The necromancer was declared guilty of being a thoroughly evil individual, and condemned to execution by ice. Said sentence was commuted by my insistence that somebody knock him out, and please make it quick.
The necromancer wore a robe over his armour (which proved to add 5% to magic resistance – not able to stack with greater enchantments or with other items other than an amulet or luck).
Questions: (7 questions)
- What unusual activity is occurring in the village of Lucerne? - transmutations
- Who or what is the cause of this? – a minion of the dark circlr
- What must be done to end it? – destroy the transmuter
- What manner of thing or being is the transmuter? A cursed object of death
- How may it be destroyed? – find the sword of the ancient paladin and use it
- Where is the transmuter? – in the catacombs behind the shield
- Where is the sword? – in the crypt
“That can only be construed as a cryptic answer” Flamis
By lunchtime we reached a small village, which we later learned was called Thun. This appeared normal… and Sauras confirmed there was an absence of undead. There was a delightful odour of lunch emanating from the Inn, identified by Vanderhan. The yokels eyed up our warhorses, thinking they were plough beasts. We ordered lunch and the barkeeper confirmed all was not well in Luzerne. A bunch of refugees had passed through, complaining of walking skeletons. Half way through lunch a fellow in dark clothing approaches. Tells us that he used to live in Luzerne until recently. Apparently it started with people disappearing, then skeletons in the uniform of the Baroness’ guard, culminating in skeletons dancing the danse macabre in the night.
“I think I have a bone to pick with these dancing skeletons.” Flamis
We got the man to draw us a rough map, gave him a coin, and took our leave after purchasing extra provisions from the barkeep. By late afternoon we were approaching Luzerne. There were “farmers” ploughing the fields… a quick look with a spyglass showed us they were skeletal. I sneaked up and read their auras as they approached the wall where I hid. They were non-sentient undead, made that way by transmutation, and the transmutation was irreversible. Indeed, destroying the device would destroy the undead. I also sensed there is negative energy present, akin to that of the Dark Circle but not identical.
As the sun looked to set, we rode away, and set up camp in the forest. Thorn erected her Keep and we shut the door. This did not keep us from setting watches. Thorn noted a pack of wolves sniffing around the keep just after midnight. Seeing one of the wolves piddle against the tower she concluded they were not undead. In an attempt to shoe them off she fired a warning shot. They were not deterred so she shot the pack leader… and was unimpressed to see her arrow fail to penetrate. In the morning she had me read the aura of a fragment of fur stuck to it. It was werewolf, and only then did we realise the moon was full.
We head for Luzerne, and ride for the Stone Gate, around to the southeast. The gate is open and we were not challenged. As was our intent, we headed straight for the nearby Lady Church. The streets are populated by undead, acting in a parody of normal town life, and fortunately ignoring us. The church door was chained and locked closed. Vanderhan picked the lock with our help. It was dark in there… the windows were broken and covered with sackcloth. I cast radiant light on a coin and tossed it in. Something moved to cover it. Then I started casting weapon of flames on everyone’s weapons, beginning with Vanderhan. The undead thingy made the church darker, and then cast something else, as Veor made the steps icy. I made a bow of radiance, as Sauras managed to control one of the undead, which promptly started pawing rather ineffectually at the other one. I fired at the other one and managed to get a couple of hits in before Thorn whacked it out of existence.
Then the party let the controlled undead suck some of the fatigue out of the horses so it could cast useful spells like shadowform, strength of darkness and witchsight on us. Then we interrogated it, asking the way to the paladin’s sword. It pointed to a slab marked with a sword and labelled “honour”. We learned there were wolfmen around, and that somebody called the Wraith King had made the undead with the aid of a device called the Totentanz Gate. This thing is in the catacombs under the castle. There was also a Wizard’s Tower just out of town. Then we exposed the undead to the light.
We looked for some method to open the tile, but there was none, so I put on my gloves and cleared the grout from around the slab. We lifted the slab, but under it was dirt. Under that was a sarcophagus. Inside was the mummified remains of a human male dressed in armour, with a shield and sword. The strong magical aura of the sword identified it as the Holy Sword of Lord Beaufort. In the hands of a Holy Knight it would have the power to destroy the undead. Sauras had a word with the dead guy and we learned that it work for the Lady of the town. We could borrow his things to deal with the undead, but we should then put them back.
We had lunch, and then headed for the wizard’s keep in the hope of finding more useful things, before taking on the castle. Oddly there was a shrine on the bridge, to a saint of travellers, who looked a lot like a nymph.
“I’m just not her type.” Flamis at the shrine of a water nymph.
The wizard’s keep proved to be a stone manor, not especially defensible. We opened the door and saw the skeletons. So we closed the door, cranked up some spells and Thorn and I whacked the skeletons. They didn’t last long. Sauras said there were more of them upstairs. We went upstairs, and found a mess. Something had trashed this place. There was a defaced statue of a lady. Inside a cupboard, Vanderhan found a piece of parchment that proved to be a single invested scroll of opening. Through a door we found more aggressive skeletons that were quickly demolished…. And a portcullis. We work our way around more rooms, finding a burnt corpse. According to its aura it died a few days ago. Sauras talked to it and learned that he had been looting. After concluding that Thorn could not raise him, we collected some loose change, and a wooden figure of an owl. In the next room we found a fellow hiding behind a couch. After asking him a few questions, and concluding he was just another looter, Veor gave him a club, and we let him go.
Eventually we found a locked door, which didn’t stop Saurus from opening the wood around it and opening it. There was a room full of cobwebs, with a glowing orb in the ceiling. The webs were a little reluctant to burn but my flaming weapon dealt to it. Then Vanderhan yanked the glowing dome off the ceiling. We went up the stairs and found a great hall – which had been fairly thoroughly trashed. In the next room we found smashed barrels of ale and wine. Beyond this was a small guard room with shredded rugs on the floor. Such a waste. Meanwhile, out in the hall, the others spotted a secret door. They decided to look at the other exit – a locked door. Vanderhan picked the lock and opened the door to what appeared to a master bedroom. The bedlinen was torn and the mattress slashed. A slashed picture appeared to be a portrait of the wizard who lived here. As Veor entered, something attacked him…. Something shadowy and nasty. So Thorn and I charged in and hit it. Twice each. And then it went away. We decided the bed frame, the carpet and armoire might be valuable. Past the bed, a door led into the corner tower where we found a messed-up alchemy lab and an open chest. The last tower door led to stairs up. Which led to a room with a number of books, so of them quite interesting. Hidden between the books were three scrolls, one with a charge of dispel magic, one with remove curse, and one with expulsion. On his desk we find a scroll with astronomical calculations and a map. Looking up we saw a trapdoor, which led to an observation platform with a spyglass.
After looting the useful stuff, we went back down to the ground floor. We found yet another looted room with a 12-point stags head on the wall – well-stuffed according to Sauras. In the next room we find wolf sign… and a handsome cold iron short sword with a gem in the hilt. In the next room, a kitchen, there was a greenly-glowing magical fire, and a crazy man attempted to leap on Vanderhan as he entered. As Vanderhan fought back, it shifted into a wolf form. Thorn stepped in and hit it, very hard, and then Vanderhan finished it off. We found the door to the cellar… At the bottom of the stairs was a re-setting lightning ward. One exit led to a room with a grey glob inside a well. The next led to another looted room, where a trap had been set off. In a third room, under some rotting hay, we found a scroll case, which had a riddle in it.
To find the arm which he had us hide You must go to the hall of the lady blessed There, under that which never lied He found a place of rest By the place where the fair nymph pointed A place of honour was decreed There behind the stone anointed You will find the work you need Only then one worthy shall Cast away the spirits foul The storm will wash away the lie May you have better luck than I.
Veor destroyed the ooze thing by encasing it in elemental ice then squeezing it until it went away. In the bottom of the well was a bucket, and inside the bucket was a coffer. The coffer contained 120sp, some gems worth 500sp and a dagger, which proved to be magical.
Veor: They’re rank amateurs… Vanderhan: No they’re not… no-one from Ranke is that much of an amateur.
We spent the afternoon looting the place, down to the bookshelves for the books. Vanderhan went out hunting and came back with a brace of ducks and a goose. So it was peeking duck for dinner. And bread and butter pudding for dessert. The night was quiet and uneventful.
After breakfast, and morning rituals, we headed for the monument on the bridge, to look at the nymph’s statue. Her hand pointed at a small altar, behind which we found a loose stone, which concealed a niche. Inside the niche was a tome, called “The Book of the Dancing Death”. Its aura showed no magic. The book described an evil artifact called the “Totentanz Gate” which turns living things into undead skeletons. When the skeletons danced they could charm those watching and compel them to follow them to the gate to become undead themselves. The gate can be destroyed… by a warrior of good, wielding a good weapon. It was nearly lunchtime by the time we finished, so we had lunch and then planned our assault.
We headed by the shortest route we could find to the keep, ignoring the skeletons who were going about their business, acting out the daily routines of their former lives. The keep was closed and shuttered. So, we knocked. A skeletal guard opened a window in the gate, and I demanded entrance. They opened the gate, and they attacked. Sauras and I backed off, as Thorn and Vanderhan engaged them. The third skeleton legged it for the inner Keep, as Sauras controlled one, and Vanderhan crunched the third. The guards behind us started to head for us, so we manacled shut the gates behind us, and headed in. We had barely entered when we were set upon by a small horde of skeletons, coming down the stairs. It was all over in under a minute, with three fireballs and a whole lot of hacking. We counted skulls afterwards and there were thirty-four of them, not counting the three Sauras controlled. Then we opened the next door, and there was the lady.
The Lady Paladin: He’s a vile necromancer! Flamis: More your mild necromancer. The Lady Paladin: So… it’s a difference of two letters…
She proved to be a feisty and seriously annoyed warrior countess, who wanted her county back now, if not sooner. We gave her the ancestral sword, and a chain shirt, and she proceeded to hack apart the skeletons Sauras had controlled. I wanted to retire to our keep to spend the night, and recover, but they insisted I take a restorative and a healing potion and then carry on. However, they did allow me the time to summon a fire elemental.
We went down, and found a room full of treasures, which plainly belonged to the lady, and three skeletal guards that fell over rapidly. We carried on through to an area with narrow passages opening into a chamber where we were attacked by a pair of wraiths, who proceeded to make the place dark. They were joined by a third. They mostly tried doing magic stuff, while I did fireballs, and the fighters hit them lots. We finished them off and then a wave of pain swept over us, followed by a wash of fear, which sent me running. It was the wraith king! My elemental rushed through the corridors to flank him, as Thorn and the paladin waded into it, and Vanderhan toasted frankfurters on the elemental’s fire. I am not sure if it was Freda or the paladin who killed it, but it didn’t last long.
We decided to spend the night and then escort the Lady to the village where her remaining people might have taken refuge. We checked out the pantries and discussed what might make a good dinner. Veor and Sauros were too paranoid to sample the cured and preserved meats on offer. However, Vanderhan made us a very adequate supper. And found us some rather nice scrumpy.
Next morning I cast the wildfires and we ran to the village where we left the lady negotiating, and then continued on to Dottery. I got mothered while the rest them dissembled. Next day we carried on to Silverstream. Fortunately the Church Knights were mostly conspicuous by their absence. There was a bar fight in progress, but we weren’t allow to join in. And then the guards turned up. So we went on to the keep. We found the Baron in his garden tending his plants, and appraised him of the results.
Flamis: Oh, you expect to find an undead salami chasing after you?