The Coral Tower

The party set about discovering the location of the Coral Tower and securing rations for the journey. Initially, they want to hire themselves out as caravan guards for part of the ten day journey but soon realise that the caravan already has its own guards and do not need extra for the five days the party plan to travel alongside. Fulton negotiates a price with the caravan owner and they all set out along the river road towards the Forsaken Hills.

The wisdom of joining a caravan and having a guide for the strange terrain proves its worth as a flash flood is avoided. The rest of the journey is uneventful. The caravan soon turns South and the fellowship continue up the river valley until they arrive at small village near the start of the Forsaken Hills. The headman of the village welcomes them and, with Fulton acting as interpreter, explains how his poor village has been blighted by the Ogre who dwells in the shattered Coral Tower to the North.

After a night spent in the village enjoying the simple hospitality it could offer they set out to the Coral Tower with a young boy who guides them part of the way. The coral green tower rises out of the desert hill, an improbable object, shattered with the top half appearing to float above its ruined base. Around the tower flocks of goats graze unconcerned until a disquieting screech is heard from the tower. The goats mill around nervously and the heroes shudder at the inhuman sound.

The fellowship continue on towards the tower appearing unconcerned by the hideous cry or the knowledge that it is occupied by an ogre who keeps wolves as pets. So it is of no surprise when the occupants of the tower immediately confront them. The Ogre is most upset that they are upsetting his goats and sets his “dogs” on them and reinforces the point with his club. The dwarves engage the onrushing wolves as Denig requests that Cloch calms them. Perhaps they were calm and non-aggressive when they rushed to greet the dwarves but they didn’t take any chances. With Fulton hanging back this also meant that Denig faced the Ogre alone.

The usually reliable dwarves seem to be unable to land a telling blow on the agile wolves and Denig is hard pressed by the Ogre, despite landing a few telling blows. Fulton leaps into the battle and fumbles his first attack forcing him to retreat back. Eventually though, Dagaard lands a blow that forces one wolf to retreat and is able to aid his fellow dwarf on the second wolf. Soon both wolves are limping from battle but the ogre is enraged and redoubles is blows attempting shoulder Denig aside. Dagaard leaps to Denig’s aid and lands a telling blow ripping the ogre’s side open. The monster is now berserk with pain so Denig presses the advantage and soon the monster collapses blood staining the sand black.

From the tower, the fell screech issues again. Within moments the party are forced to retreat into the tower for safety as a leathery-winged fell beast swoops down to feast on the carrion that was once the Ogre.

Within the tower, the entrance hall is cursorily explored, the only treasure a rusty longsword under some uncured goat hides. The double doors beyond are flanked by two statues of rose marble of fire Djinn, live flames flicker from the statues head. Given the last experience with stone statues Denig and the dwarves are understandable cautious. Determining that there is magic involved but unclear what it is they decide to risk opening the door and going through. Beyond is a large hall highly decorated with more statues similar to the one at the doors and a single one of an Elven sorcerer and a grand staircase sweeping upwards.

Entering the hall without mishap, it becomes clear that this is where the Ogre lived. Piles of goat skins for a bed, a large cooking pot and roasting spit. The fellowship barely pause before dismissing the room as unworthy of closer inspection and press on up the stairs.

The stairs lead up to a tower spanning hall containing walls that show scenes of a frozen waste, a ebon city and a jungle temple. Pick feels that the mountains in the frozen waste picture are of Ered Luin viewed from the north. Since the views appear to be no more than decoration the party move upwards.

Exploring the next floor is more fruitful. The company discover where the wolves slept and two rooms untouched with divans and cushions. They spend sometime searching these rooms and recover a forgotten potion with a label that says float in Southron and a sapphire ring that acts as a +2 channeling adder. For some time, Pick is convinced that there is a hidden door they have missed but eventually they give up and return to the stairs.

Vine Grasp by Petros-Stefanidis

The third level reveals, beyond a closed door, an area where the walls have been blasted outwards. The space is filled with a dark-leafed vines that seem to have taken advantage of the additional light to grow unchecked in the ruined room. The remains of laboratory equipment can be seen shattered across the floor. Denig and Pick enter to discover the extent of the room which becomes clear links to the door on the other side of the stairs. As the pair return, Denig suddenly decides to sit on the floor in a euphoric state. Soon vines are beginning to creep round his limbs. Fulton tries to talk him out of the room but eventually dwarves race in and haul the grinning stone Dunlending from the room. After many minutes, Denig recovers and the party decide to abandon exploring this level.

The next level up opens out onto the open section of the tower. Above the fellowship the upper part of the tower hangs heedless of gravity. The walls have gone and a large part of the floor is missing giving clear views into the blasted laboratory below and the sand of the desert beyond that. Perhaps, it is the years scrambling the rigging but Fulton is unphased by this, whereas the rest feel unsettled or in Denig’s case close to abject terror by the dangerous conditions. Above a section of the ceiling provides an entrance to the floor above but how to reach is a challenge.

Sun, Sea and Sangria?

The three healthy adventurers set out from the Captain’s Daughter to seek helping with healing Billwise the hobbit. Denig, keen on a more human healer, set out for the hospital of the Sisters of Nienna that Dagaard had described. Unfortunately, his stone skin and size made him over conspicuous in the bustling town and he soon retreated back to the inn rather than draw additional unwanted attention. Dagaard returns with a Dwarven healer of the Mirnethron (Jewel healer). The wise healer has had dealing with Dagaard who has created and shaped jewels for him. Despite his knowledge of healing dwarves the Mirnethron healer is unable to do more than suggest rest and a treatment of around 100 gold pieces to boost the rate at which this happens.

Meanwhile, Pick has gone to see the Alabaster Lady. Her advice is that the hobbit will need the amber crystal produced by the Fire Ants of Far Harad. She has none in Caras Celairnen but a message clipper is anchored in the river. She would loan them passage if they went south and secured some for her and Billwise. With the late autumn storms approaching rapidly the need to leave soon is empressed on Pick as a matter of urgency.

The Shaman and Dwarven warriors debate the course of action. Denig and Pick are concerned by the scraps of information they have discovered about the white crystals. Should they go and seek more information from some dwarven scholars in the Blue Mountains or Khazad-dum? What is the purpose of Mithparvandir in collecting the stones? Is there a dragon trapped in the crystals? The picture is not clear, but faced with a long journey into the North with winter approaching and going South to save their companion they opt for the latter.

They board the coastal clipper, Ulmo’s Beard and are soon befriended by a sailor. Fenton Baines a handsome and charming Eriadorian, motivates the crew and immediately welcomes the passengers on board. During the journey, the dwarves spend most of their time avoiding being anywhere near the sea. The journey passes without much incident beyond a storm that forces them to anchor off Suduri in the mouth of the Gwathlo; a pod of whales; a day becalmed; and a day of being shadowed by a Corsair ship off Umbar.

With Fenton Baines acting as interpreter and with the dwarves kissing the blessed rock, the party set about trying to acquire some Lestagii as the locals name the mysterious amber. Unfortunately, there is none to be found in all of the markets of Dursuur. All the merchants explain that the supply has stopped because an Ogre has taken up residence in the Coral tower that sits in the middle of the region where the Fire Ants live. No one has been able to collect Lestagii for some time.

Bazaar – by Olga Ok on Art station

As night falls Fenton stops as a story teller in the market begins the tale of Namaan Al-Raman and the Coral Tower. As a story teller himself, Fenton is keen to learn a new tale. As the tale unfolds he retells it to the rest of the party as the darkness falls on the desert, the city walls and bazaar.

Return of the Librarian: Jöruvalla Part 5

After ensuring that Billwise will not immediately die, Denig prays for further insight as to the cause of his patient’s ashen faced repose. He is already aware that there has been a loss of health and vitality and communing with his god it becomes clear that it is neither poison, disease or curse that afflicts the Hobbit. The awareness that they will need to return to the surface begins to dawn on the adventurers. However, they decide to explore the library before leaving. Denig places his ring of sustenance on Billwise’s finger, thus ensuring that the Hobbit will remain nourished while in his coma.

The library itself is daunting in the sheer number of books available. A cursory examination reveals that many books do not bear handling before crumbling to dust. The subject matter is unreadable to Denig and of little immediate interest to the dwarves. Realising that to gain useful information will take more time than they are prepared to allow the trio set about exploring the doors off the library.

The first door leads to the apartment of the Librarian, within which they discover the white crystal they seek secured in a candelabra. With some effort and a moment of worry as it clatters onto the floor this is recovered. A diary by a bedside also tells of the decision of the Librarian to remain when the citadel was destroyed by the reshaping of Arda.

A second door in the library swirls with mithril runes that defy the observers attempt to read them. Deciding that such a magical door is beyond their abilities to pass they explore the two remaining doors. Both lead into reading rooms. In the first is an open hidden panel where a mount for the crystal is found. In the second a rune key is discovered but no lock is immediately clear.

Reasoning that it will still take days to reach the surface they explorers spend time searching for hidden doorways around the library. They discover one leading to a corridor of agate tiles that reflect the light of the lanterns as grass moves in the wind. A hall beyond leads to a stairway leading up and a dead-end corridor. Reasoning, correctly, that no corridor should lead to nothing they search carefully for secret doors.

Finding three secret doors they explore carefully. Traps are avoided with all due care. The first room appears to have been a storage space for potions. Time has not been kind and only the crystallised dregs of potions are left in the bottles on the shelf. However, on a table a rosewood box contains three potions that provide a range of healing properties.

The second secret room is full of shelves with locked doors. Behind these doors are a small number of tomes with titles that imply that they are about dwarven mining secrets. These are left for recovery later as the adventurers move onto the final room. This room appears more promising as it contains six chests or various materials.

Starting with the golden chest, obviously, the dwarves take over lock picking duties from the incapacitated Hobbit. The gold chest yeilds a rod (2xPP mentalism) and a number of spells on rune paper. They move onto the next chest, made of steel. The lock defeats both dwarves and after 3 hours they decide to give up and find somewhere to rest before returning to the surface.

Choosing the Librarian’s rooms because it has only one entrance and furniture they head back to the library. Upon entering the reception hall they notice that the lights of their lanterns dim and again the cold hand of fear squeezes their hearts. The entire party breaks and runs. Pick the quickest is soon running up the stairs from the secret room. The rest follow, Dagaard hindered by carrying the inert form of Billwise. Eventually, calmer and lantern light returning they stop at the top of the stairs in a small square room.

Four stairways lead off this room, but it is the contents that prove most significant. The desiccated bodies of three dwarves lie with their equipment on the floor. Apart from replacing his lost shield, both Pick and Dagaard both improve their armour and weapons from the fallen warriors. More importantly, they find a journal belonging to a Dwarf called Dfur that reveals that the white crystal is part of a map and should not fall into the hands of darkness or a great evil from the First Age will be released. Pondering upon this news, the heroes explore the stairwells only to discover that these loop back to the room. The party rest a night away in the small square space.

The plan is simple, knowing that the undead librarian could attack at anytime and from the journey from anywhere, move as quickly as possible through the library hoping to escape into the labyrinth. Abandon the treasure chests and hope to return when recovered. On the way out stop at the treasure room with a portcullis to recover the gold there. Some reward for their efforts feels necessary.

It works, somehow they make it to the treasure room without incident. The portcullis proves tricky but the dwarves manage to lift it enough for Denig to roll underneath. As soon as he does a door of stone drops and cuts off his escape. Fortunately, the door is the only problem and leaves Denig free to cautiously discover that the contents of the chest is Fool’s gold. Thankfully, Pick remembers there was a room with levers nearby and this proves to contain the release on the door.

The party continue out of the labyrinth and up the levels guided by chalk marks left on the way in. Apart from a roost of Cavern wings that they had forgotten about they are unmolested. In the great hall, thanks to the greater reach of the lanterns, they discover two additional doorways. They decide to explore these before leaving. The first, reveals that details of the journal of Dfur are correct. The second leads to a stairwell down to which Denig decries “No way!” and they return to the underdeeps.

In the underdeeps, the underground explorers feel a heavy tremor that shakes loose stones. The continue upwards and a day later are crawling from Hrothgar’s cellar into the Captain’s daughter. The three debate what course to take with Billwise. Pick believes he may be able to achieve something if he approaches the Alabaster Lady who he and Limolas reunited with he lost love. Dagaard believes that the Mirnethryn in the Dwarven Envoy could help, he has produced jewels for them in the past. Denig is more keen on human help and wonders if there are any in the town. Dagaard thinks there might be a hospice down near the Causeway gate. They agree to seek help where they can and each decide to follow their own line of enquiry.

Beware of the Librarian: Jöruvalla Part 4

Following a brief repast by the bridge, the explorers descend the stairs to next level. The steps show less sign of wear compared with previous levels and lead into a series of corridors. Pick at the front of the line triggers a chute trap that dumps him at the bottom of a bit. Fortunately, he is only lightly injured and the rest are able to haul him out. This cautionary warning about speed of progress is taken. Fearing that this may be some trap infested labyrinth the party switch order. Reasoning that Billwise is more agile; the smallest and lightest of the party, he is placed at the front. Denig as the heaviest and also the healer is placed at the rear.

Following a rule of right first, the party push deeper into the maze encountering a number of traps some of which are only narrowly avoided. After a few hours, Billwise becomes aware of a giant spider in a lair. Denig and Billwise strike early with a volley of arrows and withdraw to a corridor section where the dwarves wait in ambush. The spider is quickly dispatched by a flurry of blows from the dwarves’ warhammers supported by the constant harry of Denig’s arrows. The spider’s lair is filled with the remains of adventurers who were less fortunate and a small rune inscribed tablet.

Further cautious exploration leads the party to a room with a number of randomly distributed dwarven number runes. Suspecting a trap and a sequence that they are unwilling to risk, the party backtrack to explore other avenues including returning to the room at a second door.

Finally, their searching is rewarded with a treasure room but the chests are behind a heavy dwarven steel portcullis. Unfortunately, there appears to be no mechanism to open the portcullis. Further along the corridor, the party discover another room. This has a slot of a similar size to the tablet discovered earlier. Billwise is dispatched to recover it. When inserted in the slot nothing happens. The party decide that pulling the levers may open the portcullis and after entering the room to attach rope to the large levers, try various combinations with no discernible effect. They decide the treasure is not going anywhere and move on, leaving the portcullis for later.

An hour of slow and careful exploring passes and the explorers arrive at a locked steel door. Billwise sets about the task with gusto and despite the difficulty of the lock rapidly has the door open. A small ante-room lies beyond and beyond the wooden door an entrance to an ancient library guarded by two impressive statues of Dwarven warriors.

Billwise cautiously enters the library only for the statues to grind into life and turn to repel the uninvited guests to the library. This leaves Billwise separated from the rest of the party and facing one of the stone statues alone. Denig implores Cloch for a barrier to protect his companion and a wall of wood fills the gap between one of the statues and Billwise, trapping the hobbit in the library but granting him immediate safety. The rest of the party fall back into the ante-room to tackle the statue nearest them.

The doughty Dwarves and Dunlending face the implacable foe. Blow after blow strikes the statue knocking stone chips from its surface. The second statue hammers at the wooden wall determined to remove the intruder from the library.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the wooden wall, the Billwise looks for avenues of escape into the library. It is at this point a cold dread begins to seep into his soul. The light from his lantern withdraws until there is only a small circle surrounding him. Out of the darkness a hideous, robed, undead, dwarf moves towards him. Its cold dead eyes strike fear into the hobbit’s heart and broken, Billwise flees. Trapped in the library, with nowhere to flee to Billwise crawls into a corner and stares in horror as the undead librarian approaches. Its touch chills his bones and soon Billwise loses consciousness.

Unaware of the peril, the rest of the party continue to deconstruct the statues until defaced both lie in broken to rubble on the floor. They then set about the remains of the wooden wall to meet up with Billwise. They are met by the sight of the barely corporeal dwarven librarian leaning over the recumbent hobbit. The light from lanterns shrinks and they too feel the cold touch of fear on their hearts. They flee.

Stumbling into the dark labyrinth, barely avoiding untriggered traps only be virtue of the clear markers on the floor, Dwarves and Dunlending run on. It takes half a minute before Denig is able to master his fear but the dwarves run on, heedless of his rallying call. He stands alone in the dark gathering his wits and summoning the dark depths of Cloch’s blessing. He pulls a torch from his pack and lights it. He stands alone but resolved to return to aid the hobbit sets off in what he believes is the correct direction. His memory proves false and is forced to retrace his steps. Soon he catches up with the Dwarves who also have recovered the wits (Pick is the most shaken and appears only to be returning by Dagaard’s force of will) and are making their way back to aid Billwise.

At the library, Pick is unmanned again an unable to enter the room. Dagaard and Denig battle the Lich Librarian. Denig is badly injured and calls for aid to restore his health. Dagaard continues to strike at the foul undead creature. Blow after blow is met with howling assaults on the minds of both of the heroes. Dagaard shrugs off this mental and spiritual assault and finally the Lich Librarian falls inert to the ground. Light from the lanterns return and the adventurers breathe a sigh of relief.

Denig immediately sets to assessing the state of Billwise. The hobbit is an a terrible state, ashen grey with breath barely entering his body. Denig begins to seek the wisdom of Cloch, praying for the soul and body of his companion.